On this poignantly somber day of remembrance, our thoughts often and rightly turn to honoring some of our finest public servants, the thousands of first responders who risked so much, many of them giving their all, including their lives, in the effort to protect and to serve our fellow citizens during the violence and chaos of those hours and days as a result of the attacks of September 11th.
And so one would think it should be about as uncontroversial an issue as we could have in America today – making sure that these servants are themselves now taken care of of by us. It’s been well-documented and clearly shown how at risk health wise those who served at Ground Zero on 9/11 actually are today. Many of them continue to suffer from extreme amounts of cancer, PTSD, and other serious health issues as a result of their service during that critical time.
And yet, whether due to incompetence or mendacity (or likely various degrees of both), the GOP Trump administration has attempted to undermine the funding for the health insurance program created to cover the needs of these brave first responders, made possible through the passing of The James Zadroga Act in 2011.
This fact seems almost too bizarre, too patently villainish to be true. Yet this is indeed what the actual budget that the GOP administration and its enablers worked to ram through Congress this year would do. Do we not all understand that the caring for those that sacrificed so much that day is not an issue of right or left, but of right or wrong? It is unconscionable to think that in their efforts to find more ways to cut costs in order to pay for more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, that they would leave people abandoned to the destitution of need, people who sacrificed so much for us and our nation during that fateful time. (Jon Stewart accuses White House of ‘screwing’ 9/11 first responders)
But then, the Republicans it seems have never actually been that enthused about helping these people, at least not if it cost them any money. For as this report explains, many high powered Republican leaders have repeatedly voted against it, and put up a whole series of legislative roadblocks towards its passage (hypocritically arguing that our nation couldn’t afford this expensive new “entitlement” program, and yet agreeing to end the filibuster of it only if the Bush tax cuts were extended, thus further draining the public coffers). These people include Trump’s current Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who voted to end the program while a member of Congress, and who has now made his attempts to kill it through bureaucratic restructuring with this year’s GOP budget.
Today, as we are repeatedly reminded that we should always honor these people who gave so much of themselves, it seems to me that we honor them best, most usefully and most purposefully, by serving them. By providing them the ability to live their lives in dignity, so that they should never be left in a position of desperate need materially. They’ve already given so much physically, emotionally, even spiritually, embodying what Parker Simpson described as “much of the soul of what true public service is about,” as exemplified by “the months that physically and emotionally damaged firefighters, police officers, and volunteers spent on that pile digging for survivors and remains.” It’s beyond sad that we have to continue to fight for the basic services and healthcare protections for those of our citizens who need it most. (Trump budget could gut agency that treats 9/11 first responders). And Lord knows that our 9/11 first responders have certainly earned it. A society in which the basic rights and dignity of our working citizens are provided for in this manner, especially those who worked as public servants in such a self-sacrificing manner, is what a society that puts People First is about. Unfortunately, we’re increasingly seeing the opposite today under the current culture of corruption that has overtaken our politics from the federal down through the state level. And this issue underlines the core of the self-serving rot that has metastasized within our system, when caring for even these heroes becomes a long, protracted political battle, and not just an obvious given.
It is up to us to change this culture within our politics and our society. It is our collectively standing up in the spirit of unity that so many naturally felt in the face of that terrible crisis, and the humanity that was inherently triggered within us by those fateful events. It is the renewal and resurgence of that energy and an awakening to that sense of selflessness and service that can help guide us towards the way out of our current mess, and show us the way ahead as a nation.
Here’s a rundown of how things were transpiring during the budget process earlier this year, as repeated efforts by those in opposition to these cuts were rebuffed and ignored repeatedly by the current GOP administration – Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act: Coalition to Help Injured and Dying 9/11 Responders and Survivors9/11 Health Watch (Making sure our nation remembers and cares for the heroes and survivors of 9/11)
9/11 Health Watch (Making sure our nation remembers and cares for the heroes and survivors of 9/11)