A Mother’s Story: Her Child’s Health Threatened By Tax Breaks For The Greedy
By Natalie Solidarity
“If she doesn’t have her immunization, she can’t attend school,” my daughter’s school administrator explained.
I thanked her and hung up the phone. I touched my beautiful daughter’s hair as she looked up from her Junie B. Jones book and smiled at me. I wondered what I was going to do. I was looking for work, living on my savings from my former position as a university graduate teaching aide. When I graduated, my job was no longer available. My department was gasping for air because enrollment was suffering, students couldn’t afford to attend school, classes were shrinking and being condensed. Where once there were five courses offered at different times throughout the week, there was now two, and one of those classes was taught by tenured or tenure-track professors. My little girl, Ella and I existed by spending most of our money on food, playing in public spaces, and walking almost everywhere. It was hard, but surely there was a well-paying job for me somewhere on the horizon. In the meantime, Ella needed her immunizations.
My options were clear and clearly limited:
Ask Ella’s dad for money.
Go to her doctor and put the $200 bill on my credit card.
Forge her immunization card.
While Ella was playing at a public library workshop, I was researching immunizations. I learned we could go to a health department clinic and Ella could receive her shots without my taking on another bill headed for collections. I wouldn’t have to worry about being arrested for fraud every time the principal called me into her office. I could breathe. I had an option.
The world was back on balance again. It wasn’t perfect but certainly workable. I shared my new information with another parent in the same situation, called the clinic and set up appointments for our kids.
Ella and her friend played in the crowded waiting room, introducing themselves to the floor full of fellow immunization recipients. Our appointments were late and we ended up reading, supervising, and mom-talking in the waiting room. In the time I was there, I looked around and saw how many people were being helped by the immunization initiative. The medium-size room was never less than half-full.
This is what government should do, I thought proudly. This waiting room is literally filled with the most vulnerable of the population, who are struggling to exist and being ministered to by the state. I let myself be overwhelmed by the very real implications of Ella’s free immunization. The health department was taking care of me, taking care of my little girl by keeping nasty diseases away plus enabling her to attend school. Without the immunization, she couldn’t have gone to school without my taking on an extra credit card payment on which I’d default. Imagine if I’d gone to jail for forging a medical document. I didn’t have to make that choice. Like the immunization mark on Ella’s arm, the health department had put a bandaged me. The world’s okay.
The world kept being okay, not perfect, until news of the Fiscal Cliff reached my ears. With a scarily impressive big word, all of the pride I held in the government as exemplified as health department evaporated, leaving behind a residue of rage.
The Fiscal Cliff was created to create a false sense of urgency. There is no cliff. There is little downside to waiting a few more months to determine a budget without cutting essential programs like Ella’s immunizations.
“We can raise the debt limit as we have scores of times in the past without anything falling off any kind of cliff. We do not have any urgent need to cut anything and we should not in the midst of this deep recession.”
The deep gouges of $7.1 million dollars to the Illinois Childhood Immunization program, 8,156 children will not receive measles, mumps, rubella immunizations, Tdap shots, Hepatitis B protection, or flu shots. 8,156 kids just like Ella
The budget is proposed to be balanced by the rich and elected officials standing on my spine, on Ella’s spine, on the spines of that waiting room full of children and their parents. The line item in the budget that was crossed through, the $7.1 million, that was my kid’s education requirement.
The deficit could be closed by ending the Bush Tax Cuts for the top 2% (a move that would bring in $826 billion over the next ten years) and beginning to tax investment income at or above the level of wages. Additionally, a financial speculation tax (or Robin Hood Tax) like those in European nations and proposed here by Congressman Keith Ellison could raise an additional $150 billion annually. These funds could close the deficit without any further cuts to these vital federal programs.
The top 2 percent and the Wall Street bank CEOs didn’t have to make that hard choice between putting my daughter’s doctor bill on their credit cards and forging a medical document until they stumbled upon the immunization clinic. I had to make that choice and I was lucky enough to be helped by the social safety net. Government is supposed to take care of its most vulnerable population: the unemployed parents and children who need medical care. This Fiscal Cliff nonsense is supposed to scare me into accepting that the government, of which I felt so proud, will be eliminating those services for 8,156 children just like Ella, and for their parents just like me. There are so many other options that have not been considered, like the transactional tax on Wall Street trades and banks or letting the Bush/Obama tax cuts expire. Those Wall Street bank CEOs and 2 percent multi-millionaires have a responsibility to care for those who can’t afford vaccinations but still want their child to have an education. Our elected representatives need to stand with us, not on our spines, when determining this budget. We, the people, cannot sustain any more gouges to our already fragile existence.
Instead of making children pay, let’s make wall street pay. Join us on Friday, November 9 at 3 p.m. at Pritzker Park on the corner of State and Van Buren, Chicago. For more information, see www.facebook.com/events/
Natalie is an activist who volunteers with Occupy Chicago and practices mutual aid with other progressive organizations. She writes for DiatribeMedia.com, a Chicago writers collective. Follow her on twitter @constantNatalie.