As Senate Republicans spent the last few days in closed door meetings frantically trying to plot new ways to achieve their wretched plans to destroy the Affordable Care Act and end Medicaid as we know it, hundreds of people of faith spent our week gathered at the annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry to rekindle our shared conviction that all great religious traditions call us to acts of love and justice especially for children who are impoverished, vulnerable, marginalized and excluded and to renew our deep and shared commitment to resisting evil and injustice with unrelenting determined nonviolent action.
I learned my first lessons about injustice and health as a little Black girl growing up in segregated Bennettsville, South Carolina. I remember my parents’ and my sadness over the senseless death of little Johnny Harrington, who lived three houses down from our church who died before he reached 10 because his hard working grandmother didn’t know about the need for or have the money for him to get a tetanus shot after he stepped on a rusted nail. I also remember being awakened in the middle of the night after a Black migrant family’s car collided with a White truck driver’s vehicle on the highway in front of our parsonage, and the horror I felt when my Daddy, my siblings and I witnessed the White ambulance driver and attendants arrive on the scene only to leave behind the seriously injured Black migrant worker after they saw that the White truck’s passengers were not hurt.
It is unfathomable to me that week after week I must continue to defend the Medicaid program that for more than 50 years has protected the health and well-being of tens of millions of America’s most vulnerable. We know many of the 37 million children enrolled in Medicaid today are from poor or low-income families and that 40 percent of children with special health care needs benefit from Medicaid. Among these children are almost half a million foster children, nearly 40 percent of them under age six. These children, invisible to many, are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.
Every July 4th Americans come together to celebrate the promise of our Declaration of Independence. We know for millions of Americans our nation has never fully lived up to that creed, but for all who still believe in the American ideal this has never been a reason to give up. Instead in every generation a new group of women and men and youths and even children have come forward to do their part in pushing America closer to its full promise. The current administration and Congress show how far we still have to go.
Our nation has lost its way as Congress stealthily debates dismantling the Medicaid and health safety net for the neediest children and adults. And as we await the Congressional Budget Office’s cost and impact report and the final outlines of the Senate health care proposal the only thing I can think of at this moment is to pray for our leaders to rediscover some semblance of common sense and moral decency and protect the 37 million children on Medicaid and the millions of disabled adults and others for whom it is an indispensable lifeline.
This is an urgent SOS. Right now Republican Senators are working behind closed doors on their own version of the terrible American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the House of Representatives in early May that would rip away health coverage from 23 million people.
When Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook passed away May 29 our nation and world lost a very creative and distinguished political scientist, trailblazing Black scholar, and towering oak role model for his students. I was blessed to be among them as a Spelman College student in his political theory course at Atlanta University.
Alameda County in California straddles the San Francisco Bay area and stretches from Silicon Valley north to Oakland and Berkeley. A major branch of the San Andreas Fault lies beneath the most densely populated part of the county. That’s where Betty lives. She was hard at work full time in the health care field, with her own catering and massage therapy business on the side, raising four children as a single mother when a series of health crises created an earthquake that shattered her life.
Our nation’s budget should reflect our nation’s professed values, but President Trump’s 2018 Federal Budget, “A New Foundation for America’s Greatness,” radically does the opposite. This immoral budget declares war on America’s children, our most vulnerable group, and the foundation of our nation’s current and future economic, military and leadership security. It cruelly dismantles and shreds America’s safety net laboriously woven over the past half century to help and give hope to the 14.5 million children struggling today in a sea of poverty, hunger, sickness, miseducation, homelessness and disabilities. It slashes trillions of dollars from health care, nutrition and other critical programs that give poor babies and children a decent foundation in life to assure trillions of dollars in tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and powerful corporations who do not deserve massive doses of government support.
The 100 percent federally-funded Summer Food Service Program will once again this year be a food lifeline for millions of low-income hungry children during the long hot summer. Right now many community sponsors, including school districts, local government agencies, camps, and private nonprofit organizations are working through their state agencies to be ready to serve healthy meals to millions of children this summer.