Emma Haskell, Gettysburg —
Whether you are a camp counselor, scooping ice cream, working in retail or behind a desk at a large corporation, summer jobs can vary widely. If you told me I was going to be working in a garden for a majority of my summer, I probably would have laughed in disbelief. Now I can’t imagine my summer any other way. Now armed with the wealth of new information about agriculture, food issues, and immigration policy I have gained this summer with my fellowship, I have come to several realizations, an important one being about the impact of social programs in our country. Being a political science major I feel as if I am reasonably well informed about the “nuts and bolts” of how public assistance programs work, what the term Medicaid means or how much a fair “minimum wage” should be. Today’s media is of little help in providing clarity on these issues for anyone as they are presented more as battles between the liberals and conservatives than anything else. This couldn’t be more true for the debate over affordable health care in the United States.
The other day I had just come from working out on the farm for about three hours making minimum wage. It was hot and humid and the exhaustion of what my morning entailed was written on my face. After work, I hopped in my car needing to go to CVS to pick up a prescription. Previously the price for a medication would not have crossed my mind. Knowing “I’m insured,” I knew somehow I was covered and it would be something my parents were going to deal with. Today, however, when I paid for this medication, even with the benefit of only have to pay a co-pay for this prescription, before I swiped my card I realized that the money I had earned in the morning was actually less than my copayment. My morning earnings were spent, and it was not even lunch time. Then my mind raced to entirely different direction thinking. I thought, “Wow medical costs are just a sliver of the costs of supporting a family.” Food, housing, heat, education, clothing. Just some of the costs of things I perhaps am beginning to consider in a very different way. All of a sudden, the fight to raise our minimum wage to $9 seems very different to me. Affordable health care isn’t Obamacare or Trumpcare but rather help to the sick when they need it without eating up all of their savings.
I can’t decide whether it’s sad or not that it is not until a person is personally directly affected by an issue are they be able to see not just the “face value” of an issue, but it’s downstream, real-life impact on others. But one thing I know for sure that until we can begin to stop arguing and seeing issues only in black and white terms (or perhaps I should say “blue and red” terms) will we be able to make any real progress in this country on issues that truly matter.