COMMENTARY Obama, my grandpa and health care

My grandfather retired from Chrysler in the early 1980s. He was what we in the Midwest call a ‘stand-up guy.’ He worked hard and did his job, but he never took any crap from anybody, especially the foreman.

When contract time came, he stood fast with the union. He told me, ‘Never cross a picket line. Never cross the union.’

On more than one occasion, grandpa said: ‘That food you’re eating was bought by union wages. Crossing the union is like stealing food from our table.’

I grew up reading grandpa’s Solidarity magazine, the United Auto Workers’ monthly publication. In it I saw how the union was fighting for higher wages, health care and better benefits. I saw how they were fighting for grandpa’s pension.

My grandpa has been gone for almost four years now. My grandma still receives her survivor’s benefits. With the bankruptcy at Chrysler though, she’s lost her dental and vision coverage — benefits grandpa fought his whole life for. She blames Chrysler for squandering years of record profits, not the union.

Sometimes people forget — and in this bad economy it’s easy to forget — that the American Dream was won by people like my grandpa. When fascism was ravaging the world, he fought. Years after the war, he still had wounds — mental and physical. After the war, he came home and drove trucks before finally getting on at Chrysler, where he worked for 30-plus years.

You see, my grandpa could hardly read or write. He had the equivalent of a fifth or sixth grade education. But he knew right from wrong. And he could smell a rat from a mile away.

What, you might be wondering, does this have to do with health care? Or with President Obama? Well, if my grandpa were alive today he’d be mad as hell.

He’d tell me: ‘You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the whole damn thing is broken.’ He’d use some sort of car or baseball metaphor, while cussing the corporate bigwigs. He’d say: ‘Everybody should have health care and anybody who thinks otherwise is an idiot or a liar, or both.’

My grandpa didn’t mince words. He quickly grew tired of fast talkers and their big words. He was a straight shooter. He told it like it was. Sort of like President Obama.

Recently, referring to health care, President Obama said: ‘We’ve talked this problem to death — year after year. Unless we act and act now, nothing will change. The need for reform is urgent and indisputable.’

Grandpa also had little regard for liars. If he were alive today, he’d call Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, a liar. Recently, Steele had the audacity to claim that a health care public option would leave Americans with ‘fewer options and less care.’ Liar! Grandpa would say it to his face. Then he would ask: ‘Have you ever worked an honest day in your whole life?’

My grandpa always wondered how people with no backbone, those who kowtowed to big money, could sleep at night. I really don’t care if Mr. Steele sleeps or not. But one thing’s certain, he’s either an idiot or a liar, or both.

Tony Pecinovsky (tonypec @ is district staffperson for the Missouri/Kansas Communist Party.