Schwab: What future holds for health care, science and roads

For a society that depends upon all three, we seem little concerned with those who have no concern.

By Sid Schwab / Herald columnist

I’ve just returned from New York City, where my brother was mowed down by a taxi on his morning run. He was in the ICU, intubated, for three days; has undergone four operations. He knows he’ll never run again and will be lucky to recover to the point of walking. With a walker.

The obvious, the cliché, is that things can change in an instant: Live every day as if it’s your next to last. Would that we all could; though nowadays I doubt every human would spend it lovingly.

Also obvious: Anyone who dismisses Democrats’ urgency in improving our health care system has never been really sick.

My brother and his wife can afford supplemental nursing care. They can afford a lawyer, not only for the legal issues but for help with the dizzying paperwork. Pages and pages of it. Bills coming from all directions, staggering bills. Traveling only four blocks between hit and hospital, the ambulance charges alone were in the thousands of dollars. Despite passing much of the work along to the lawyer, my sister-in-law has spent hours dealing with approvals and refusals; speaking, emailing, texting to various agencies and offices. For many, probably most people, it’d be all but impossible.

The care he’s received in NYC has been excellent. Still, communication has been occasionally spotty, and were it not for the extra help they hired, my brother’s needs would be met more erratically. Too slowly, in some cases, as he is entirely, helplessly, bedridden.

To those people whose reaction to health care reform proposals from any Democrat is a knee-jerk cry of “socialism, communism, they hate America,” one hopes none has to experience what my brother and his family are going through. If they ever do, and if Mitch McConnell has managed to keep things the same (or, as Republican legislators prefer, improved them only for insurance executives and stockholders), and if Trump’s lies about Democrats and “socialism” continue to infect their minds, I hope they have the education and monetary means of my brother and his wife. I’m not saying reform won’t be disruptive or complicated, or won’t include unanticipated glitches. What I am saying is it’s undeniably necessary.

Enough said. Of that.

While biting the Big Apple, I spent time with my niece, an extraordinarily brilliant, internationally-honored researcher and professor of immunology at New York University. (Also, sweet as honey.) Her work is published in highly regarded journals; work that might — no hyperbole — lead to defeating a particularly deadly form of childhood leukemia. I asked how things are going.

Not well. Like many devoted scientists, she’s feeling the effects of Trump’s funding cuts for research. Also, because, seeing the writing on the wall (not that one), American students are increasingly disinterested in pursuing science, her post-docs are all immigrants. Which, again because of Trump and his weak-kneed defenders, have become difficult to hire. To Trump’s self-centered, short-sighted, uninquisitive cultists, none of the preceding is worrisome. How amazing. How deplorable.

Speaking of worrisome, on a related, less complicated but locally important note, I have a simple, understandable algorithm for evaluating our state’s voter initiatives: if it’s one of Mukilteo Tim’s, I vote no. Why? Because I’m a member of society. Because I understand the role government plays in keeping us mobile, not to mention safe, educated, healthy, not poisoned or on fire. If I don’t particularly enjoy paying taxes and fees, I recognize their value.

Eyman once bugged me to write a column about one of his initiatives. Eventually, I did. And never heard from him again. A monument to self-indulgent esurience, his latest, Initiative 976, is ruination in the making.

Perhaps some voters never drive, or if they do, it’s never to Seattle. Maybe they don’t see potholed roads or rickety bridges, never use our ferry system. So maybe, rationalizing penuriousness, they’ve convinced themselves there are no direct or indirect benefits to them for keeping those things functional and improving. I may not use mass transit much, but I understand its value and am willing to pay my share. Also, I drive an electric car. On tax-supported roads. I’m OK with the electric vehicle fees I’m charged, and don’t think reducing them to $30 is fair to those who pay gas taxes.

This neo-Republican greed must be brought to an end. America is letting infrastructure decay to third-world levels, ceding science to China and India, world politics to Russia, and the future to people who’ve stopped caring. Or don’t have grandchildren.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

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