The new majority on the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners wants to kill the decades-long campaign to extend critical public health services to all residents in our two counties. I won’t go into a long account of the many merits of making sure people have access to immunizations, that restaurants be inspected so we are reasonably safe from cutting corners that can lead to ugly little diseases like salmonella or even being prepared for a terrorist attack on, say, our water supply.
I will say that the Lehigh Valley, largely through the thoughtful actions of the Pool Health Care Trust and the Two Rivers Health and Wellness Foundation, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on planning the department and helping to argue its case with elected officials. I will also say that nearly every public interest constituency, from the various medical professional associations, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Lehigh Valley Partnership to the Leagues of Women Voters, United Way and this agency, endorsed this measure. And, more than one public opinion poll said that a clear majority of voters supported it.
But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, because this is not about the strength of the constituency in support of the measure, or the cost-effectiveness of the proposal, or even about the difference between right and wrong. This is about making a point. It’s about an ideological revulsion to collective good will manifesting itself through government action. It’s about disdain for those who just aren’t as lucky as these few individuals who would so recklessly abandon all this work over all these years.
There is another big lie at work here. The patron saint of modern conservatives is Ronald Reagan, who famously argued that the solutions for our many societal challenges should not be found at the federal level. He argued that they should be the domain of state and local government and, even better, the private sector.
So, the health department that was not going to be funded at the federal level went begging at the state level. This governor said, no, my administration is not interested (even though he is from the same party as the patron saint). So, if our public health is going to be protected, the state’s default leads us to local government. These new commissioners, as I mentioned above, also defaulted.
When it comes right down to it, it isn’t about what level of government deals with issues that impair the quality of our lives, either collectively or individually. When it comes right down to it, most of them believe that anyone who can’t keep up has nobody to blame but themselves. Imagine our world if those who created Medicare or Social Security, public education, pollution restrictions, child labor laws, or even traffic lights felt the same way.
I don’t know how many people yearn for the nineteenth century, but I hope the sum total are those few who have somehow managed to be in the majority on the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners.