I just went to Washington to lobby on telecommunications issues and ended up helping to (I hope!) save America from Trumpcare.
Three times a year, the telecommunications team flies from California to Washington D.C. to visit the Federal Communications Commission. I serve on the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations regarding consumer issues. Three weeks ago, I would have written that the CAC “advocates on behalf of consumers.” However, since then, FCC Chair Ajit Pai added six new members to the committee, all of whom are industry hacks or work for free-market think tanks. I was a bit surprised by this, but I shouldn’t have been—after all, Chairman Pai has always been a staunch supporter of eliminating regulations that large corporations don’t like, or as I like to say, “an older version of that guy you knew in high school who read Atlas Shrugged once, and thought it was an instruction manual for governance.”
It would be bad enough if Pai were the only policymaker in DC to believe that selfishness, crony capitalism, and deliberately harming consumers are virtues. Unfortunately, that’s not the case—if you’ve been following the latest health care news, you know what I mean. Republicans are attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has made health care affordable to millions of people in the United States. Again. You know, like they’ve already tried 60+ times. The latest version of Trumpcare, known as the Graham-Cassidy Act, would eliminate billions of dollars in federal funding for health care, allow insurers to refuse to provide coverage for basic health services like prenatal care, preventative health services, and mental health treatment, and would undermine and eliminate protections for people with preexisting conditions (that last group includes me, my wife, my parents, my brother, my niece and nephew, and, well pretty much everyone I know). Of course, as we all know but folks never seem to acknowledge, communities of color and low income communities, especially low income women of color and children, will suffer disproportionate harms as a result of this legislation. It’s basically that policy of “the government will execute you and send a bill for the bullet to your family,” only for health care.
Anyway, back to my trip. My plan was to attend the Committee meeting, and then spend a couple of days meeting with folks in DC who did telecommunications work to talk policy, and update each other on what was going on in our states, and to work on a long-term telecommunications policy strategy. Which, just to note, I did. However, the first night I was there, I thought, “let me check my social media and see if there’s any sort of Trumpcare action going on.” And that’s how Vinhcent Le, Greenlining’s Telecommunications Legal Counsel, and I ended up in front of the Capitol, twenty feet away from Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, and a whole lot of other people who were there to demand that Congress protect the ACA. We were a diverse group of people, all of whose lives would be damaged by Graham-Cassidy—women of color, children with complex medical issues, folks with disabilities, seniors, working families, and so on. While I was listening to representatives of all of those groups speak, I realized that the rally was the most important thing I’d be doing while in DC.
CLICK TO TWEET: Learn how @PaulOverbite’s trip to DC started w/ a visit to the @FCC, and ended w/ a protest against #Trumpcare.
It was the most important thing that I did last week because I stood in solidarity with people that were different from me. Health care was important to every one of those people for their own personal reasons. However, we stood there together in solidarity. We shouted and chanted there together because we all knew that no medical condition is any less deserving of treatment than any other. We stood there because we all knew everyone deserves health care, that health care is a right, and that we were not going to let anyone stop the progress we’ve made. Honestly, the way I felt that day, surrounded by all those folks who would not give up, was the best I’ve felt in a long time.
For now, it looks like the Why Don’t You Lie Down in the Street and Die Graham-Cassidy Act has failed. But it could come back, so we should be vigilant. The next time the Republicans try to repeal the ACA, make sure you call your Senators. Tell them you oppose Graham-Cassidy. Ask your friends and relatives to do the same. Keep fighting.
Paul Goodman is Greenlining’s Telecommunications Senior Legal Counsel. Follow Paul on Twitter.