So, what has our first experience with a pandemic taught us?

          Republicans value profits over people? Well, we already knew that. The COVID-19 outbreak only provided irrefutable evidence.

          Somehow Republicans viewed 100,000 deaths – many due to their priorities – as the stopping point for even thinking about the pandemic. We keep adding about 1,000 deaths a day; the virus is spiking in about half the states, Oklahoma included, and Republicans act and speak as if the crisis has ended.

          The president of the United States is a liar? Well, Donald Trump had racked up more than  15,000 lies, more than 20 a day, when the pandemic arrived. His lies about no effects, short-term effects, possible treatments, blaming others for his own inaction, etc. confirmed his inability to speak the truth.

          His master plan calling for a cessation of testing to avoid bad statistics falls back to the profit-over-people GOP credo.

          So, Republicans are as greedy and devious and deviously greedy as we always knew. What have we learned?

          One thing that has emerged is just who is essential to the country’s well-being.

          It’s not the CEOs, CFOs and job-cutting bean counters.

          It’s not the glib talkers from Madison Avenue trying to sell us stuff we don’t really need. (How many people will remember what true necessities are when the pandemic passes?)

          The really essential people are the clerks stocking and selling food – and, yes, toilet paper; folks at convenience stores keeping us in fuel; the guys (locally) picking up our trash; the guys and gals with the U.S. Postal Service, keeping us connected to the real world; those protecting us and our property and, obviously, everyone in the health care industry trying to keep us alive – often despite our own self-sabotaging efforts.

          (Though their locales were closed because of health precautions, I’m also sure a lot of parents better appreciate the essential roles of teachers.)

          Except for doctors, most of these essential people are not the highest paid people in town. And, except for the unionized postal workers and most public employees, many of those mentioned and others don’t have health insurance – often due to the deliberate corporate policy of keeping workers just below full-time status where such benefits are required.

          Yep, under corporate socialism, many people essential to our way of life are the working poor. (Thanks to all of you!)

          With Putin’s Puppet (What’s on those tapes?) and Moscow Mitch leading the U.S. toward Third World status, the hope of a national medical plan on par with First World nations seems remote – especially as Republicans view Americans as expendable “human capital stock” to be ground up for profits. (At the outbreak of coronavirus in the U.S., Norway urged all of its citizens over here to get home where they could be guaranteed 21st century treatment.)

          Also, it must be pointed out that many Third World countries have dealt with the pandemic better than the U.S. because decisive leaders believed scientific facts and acted quickly.

          At one point in the pandemic, 40 percent of Americans said they would not seek medical help if they thought they had COVID-19 for fear of the costs. These fears were visited upon one survivor when he received a hospital bill for more than $1 million. This in a country where CNBC reported last year that 66.5 percent of American bankruptcies arose from medical bills.

          But, Oklahomans can alleviate some of the stress our essential neighbors face daily. On June 30, we can vote to expand Medicaid coverage in Oklahoma to 180,000 to 200,000 of the impoverished employed, to put health care within their budgetary reach.

          The destitute are already covered. This is for determined, proud, hard-working people – the folks Republican rhetoric praises but never serves. Right now, generous Oklahoma taxpayers are paying for this coverage in 36 other states.

          Health care providers tell us this expansion could save lives and jobs and maybe entire hospitals. A fair and functioning health care system should make the entire state more attractive to relocating industries.

          But, on a personal level, this is our chance to say, “Thank you” to many of the essential workers who continue to see us through the new normal resulting from Oklahoma “re-opening” before even experiencing a full first wave of coronavirus.

          We are going to be relying on our essential neighbors for months to come. Let’s fill out what might turn out to be only hollow praise with real, meaningful support. Vote Yes on 802 next Tuesday.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: or

Health coverage another essential

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