A voice from La Grande:

La Grande Observer, May 12, 2017
by Mike Shearer

Rep. Greg Walden’s selective treks into the many small communities making up his district have been pleasant encounters with supporters, who are eager to hear from him one more time on how we need to lower the national debt, government regulations and taxes. Not so anymore.

Since he became the chief architect of The American Health Care Act (aka Trumpcare), via his committee chairmanship in Congress, he has been met with furious constituents wherever he has shown his face, including in Baker City, Elgin and Wallowa recently.

In Bend, he held his first town hall in more than four years and concluded the tense stand-off by saying he would see them again “next year,” in case anyone thought he planned to be back sooner. (Once a year town halls per county has been his stated commitment.)

Wherever he encounters opposition, he always suggests the opponents are “Bernie Sanders supporters,” adding in Elgin, “Bernie — who couldn’t even win the primary.” Walden’s new hero, Donald Trump, of course, can win primaries and even the presidency — with a little help from the Russians.

While Walden seems a gentleman compared to the raunchy, bigoted, pandering Trump, he is as willing as Trump to continue to disseminate untruths when convenient — for instance, repeatedly claiming that universal health coverage is floundering in the countries that have taken that path. He cannot, for instance, substantiate the misinformation he is spreading about Canadians flocking to the United States to get good health care.

Even the medical services not covered by Canada’s health plan — dentistry, vision and some prescriptions (the same exclusions under our Medicare) — are not cheaper on this side of the border. Not even unnecessary cosmetic surgery is cheaper here. In fact, though Walden would have us believe otherwise, Canadians have not sought return to the days prior to the 1984 Canada Health Act.

Among the 58 countries with mandated health coverage, there have been no defections. But Walden insists, as he said in Bend, “They can’t sustain it with their tax systems.”

What can’t be sustained indefinitely is the absurd notion that we can keep the mega-health conglomerates and insurance companies thriving at the cost of American health and human lives.

Among the many organizations that have quickly come out in opposition to the GOP health care plan are the AARP, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, America’s Essential Hospitals, American College of Physicians, National Nurses United, National Physicians Alliance, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the United States, a recent poll found that even 40 percent of Trump supporters favor expanding Medicare to all Americans.

So why is Walden so focused on this issue? Perhaps we should examine his list of political donors who help keep him the best financed of any of Oregon’s congressional delegation. I would suggest it is because, although he always mentions he is a “small business owner,” owning radio stations, his real “business” now is as a very well-paid politician with excellent health benefits and a fine retirement plan ahead of him. Even a cursory review of his financial backers on the Federal Election Commission website (fec.gov.) shows donations from a startling number of pharmaceutical and insurance conglomerates, special interest PACS related to those businesses, as well as by “individuals” listing their professions as CEOs of some of these same companies.

Walden is too sophisticated to say aloud, as his Idaho colleague Republican Rep. Raul Labrador did in a town hall recently, that “nobody dies” for lack of health care access, but his leadership in preserving the status quo at the expense of the nation’s health shows where his heart is. And who his real constituency is.

About the author

Mike Shearer, 69, of La Grande is a former journalist and educator. He retired from Central New Mexico Community College in 2010, after which he was a freelance writer and columnist for the Observer for a year and a half. My Voice columns should be 500-700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships.