Dial your congressman

Let Rep.LaMalfa know what you think about cuts to federal programs, including Medicare

On Monday (Dec. 19), the day the Electoral College’s 538 electors cast their votes for president of the United States, about 150 people marched in downtown Chico to protest Donald Trump’s ascension to that post (see “From armchair to action,” page 9).

This isn’t the first local demonstration in opposition to a Trump presidency and it certainly won’t be the last. For good reason. The president-elect is a demagogue and his frequent outbursts—especially his nativist rhetoric and diplomatic ineptitude—have emboldened racists, terrified marginalized groups, and threatened our ties with foreign nations.

In short, Trump’s forthcoming presidency is a trainwreck waiting to happen. Americans are the passengers, and things are about to get exceedingly bumpy.

But we’re not helpless. We’re voters. It’s time for some direct action. If there’s any way to put pressure on a Trump presidency, it’s through our representatives at our nation’s capital—the Republicans, to be precise. The GOP holds a majority in the Senate and the House, and that stranglehold is a dangerous one for low-income and middle-class Americans alike.

Take the Medicare privatization scheme, for example. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has long proposed changes in the form of a voucher-like system that would help subsidize private health insurance for future retirees. That might not hurt well-to-do seniors, but it poses potentially devastating consequences for the average citizen since it includes a fixed price—and therefore results in less comprehensive coverage. That saying about being one emergency away from homelessness applies to this scenario.

If Ryan and his cronies have their way, the safety net Medicare provides for elderly and disabled individuals will not be in place for those who follow the baby boomers. And though Trump vowed to leave the program alone while he was out on the campaign trail, his choice for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services signals otherwise. Rep. Tom Price is in favor of efforts to cut Medicare and Medicaid and is also a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act.

What most folks don’t realize is that the GOP’s efforts to repeal the ACA—aka Obamacare—isn’t because the health care law doesn’t work. It’s because killing it would provide the nation’s wealthiest residents a major tax break—$346 billion over a decade. Cutting taxes for the rich is a hallmark of Washington’s Republican establishment. Low- and middle-income earners be damned.

With all of these critically important programs in jeopardy, voters must speak up before it’s too late. Do not expect your representatives, who are woefully out of touch with everyday Americans, to put your needs first.

Right here in the North State, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who was born into a wealthy rice-farming family, has been telling concerned constituents that he’s in favor of such Medicare restructuring. He’s also spreading misinformation about the program (and Social Security) heading for bankruptcy, an exaggeration that Republicans use as a scare tactic.

There are numerous solutions to keep the program financially viable, as outlined by the nonpartisan Center for Medicare Advocacy, including allowing younger (and thus healthier) Americans to enroll in Medicare. That tack would result in added revenue, helping to offset the costs incurred by already enrolled and infirm participants. In other words, the financial challenges the program faces are manageable. Don’t be fooled by the propaganda.

Now is the time to be heard on these issues. But don’t bother emailing Mr. LaMalfa. In return, you’ll receive a form letter his staff has whipped up suggesting privatization is the answer. Your best bet is to flood him with phone calls to voice your opposition to this plan (Washington: 202-225-3076; Oroville: 530-534-7100; Redding: 530-223-5898; Auburn: 530-878-5035). Lawmakers themselves say calls from constituents hold more weight. So, pick up the phone.