Gov. Kim Reynolds is an inspiration.
This week she inspired me to have a panic attack.
Reynolds announced Iowa would no longer participate in the federal pandemic assistance program. That program paid unemployed people $300 a week in addition to their state benefits. The money came from the feds rather than the state budget. The program was set to end in September.
Why Reynolds wanted to get out of a program that helped some of her vulnerable citizens that came at no cost to her is beyond me.
Maybe she wanted another gold star for cruelest move by a chief executive.
But that’s the way it is with Reynolds. She’s the governor.
If you don’t like it, it’s your problem, not hers.
She’s right. Losing $300 a week of income was, in fact, my problem.
I was using that money to help get through graduate school at Drake University. I plan to become a journalism and language arts teacher.
If all goes well, and I have no reason to expect that it will, I’ll be signing a contract with a metro district by this time next year and beginning the second half of my working life as a teacher.
Reynolds said she quit the pandemic assistance program because the state had more job openings than unemployed people. People were using the money to stay home instead of going back to work.
That’s a fun fantasy based on a dangerous fallacy.
Reynolds seems to believe all jobs are the same.
There are a lot of fast food restaurants around town offering $14, $15 and even $16 per hour for help. Maybe I could get one of those jobs.
Except I can’t. I have arthritis in my knees and back. I can’t stand for an 8-hour shift. I’d be fired by the end of the second day if I lasted that long.
Arthritis, obesity, depression and anxiety are all health issues. I need physical therapy and medication.
I bought the cheapest insurance available off the exchange. It’s not really health insurance as much as it is catastrophe insurance. If I have a heart attack or get hit by a car, I’ll be able to go to the hospital.
But in terms of wellness, it’s garbage.
But, as our inspiring governor would say, citizens’ health barriers to employment are their problem.
I don’t understand politics. I never have. I had a great political science professor as an undergrad at Drake, Dennis Goldford.
He said politics was “the only process we have, peacefully, for enabling us to live together with people with whom we have significant differences.”
We’re not seeing a lot of this art of compromise anymore.
We’re seeing “you’re with us or against us” mentality stoked by a mass media that targets its messages at partisan purists and leaves the rest of the country behind.
This leads to politics without compromise, which means no matter who gets elected, a lot of people are screwed.
I think that’s how someone like Reynolds gets elected governor. She doesn’t compromise. If it’s not a problem for her, her party or her donors, then it’s not a problem.
The rest of us are on our own. We, as Iowans and Americans, have become hardened in our hearts to others. We want what’s ours. Everyone else can fend for themselves. Anyone who struggles is a loser. It’s not my problem, pal, it’s yours.
That’s Reynolds’ thinking. That’s a big swath of Iowa and American thinking. Never compromise.
The income hit hurts.
I’ve got a lot of help. I’ve got family. I’ve got friends.
I’ve got the federal government happy to loan me money to go to graduate school.
I will probably die in student loan debt.
I don’t care.
Because I am going to be a teacher. I think I’ll be a good teacher, maybe even a great one. Maybe I’ll be a better teacher than I was a journalist.
I don’t know.
But I have been fighting for survival since I became a ward of the state on my first moment out of the womb.
I got adopted.
I lost my folks before I was 14.
I lived with another family and thrived.
I struggled with mental health. I spent myself into bankruptcy and considered suicide many times.
I got therapy and medicine.
I worked in newspapers.
Newspapers kicked me out.
And in the dead middle of my life, I’m learning a whole new trade and getting by each week by the skin of my teeth.
Hit me, life.
Beat me to my knees, bad luck.
Ignore me with your vast indifference, Gov. Reynolds.
I stand. I keep moving forward with the tenacity of a cockroach.
I am resilient.
I will overcome my problems.
And one day, when I see someone struggling that I can help, I’m going to remember the legacy of Reynolds and do the opposite: