John Florez: Democracy is not sandlot ball

Published: Saturday, Oct. 5 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

We didn’t get this way over one crisis; rather, for too long, we have neglected our duty. We must elect leaders who advance policies that put country first and live up to what America always stood for — the land of opportunity for all.

Carolyn Kaster, File, Associated Press

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Today’s politicians remind me of the old days of sandlot ball games, where the kid that had the bat and ball made up the rules. And when he was losing, he wanted to change the rules or not play any more.

Now, we have the U.S. House of Representatives doing the same. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) three years ago, the president signed it, the Supreme Court upheld it in 2012 and the election reaffirmed it. It’s the law of the land. So what part of legal don’t they understand? Like the kid that lost at sandlot ball wanted to change the game or quit, politicians now have closed the government down. So what happened to the rule of law?

Utah politicians don’t seem to be much different, they have the ball and bat and change the rules as they go along. They made a big deal out of the rule of law when passing Utah’s immigration law; then when the governor realized he had signed a law that imposed penalties for employers who hired undocumented workers, he quickly wanted to call a special session to change it. For the past year, Utah state politicians are still debating about implementing the part of the ACA that would pay 100 percent for 123,00 Utahns who can’t afford health care. Unlike his quick decision to overturn the employer sanctions in Utah’s immigration law, the governor continues to ponder whether to accept federal money to help pay for health care for needy Utahns. What’s the difference? Are we more concerned about employers than people in need? Do we change the rules for one group over another?

Health care is not the problem, rather a symptom of how technology and globalization have changed our nation’s health care system. It questions if health care is an employer problem or a societal problem. It also reveals how we have become numb to the values that built our civil society — patriotism, caring for each other, sacrificing and working for the common good. In past times of crisis, all Americans felt the pain; we were all in “the same boat.” Now, we are undergoing another crisis, except not all of us are feeling the same pain. One percent are doing well and 99 percent are not. The economy that always lifted all boats is gone, leaving many behind.

We live in a complex, sophisticated, and more impersonal society, becoming a nation of tribes that travel in different worlds, and losing our sense of caring for each other. We have allowed our political system to be gerrymandered and taken over by moneyed interests that seem to erode our sense of fairness, and our belief that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could make it. Now we have a 68-year-old engineer that did that, yet lost his job, health insurance and now he can’t pay for his cancer treatment. Like many Utahns he didn’t need a safety net, he needed leaders who shared his values and made policies that considered the needs of all citizens, not only those that keep them in office.

We didn’t get this way over one crisis; rather, for too long, we have neglected our duty. We must elect leaders who advance policies that put country first and live up to what America always stood for — the land of opportunity for all.

Democracy is not sandlot ball.

A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served as former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education. Email him at jdflorez@comcast.net.

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