CHICAGO - A homeless man on the corner of Michigan and Lake stopped shaking his change cup last Friday morning to check on a second homeless man sitting in the doorway next to Walgreen's drugstore. The second man had rolled up his pants to reveal a large green and purplish wound covered in crusted blood.
The first man gave his change cup to the man with the bad leg. "I'll be right out," he said. "Walgreens has these cocoa butter sticks for a dollar - just what you need to fix that thing (the leg) up."
When the man came out from Walgreen's he squatted down next to his friend and began applying the cocoa butter to the open sore.
Such would be what constitutes satisfactory medical care if it were up to Republicans who control the House of Representatives these days. The tea party people who use their 80 or so votes to bully the entire 235-person GOP House majority are saying it would be OK to let the entire U.S. economy sink if that's what it takes to destroy Obamacare. What passes for health care on the streets of Chicago - well that's OK too, in their eyes.
The 80 votes the tea party controls are holding the entire country hostage. They are enough to make impossible the passage of a funding bill to keep the government running beyond Sept. 30, or to prevent passage of a bill to increase the federal debt ceiling, a normally routine measure which, the Obama administration says, will have to be done around mid-October.
A government shutdown means real terror for millions. People won't receive their Social Security checks, planes will fly without the guidance of air traffic controllers, and we go back to the days when beef, pork and chicken covered with dangerous bacteria are shipped out for consumption all over the country. Who needs government anyway?
And what about the tea partiers' threat to block a raise in the debt ceiling? The debt ceiling is not raised so we can have an orgy of new spending. The government, when it is faced with paying off bills already incurred, has to raise the debt ceiling when failure to do so would prevent payment of those bills. Governments, like people, must do this all the time. The only other choice is to default on the bills, which most economists say would plunge the U.S. and the rest of the world into a new deep recession, a depression or worse.
Republicans, by the way, don't like reminding Americans that one of the biggest bills we are still saddled with, the big bill that continues to necessitate raising that debt ceiling, is the cost of the Republican-inspired wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some of the tea party folks have said they'll let up only if the money bill or the debt limit bill or both are written to remove funding for implementing the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"). "Mainstream" Republicans, if there are any these days, go along with the right-wingers on this because they fear challenges from their right in the coming GOP primaries.
However, even if the radical right fails to shut down the government or to keep the country from raising the debt limit or to weaken or kill Obamacare, they expect that they will have successfully been able to push the entire debate in this country to the right. If the deal we end up with in the end is one that raises the debt limit and keeps the government open in exchange for continuing current sequester levels of operation, the right wing will have succeeded.
The sequester is automatic federal spending cuts created in the Budget Control Act of 2011. The idea was that if the parties could not reach agreement on a federal budget then the automatic across-the-board cuts would go into effect.
Republican obstructionists have prevented any agreement so the cuts are in effect and have already damaged health, nutrition, education, public safety and many other programs. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs under sequestration, preventing a real recovery from the recession.
The Republicans would like nothing better than for us to consider the sequester, which only a few months ago was seen as an extreme right-wing ax to the budget, as the "moderate compromise" position.
The two men living on the streets in Chicago and the broad majority of working men and women deserve much better than that. We need not just health care for all but massive job creation for all. Continuing to function at the level of the sequester cuts just won't do.
Now is the time to call Republican lawmakers, especially if you live in one of their districts, and let them know that if they continue to put your livelihood, your home or your health in danger they will be in trouble with you. They will not have your vote.
If your representative is a Democrat then urge him or her not to agree to any compromise that destroys the Affordable Care Act or that maintains the awful level of cuts now in place under the sequester.
Call, write or e-mail Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner and demand that he negotiate in good faith, that he tell the right-wing extremists in his party where they can go, so to speak.
Contact your union, community group, campus organization or church and find out about plans they have to keep up the pressure against the tea-partiers.
Talk up with everyone you know the need to go out in the 2014 elections to turn the tea party and its hangers-on out of office. Tea party terrorists and hostage takers, along with the Republicans who support them, have earned the boot.
Photo: Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., center, celebrates with fellow House Republicans after trashing the economy while crippling the Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 20. At right is Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who led conservatives in persuading Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, to accept defunding the Affordable Care Act. Scott Applewhite/AP