Tarbell was founded as a platform to deliver a very specific message about healthcare – or the lack of it – in America. As with any topic or issue, there is more to the story about healthcare. The underlying issues regarding healthcare form the basis of many of the challenges that we face in the USA – primarily the inability of the less fortunate to have a voice, a purpose, and a reasonable quality of life due to the inequities that prevail in our society.
Our mission at Tarbell is to advocate for those who are less fortunate, those who are unseen and unheard. But I think the definition of “less fortunate” deserves an explanation because I fear that the term is grossly misunderstood. “Less fortunate” does not require a person or a group of people to belong to a certain race. “Less fortunate” does not require a person or a group of people to live in poverty or to lack upward mobility in society or in a profession. “Less fortunate” is not defined by a person or group of people who may be less educated or less intelligent.
“Less fortunate” in our American society that is nearing a 250-year tenure of experimentation in Democracy is about not having a voice. Tarbell was originated to give those who are less fortunate a voice. A voice, that as the world witnessed last week, can be easily extinguished by those who are in positions of authority – whether that authority comes in the form of a Minneapolis policeman, an “off the rails” President, or big pharma lobbyists.
Dual income educated white families can be less fortunate in that neither employer offers access to affordable healthcare. Highly paid professional athletes can be less fortunate because their employers collude to marginalize their right to exercise their skills in a safe environment. Highly intelligent small business owners can be less fortunate because multi-national, multi-billion-dollar conglomerates used up all of the PPP funds and received tax breaks that will only benefit executives and shareholders.
The facts are simple. There is no lobbying machine to drive the implementation of affordable healthcare solutions for working class white or black people, or Native Americans, or anyone else. There is no lobbying machine for small businesses that controls billion-dollar SuperPAC’s that advocate for them against laws and regulations more favorable to large businesses. There is certainly not a well-funded advocate for better school choices for our poorest communities.
The fact is that you can be white or black or red. You can live in a middle-class community or a reservation or public housing. You can be male, female, or transgender. But regardless of class, race, religion or sex, you can certainly be “less fortunate” in 2020 America. There is no doubt that non-whites, all women, those who choose non-traditional relationships, and underemployed workers face the type of discrimination on a daily basis that white, straight, middle and upper-class men could never possibly imagine.
Dr. Cornell West of Harvard University is a very divisive figure in America’s public discourse. I heard him speaking last night regarding the social unrest that was initiated by the George Floyd murder. Brother West has the tendency to rant like a Baptist preacher, but if you listen carefully to the words, he has a message from which we can all benefit. George Floyd, Trump, big money corporations, racial tensions, income inequality, science denial and an ineffective social safety net are symptoms and outcomes of 250 years of experimentation that needs some tweaking. Dr. West identified several significant issues last night that provide reasons for our current social and political situation and also issues that may have adverse effects as we move forward. It is no surprise that Dr. West mentioned lack of access to affordable healthcare, systemic racism, a struggling educational system, and the accumulation of power for those with money as the root causes of the challenges that we face today and will continue to face tomorrow unless we act now.
The “less fortunate” people of this country represent a larger portion of society than one might think. The incredible diversity of those participating in peaceful protests all across America in the past few days is not an aberration. The diversity is not a result of a bunch of middle class white young people putting on a show for TV that creates a perception that they care. The diversity represents the “less fortunate”. They too have grievances and face different types of challenges than Mr. Floyd did, but all have commonality. They all have succumbed to discrimination and injustice and they all suffer from the lack of a national voice. Tarbell can provide a platform to give the “less fortunate” a voice but it is a big task. The forces of change can certainly be ignited when a singular event triggers an awareness that can overcome the forces of inertia. Perhaps Mr. Floyd’s horrendous death is the trigger. Sadly, it takes this type of tragedy to create the spark. At Tarbell, it is our job to shout as loudly as possible so that these awful occurrences become less frequent and the less fortunate can be heard.