published Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Bernard: Willful ignorance of facts

Jack Bernard

The U.S House of Representatives has once again voted to repeal all or parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) ... for the 40th time. Many of the people leading this effort come from the South, my home. There is no chance of repeal, so what is going on?

There is a strange tendency on the part of affluent ... and even not so affluent ... Southerners to believe that their health care (and their family's) will somehow be provided if they work hard and live right. And, that the "system" will somehow take care of everyone else.

As a rural, Southern Republican and two-term former County Commissioner, I never fail to be amazed by some of the local people who tell me that they hate "Obamacare."

Folks like the former truck driver, in his early 50s and on Social Security disability, who gets his care via Medicare. This fellow went bankrupt a decade ago because he was unable to pay for his child's medical bills. He was out of work at the time and without insurance. Inconceivably, he thinks that Obamacare is socialism and that everyone should take personal responsibility for their own insurance. Really?

Or, the elderly gentleman who gets his care from VA and Medicare, but thinks that the government ought to get out of the health care business.

In 2009, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) was being debated in Congress, he and I had breakfast with our then Congressman (no longer in office). This veteran told him that national health insurance is unconstitutional, a dubious "fact" that he no doubt picked up from his only source of national news, right wing talk radio. This person also stopped going to our local American Legion when it was finally integrated. I guess black vets are not good enough for him.

This strange attitude is typified by the Facebook posting that I received this week from another Southern man: "I support helping the needy. I oppose funding the lazy." Translated, this means "if I do not know you, you are one of the lazy folks getting my tax money, especially if you are brown or black." And, this view forms the basis of much of the opposition to the ACA.

People who know these men describe them as good, church-going people. So, why don't they open up and see the light? Why do they say, in effect, "do not confuse me with the facts, I have made up my mind"?

I personally believe that much of this goes back to the Nixonian "Southern Strategy" of the 1970s, pushed to new depths by Reagan and others. This strategy essentially dictated that the Republican Party would write off the black vote. The GOP would appeal to the worst aspects of the white southern electorate, hinting (and sometimes outright saying) that the basic cause of many of their troubles is racial preference due to the federal government favoring minorities.

Reagan may have looked like a gentle grandfatherly figure, but he opened his 1980 campaign for the presidency with a "states rights" speech given near Philadelphia, Miss., the site of the widely publicized 1964 murders of three civil rights workers. One of the best known events in the civil rights era, the murder of young men/boys attempting to register black voters, the symbolism was not lost on the Southern powers that be or white voters.

This has been combined with a purposeful misreading of scripture. Instead of trying to help the down-trodden as Jesus advocated, many populist Southern politicians have chosen to preach about select portions of the Bible, while ignoring others.

My North Georgia Congressman is a physician best known for saying: "All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell." The Congressman also worries about abortion, voting against even Republican anti-abortion bills because they provide exceptions for endangering the health of the mother, rape and incest.

At the same time, he does not want to take care of these fetuses after they are born to poor women, many minority. He is against virtually every social and health care program run by the government, including the ACA which if fully implemented will provide health care coverage for tens of millions of poor Americans.

What can we do to end the ills of the divisive, racist "Southern Strategy"? As Southerners, it is up to each of us to point out racist, demagogic tendencies in our elected officials and opinion leaders.

It is up to each of us to look at our fellow human beings with compassion and not contempt based on race or class. And, that includes getting health care for the less fortunate.

Jack Bernard is a former chairman of the Jasper County, Ga., Republican Party. He had written columns for newspapers throughout the South. Before retiring he was a senior health care executive.

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jjmez said...

Unfortunately Mr. Bernard, far too many southerners are still angry over the loss of the Civil War. That's really the backbone and driving force behind racial hatred.

August 18, 2013 at 10:38 a.m.
soakya said...

that racist "southern strategy" has its roots in the democratic party. the author and most liberals should first take a good long look in the mirror to see if they view their fellow human beings with compassion and not contempt based on race or class.

August 18, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
soakya said...

I decided to go back and read this opinion piece again and I have come to the conclusion the author might want to take his own advice.

And I'm going to do what you asked us to do. I guess you assume by pointing out you are a former two term Republican county commissioner you know what you speak of or what you say has validity because you are speaking as a republican which should make it more appetizing for those racist who disagree with AHCA and not a democratic race baiter.

The majority of your opinion piece is nothing more than a divisive, demagogic, racist, bloviating, unsubstantiated assumptions based on your own prejudice that resorts to nothing more than what the Al Sharptons of this world do.

You most certainly need to take a good long look in the mirror my friend.

August 18, 2013 at 3:37 p.m.
rick1 said...

soakya, very well said

August 18, 2013 at 4:28 p.m.
TheCommander said...

The liberal mind never looks in the mirror sokya. They are too busy seeing the injustices in the world perpetrated by you, me and anyone who owns a house, drives a car or wants to start a business for the sole purpose of making money (for themselves). This author apparently is a communitarian who wrote a book called "Common Dreams". The fact this author was a county commissioner reinforces my belief that ALL of our problems are ultimately local. These local officials run their out of control counties and cities using a never ending supply of federal grants and then turn around and tell you how bad Washington is to take the heat off themselves. I guarantee if we looked at the financial reports for his county, the debt grew wildly during his spending spree and he left it in much worse shape than when he arrived. Just a guess, but it seems to be a pattern. His constituents thought they were voting in a conservative because he had an R in front of his name but then I am sure he spent the public's money on any and every redevelopment scheme, PILOT and TIF project he could get his hands on in the name of creating jobs that never materialize. The results never matter for a liberal (see Detroit); only that he used our money to ease his guilty conscience and thereby proving to the world (and himself) that he is not a racist.

August 18, 2013 at 5:02 p.m.
fairmon said...

This article discounts the fact that the AHCA is a poorly written hurriedly passed piece of crap not read by those voting and not read by the author of this article. It was heavily influenced by insurance and pharmaceutical companies and rewards them nicely. The intent is good but the act is full of unintended consequences, millions are exempt and key items are being delayed and will likely be delayed again. The OMB is now predicting there will remain uninsured a number comparable to the current number with only who is and who is not insured changing. Who, what, when, where and how healthcare will be provided is not as complicated and as expensive as those in congress continue making it.

August 19, 2013 at 8:44 a.m.
soakya said...

I find it interesting that those who cooked this pot of stew refuse to eat it now. If the cook won't eat I certainly don't want to. If you don't want to eat the lunch you prepared something's wrong with the lunch.

August 19, 2013 at 8:50 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

If you are referring to exemptions, they don't exist.

August 19, 2013 at 8:54 a.m.
soakya said...

Not sure if they exist or not right now but what I do know is many unions and congress and congress's staff want no part of it now for them. If you cooked it you should be required to eat it before serving it to someone else.

August 19, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Again, there are no exemptions. That was a lie cooked up by the right. It has been circulating in cyberspace.

I have no problem with people criticizing Obama, or this act, or democrats. I do have a problem with people using falsehoods to do it.

August 19, 2013 at 9:03 a.m.
soakya said...

Again, read my post.

Let me say it one more time, If you don't want to eat the lunch you prepared something's wrong with the lunch. Don't know if their are exemptions now or not but they want them. Are you denying that?

If its a lie that many unions and congress' staff don't want exemptions you need to tell them to be quiet about it.

August 19, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

I have no idea what they want. I will expect that anyone who did not vote for the act probably doesn't want them. But for most of Congress, their situation does not change very much so I am not sure how you could speculate that they "all want exemptions".

August 19, 2013 at 9:19 a.m.
fairmon said...

Call the short notice and quick passage by congress for changing how the AHCA was going to affect them any thing you want to and you still get an additional $11,000 per year each in cost to tax payers compared to what was going to apply to them according to the law as passed. What changed between when they passed it and when they voted themselves a better deal? Something just doesn't smell right but that is nothing new in D.C. The nerve of some of us to think congress and their staff should contribute just like many others are doing. Theirs is not even a defined benefit but 75% if the policy cost, apparently with no limit.

August 19, 2013 at 6:31 p.m.
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