Health care as a basic human right

As I was thinking about which issue to write about first in this little series I’m attempting, I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed choosing which one to start with.  Well my daughter reminded me which I should choose: health care.  On Tuesday I got an email from my daughter’s day care saying she had vomited and wasn’t eating much.  Immediately, I left my office to go pick her up because all I could think was “here we go again.”  You see, my daughter has had a rough couple of months.  At the end of January she got a stomach virus, followed by pneumonia, followed by a second bout of pneumonia and an ear infection a month later.  Poor thing!  But then I remembered things were going to be ok.

My daughter is lucky.  She has health insurance.  Once I picked her up, I called a nurse who calmly talked me through what to do over the next 24 hours to make sure she stayed hydrated and got better.  Well it’s Thursday and she is getting better.  Turns out, she has three teeth coming in at the same time.  They seem to be doing a number on her.

Unfortunately, other parents don’t have the piece of mind I do.  There are many children who don’t have health insurance either because their parents work and can’t afford it or their job doesn’t offer it or because their parents are unemployed or because many states make it difficult to enroll or rather, stay enrolled, in Medicaid or their Child Health Insurance Program.  Their parents can’t call the doctor when their children are sick.  Instead, they ride their children’s illness out on their own until things get so bad they go to the ER.

I could put the stats out there about how important it is for children to have a regular source of care but the reality is when children don’t have regular access to health care, they suffer.  They are risk for little things like ear infections becoming bigger problems.  When they are sick, they can’t learn.  When they can’t learn, they can’t do well in school and that means they can’t provide for themselves when they get older.  You see, as much as we don’t treat health care as a basic human right, it certainly should be.  Today, I’m thankful that my husband and I are able to do that for our daughter.  I want the same for all children.

What do your taxes support? Our future!

(This post originally appeared on the blog of the National Council of La Raza.)

Happy Tax Day! According to the Tax Foundation, you have had to work until today, April 17, 2012, to earn enough to pay your tax obligation to the federal government for 2011. Not excited about Tax Day? Most other Americans probably aren’t either. With all due respect, I say, “so what?” Don’t get me wrong. Like most people, I do not want to pay more than my fair share of taxes, but something happened to me last year that drove home the impact of my tax dollars: in July 2011, I became a mami.

I was not an anti-tax zealot prior to becoming a mami, but I have sometimes questioned why the government needs so much of my money. Once my daughter was born, however, I stopped complaining about paying taxes and recognized the necessity of a well-funded government that meets the basic needs of its citizens. I now see things differently, and I’ve started to tie my daughter’s future to that of the more than 74 million other children in this country. What I want for my daughter is no different than what other parents want for their children: to be able to provide our kids the best education, health care, and childhood possible.

Yet the reality is that there are limits to what I and other parents can provide. I try to be the best mom I can, but I am not a trained teacher so I need there to be good schools. I am not a transportation laborer so I need these workers to ensure that my community’s roads are safe for me and my daughter to travel on. I am not a doctor so I need access to quality health care, no matter my work situation. The last nine months have shown me that even great parents can’t do everything and that our government plays a huge role in providing all children with their best possible shot at success.

Luckily, others also realized this when I was younger. If they had not, I would not have been the first in my family to graduate from college because I had access to Head Start, excellent public schools, the Pell and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, and Community Health Centers. Today, all of these programs are under attack by legislators whose chief concerns are cutting taxes and reducing spending instead of investing in our nation’s future. The American Dream is being stripped away from our children, especially low-income, Black and Hispanic children, leaving them ill prepared to compete in our global economy.

Your future—our future—is inextricably tied to how those in Washington treat our children, particularly Latinos. Some under the Capitol dome and on the airwaves would have you believe that Latino children are not important to the future of our country, but this could not be further from the truth. Here’s why:

  • More than 92% of Hispanic children are U.S. citizens, as is the majority of their parents.
  • Almost 25% of all children in the U.S. are Latino.
  • Latino children represent more than 22% of all public school students.
  • In 2050, 30% of the country’s workforce will be Hispanic.

Latino children matter because they are our future workers and taxpayers, and their taxes will buoy the increasingly graying U.S. population. However, their ability to support our future is hampered by the barriers that hinder them from reaching their potential. Overcoming these barriers requires investment in programs that help our nation’s children, not a divestment of our country’s resources.

We must invest in today’s children—our future—particularly those who are most at risk. If we do not, we are eating our proverbial seed corn. I am not willing to do that, for my sake or my daughter’s.