A Magna Carta Moment

By Anne C. Woodlen

In June of 1215 the English barons forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, which limited his powers, reaffirmed human rights, and became the basis of English justice. Then John had to go hire mercenaries to fight for him against the barons because they outnumbered him.

It would be prudent for the American upper class to keep this in mind: the problem with lower class people is that there are so many of them. In July of 1776, Americans declared that all men have an equal right to pursue happiness. My question is: In August of what year is the large lower class of America going to require the small upper class to surrender its unjust claim to superior medical care, i.e., an unequal right to pursue happiness?

It is not about having an equal right to medical care, or to be healthy; it is about having an equal right to pursue happiness, which one cannot do if one is sick. If you are sick and have money then you own a car, have private insurance, and go to a chiropractor whenever you want to. If you are sick and do not have money then you cannot get to the chiropractor because Medicaid neither will transport you nor pay for your treatment.

I had pains in my chest and numbness in my fingers. The medical doctors did their tests and informed me that there was nothing wrong with me. I went to the chiropractor, he began regular adjustments of my spine and the pains and numbness stopped—Medicare payments also stopped. A person who has private medical care can access a wide variety of healing treatments that are denied to people who are on Medicaid.

Do you know how incredibly shortsighted and stupid that is? Taxpayers are people who work; people who work are healthy. Sick people do not work. By keeping people sick, society is keeping people poor. Poor people do not have an equal opportunity to pursue happiness. Happiness, to a large degree, is incumbent upon a certain high level of income—“high” being defined as enough to have a healthy diet, own a car, and get an education.

My aide and her husband both work; their children are on Medicaid. The transport driver and her husband both work; their children are on Medicaid. A generation is being raised on state-paid medicine. Let us have a brief word here about the Living Wage. A Living Wage is that amount of money paid to working people so that they are above the poverty level.

We are talking here about human beings who are working full time—busting their butts just like everybody else—but are not paid enough for their labor to be able to live. Most of these people are in human services, in fact, in derivatives of the medical industry—which is topped by those million-dollar doctors. Not only are poor people working as aides and drivers, but also, in hospitals, they are the men who push the linen carts and clean the air conditioning ducts, and the women who change the sheets and push the mops.

The medical industry is so like feudal England. The doctors make the rules and are virtually uncontrolled and unanswerable to any power outside themselves. Some folks think that malpractice suits control doctors. In New York State, ten years ago the statute of limitations for filing a malpractice suit was three years from the date when the doctor injured you—not three years from the date that you got well enough to get out of the hospital (it took me seven months) and not three years from the date when you finally penetrated the medical profession’s way of covering its ass so that you could figure out that the doctor hurt you (that took me two years) but three years from the date of injury.

That was ten years ago. Now, the New York State Legislature has reduced the statute of limitations to two and a half years. Do you think that the majority of the citizens of New York State went to their legislators and asked for less time to get information together to file suit? Or do you think the doctors went to their legislators and asked for more protection against being held answerable for their actions?

In feudal England, the barons took the power away from the king. The great danger—to the monarchy—of inequality is that the folks who have less serve the folks who have more, which means that the less see what the more have. We know. We know that we suffer without dental care for four months whereas you only suffer two weeks. As we mop your floors and clean up your vomit, we know.

What we also know is that we are as good as you are. We love our kids just as much; tell the truth just as often, work just as hard—so why aren’t we allowed to get our teeth fixed just like you? Or, to put it another way, why are you allowed to have better treatment than us? Therein lays the danger, upper class: someday we’re going to stop asking you to help us and realize that you’re the cause of our hurt.

You’re using up all the resources. That’s why there aren’t any left for us. So, you’ve got two choices: you can either give up the goodies and share with us because it’s the right thing to do, or you can give up the goodies because you are afraid that we will hurt you when we come to take them away. Either way, it works for me.

The upper class is always outnumbered by the lower class, and where you going to go to hire mercenaries?

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