2016

5 October 2016: Thumbs up on End-of-Life Options, Health Service District, & minimum wage hike

Over the past two weeks, I have given my take on several ballot initiatives. My goal has been to encourage you to do your homework in order to make informed decisions. Solid arguments certainly can be made pro and con on each. Your blue book, which can serve as a starting partial guide, should be in hand.

I conclude the series by looking at three others: Amendment 70 (state minimum wage), Proposition 106 (medical aid in dying), and for a swath of Clear Creek, the Health Service District.

In 2006, we approved a constitutional amendment governing the minimum wage rate, which could rise or fall depending upon the Consumer Price Index. Amendment 70 would not only provide for a gradual rise in the rate to 12.00 an hour for non-tipped workers by 2020, it would also not allow the minimum rate to go down if the rate of inflation declines.

While it seems to make sense to tie the rate to the CPI, the reality is it isn’t a fair standard due to certain aspects of living costs skyrocketing disproportionately: housing and health care.  Rentals are in mortgage territory, and the escalating rise in down payments for home purchases have effectively put home buying out of reach for many. So much for the American Dream.

While homelessness is certainly an outcome of that market, so is the trend for many twenty- and thirty-somethings either not moving out of their parents’ houses or moving back in. According to a Denver Post study, the Census Bureau reports about 25 percent of Colorado millennials are with mom and dad. Reasons vary but the main cause is affordability.

As for health care costs, enough said.

The opposition argues the solution would make the situation direr. Research and historical evidence does not support that, however. Other factors, such as the temperature of the economy, have more impact on whether businesses add or let go of employees than the minimum wage.

Prop 106 that would create the End-of-Life Options Act that would allow those with terminal illness who meet certain conditions to receive assistance in dying in a dignified, humane way. Five other states already provide for it: Oregon, the pioneer, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and of late, California.

Fear, hysteria, and dogma lie at the core of anti-106 arguments. As for fear that the opportunity would be abused, history does not bear that out. Since 1997, only 1545 Oregonians have requested assistance. At the end, a third opted not to exercise the option, an extremely low percentage considering the overall numbers of people dying in Oregon in nearly 20 years. As for dogma—read Catholic Church—who is to know the will of God? One can argue, as I do, that using mechanical and drugs to artificially extend life might be defying God’s will. I prefer imagining a loving compassionate God.

Finally, the Health Service District for those not covered by the Evergreen Fire District service is a step in the direction of bringing health care back to the county, something the private marketplace hasn’t and will likely never make happen given the reality of health care now in the domain of profit. It’s the goal of health insurance industry ghouls to milk that profit. And given our size and location, a community-funded institution is the only solution. You can read more on the county’s website: http://www.co.clear-creek.co.us/DocumentCenter/View/7040.

Ultimately, these proposals, as does Amendment 69 or ColoradoCare, come down to compassion, dignity and justice through life and during the process of dying.

By the way, I failed to mention in my column on Amendment 69 analysts estimate the Clear Creek School District’s health care costs will be more than halved.

Some prefer reducing humanity to a dollar-and-cent, profit-and-loss construct. True conservatives offer valid criticism about progressive initiatives by cautioning against fostering dependency and enabling otherwise healthy persons not to provide for themselves. I get that and agree. But, they too often turn a blind eye to the human condition by insisting a soulless market dominated by mega-corporations can and will provide for all, which is Randian libertarian delusional nonsense.

What’s a life worth? Libertarian protestations to the contrary, dignity cannot be monetized.

Thumbs up on Amendment 70, Proposition 106, and the Health Service District.

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