A few weeks ago I heard the governor on the radio talking about how the budget she just wrote makes her sick, but that "the people have spoken" and there will be no revenue-based solutions to Washington State's financial crisis.
Health care for the poor and disabled, among other things, is in the process of going away. Happily for Gregoire, her "sickness" is merely metaphorical. When the governor -- and those in her income bracket -- get sick, they seldom die. The disposable poor, however, live and die within a perilously thin margin of error.
Over the past few years I've had three good friends, all poor, die of pneumonia. Just last week, I learned it had happened again. Fred Spruitenberg was a vendor for ten years. He drank hard and looked it, but was as affable a drunk as one could hope for. His bouts of relative sobriety were frequent. Fred always had a book in his hand and seldom read crap. His wits were sharp, even when drunk.
Jonathan Raban talked literature with Fred a few years ago and came away with "Down and Out in America's Last Boomtown" for the New York Times. Fred spoke, Raban wrote, "of O. Henry, Steinbeck and Khalil Gibran, and insisted that I read Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market." I'm now as hooked as he is on the poem, which on one level is about the peril of addiction to the intoxicating fruit hawked by the goblin men: "She sucked and sucked and sucked the more/ Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;/ She sucked until her lips were sore..." On another level it's about the treacherous allure of shopping, with its constant refrain of "Come buy, come buy."
I hate that the people in this country who are doing best are generally of the same class that wrecked the economy for the rest of us. I hate that the politically acceptable solution is to make things harder for those who have the least. I hate that our society continually deepens the misery of the poor so that the rich can still shop for things they don't need.
I hate that Fred is dead because his cold just kept getting worse. And I hate that the governor thinks this is how things have to be.