Did Sen. Hatch cuss at a hearing last week?

I was determined not to do political commentary this week, especially commentary pertaining to health care. I was so determined that I composed a social commentary piece and was about to post it in the wee hours of Sunday morning, but I couldn’t.

My conscience put me back at the drawing board at 12:20 AM.

In my mind I kept seeing the images of disabled protesters being physically removed from a Senate hearing chamber. These protesters, some in wheel chairs and on crutches, had disrupted a hearing about the Republicans’ most recent doomed attempt to undo the Affordable Healthcare Act.

These protesters were asking elected officials to preserve and protect Medicaid, a health care access safety net for many disabled citizens.  Their chant went, “No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty,” and they started yelling it as soon as the hearing began.

I have mixed feelings about all the protesting going on, but this one was awesome.

It was awesome because you could tell these protesters made just about everyone in the hearing room uncomfortable. And it was that delicious kind of uncomfortable when people not only feel uncomfortable about what’s happening but then they feel uncomfortable for feeling uncomfortable about something involving a vulnerable population.

Unlike so many of the protests going on, this one was a direct hit in terms of impact. Target audience reached — directly and dramatically in an unforgettable way.

The C-Span video is pretty compelling. I like it because it clearly shows how challenging it was for law enforcement to remove people in wheelchairs when they were refusing to go. And refusing to stop chanting at the top of their lungs.

Also the audio catches Senator Orrin Hatch expressing such unattractive, yet priceless messages as “shut up” and muttering something about the location of “the damn police.”

Hatch managed to feign control of the room and his face at first, but the level of discomfort becomes evident quickly. Eventually, Hatch, apparently overcome by this discomfort, called for a recess and left the room without even acknowledging the protesters’ concerns.

Even though the protesters were clearly and intentionally out of order, I found Hatch’s conduct to be dismissive and condescending at best. Dismissive and condescending seem to be major themes when it comes to some Republicans and health and human services, though.

That brings me to the other political news tugging at my conscience for attention:  Fiscal conservative HHS Secretary Tom Price’s travel expense scandal exploded within days of the hearing debacle. 

I wonder if Hatch has any condescension to throw Price’s way regarding his seemingly excessive and decadent use of private charter flights at taxpayer expense? I know I do …

Price’s conduct is the extreme epitome of what I call the health and social service till problem — it’s the over-arching problem under which all other problems with the system lie.

The till problem begins at the beginning, whenever money is appropriated to serve vulnerable populations. Right off the bat, the till gets drained a bit to maintain the bureaucracy in DC. Then it gets drained a bit more as it hits state bureaucracies and the management teams of their private contractors and providers.

By the time the till gets to actually providing real services to the target population, there’s not much left in there. In short, the entitlement problem isn’t that program recipients feel entitled. The entitlement problem is how entitled people in charge of entitlement programs are capable of being.

In extreme cases, entitled enough to bill for expensive transportation while proposing spending cuts and entitled enough to ignore disabled protesters except to tell them to shut up. So entitled that this blogger wants to tell Price just where he can go on his next expensive private charter flight.

I wouldn’t mind telling Hatch who it is that needs to shut up, either.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.