In a political world so fractured by the strangle-hold of right wing extremism on government and the mainstream media, it is heart-warming and even encouraging when politicians get together and act like statespeople, actually giving a damn about the people they have been elected to represent. Such was the case recently when a group of legislators, united by the experience of developmental disability within their own families, pulled together for the betterment of an entire community.
The group, recently formed and calling themselved the “Family Caucus” is comprised of three Democrats: Assemblymembers Barbara Matthews of Tracy, Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, Betty Karnette of Long Beach and one Republican, Russ Bogh of Cherry Valley. Their personal experience with disabled children and siblings has created a bond and a determination to speak up on behalf of a community often left in the dark and the dust in the budget process. Not this time.
These four legislators were determined to share their experiences and bring their political power to bear on the budget process to obtain a long-overdue increase in financial assistance for the various non-profit organizations that enable the developmentally disabled to work. They each brought their own true-life stories to the debate-reducing from the abstract to the real how budget decisions impact the lives of those within our society who are truly unable to care for themselves without the help of others.
There is no better or effective way to make a case to those in the legislature who actually take seriously their responsibilities to provide assistance for the less-able in our society than to share personal stories. They are heartfelt, real and often anguishing. After all, isn’t that in significant part, what government is all about- helping those who are unable to help themselves? Giving everyone the opportunity to find self-respect, happiness and fulfillment in being a contributing member of their community? Certainly those of us who consider ourselves Progressives take that view. The other side may give lip-service to that concept but their real motivation is more often helping the rich get richer and bankrupting the public-fisc thus assuring it is unable to provide any of these services. So it is encouraging to see a member of this philosophical persuasion put aside such a callous and hard-hearted view of government and its possibilities and appreciate how important these kinds of programs and efforts are in the lives of so many Californians.
We applaud Mr. Bogh for doing so and hope that he can persuade his colleagues to remember that when we talk about government and investment, we’re talking about families and about people and their dreams. Compassion and opportunity need to trump corporations and profits when we look at what government’s promise is to its people. It isn’t just one or the other and that’s where bipartisanship and true compassion are needed.
Cutting taxes for those who can well afford to help the less fortunate is not only NOT the answer, it is a public disgrace. While Congress continues its immoral and unjustifiable give-aways to the super-rich, those whose basic survival depends on government largesse are squeezed and unable to meet their simple, daily needs. This is the ideology of the heartless and morally bankrupt right-wing that is playing out almost daily in D.C.
Thankfully in California, we see moments of bipartisanship where legislating and the political arena are still the purview of people with children and families, all of whom experience the greatness and heart-break of the human condition. Democrats and Republicans must remember that and the true role of governing if we have any chance of flourishing as a community or a nation.
Tell the developmentally disabled that we can’t help them help themselves because we need to put more money in the hands of multi-national corporations and the expanding list of billionaires benefiting from government policies that encourage off-shoring, low-wages and pension terminations. Tell that to the ever-squeezed middle-class. They’ll certainly understand.
At least for the moment, bipartisanship has emerged in California and a good thing has come of it.