Rep. Ann Wagner (R-2) has been in the news recently over healthcare issues. And not in a good way.
First, she did a Howard Dean impersonation that was captured on video and widely circulated. Images of a harpy-like Wagner hoarsely screaming “freedom” after voting for the House Obamacare replacement bill which will, if enacted in the form Wagner endorsed, free millions of their healthcare and perhaps their lives, excited only disgust and derision.
Second, when constituents eager to talk to Wagner about her efforts to deprive them of their healthcare tried repeatedly to get her to come to a constituent meeting over the recent congressional recess, they finally reconciled themselves to going it alone in hopes she would pay long-distance attention. She not only remained true to her convictions however, by staying away, but, in the words of the Riverfront Times, responded by “deriding a bunch of old people attempting to hold a town hall at the Lodge Des Peres over the health care issue as ‘radical leftists.'”
I’m hoping that the criticism that Wagner’s “acting out” has received may give her some pause – reports are that she wants to take Claire McCaskill’s place in the Senate next year, and if any of those healthcare chickens come home to roost too soon, she may be out of luck. So I wasn’t too surprised when I received her email newsletter dated May 15 and read this paragraph describing what a caring person Wagner is when it comes to sick people, specifically, sick children:
During my time in Congress I’ve met with too many children suffering from debilitating and deadly diseases. Our country is on the forefront of innovative medical research, but more needs to be done to improve pediatric disease research. This is why I co-sponsored the Kids First Research Act which would transfer approximately $320 million in funds from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to the Pediatric Research Initiative Fund at the National Institutes of Health. Recently, I met with 8-year-old Ava, who lost her twin brother Sam to rhabdomyosarcoma, and their mom to talk about the need for pediatric cancer research funding. Cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among children, and I believe this bill can help lead to medical breakthroughs that will save lives and empower our children.
Helping children with cancer. Oooh and ahhhh. What better way to wash away the nasty taste of that AHCA Freedom yodel. Especially since, while it’s no doubt a goodish thing for children with cancer, it’s not really a big reach. The bill simply redirects funds allocated for another purpose. It does not require any new spending, but allows Wagner to pat herself on the back in constituent communications. And since the funds in the Presidential Election Campaign Fund are a total joke in these post-Citizens United days nobody is likely to protest too heartily about the loss. Politicians like Wagner know that as long as they secure a stable of generous corporate clients whose interests they can represent they’re good,
Of course the $320 million is a drop in the bucket when it comes to cancer research. And it is precisely this bucket that will be considerably reduced in size if Wagner’s GOP president, Donald Trump gets his way. The budget plan that Trump presented in March would cut $5.8 billion from the current cancer research funding, debilitating President Obama’s cancer “moonshot” initiative, and bringing cancer research to a near standstill – except for, perhaps, the handful of pennies Wagner and her other co-sponsors propose to redirect towards pediatric cancer research. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, “cutting the [cancer research] funding in this way will have devastating and generation-long effects.”
Now, I may have missed it, but I don’t believe I’ve heard Wagner take The Donald to task for his effort to virtually eliminate new cancer research. She certainly didn’t address the issue in her newsletter when she tried to take credit for helping to halt the scourge of childhood cancer. So far, she’s lined up right behind Trump, voting with his position 96.6% of the time, so I don’t really expect her to take a radically different tack on down the line when it comes to his budget priorities.
Childhood cancer is indeed, a terrible thing. But so is adult cancer. Lack of research dollars is going to hurt all of us, children and adults. And a few pennies thrown at pediatric cancer research isn’t going to fix the problem for any of us. But – and this is the real issue – we’re also going to be hurt, children and adults, when the AHCA pre-existing condition provisions kick in and we can’t get or afford coverage. Even if we had all the research dollars for cancer in the world – and what Wgner is taking credit for giving us is a pittance – it won’t help us if we can’t afford the treatments that that research discovers. That inconvenient fact doesn’t seem to bother our freedom yodeler, Ann Wagner, at all.
Speaking as an adult with chronic cancer, as far as I’m concerned, Wagner’s endorsement of the Kids First Research Act is nothing more than a shiny object intended to direct our attention away from the meat cleaver she’s more than willing to apply to our health care. And I aim to tell her just that if she ever gets over her allergy to her constituents and manages to make it to a real town hall meeting instead of the stage-managed telephone jobbies she uses to divert our attention from her fear of real interaction with a diverse group of constituents.
*Last sentence slightly changed (5/17/2017, 12:17 am)