Why I confronted Jeff Flake on a plane

I've spent my career as an advocate for economic justice, fighting for basic fairness for working families. It wasn't...

Posted: Dec 16, 2017 9:18 AM
Updated: Dec 16, 2017 9:18 AM

I've spent my career as an advocate for economic justice, fighting for basic fairness for working families. It wasn't until this past year that I began fighting for my own life.

It's that fight that led me to get arrested protesting the Republican tax plan in Washington, and that led me into debating it with Sen. Jeff Flake at 30,000 feet in the air on my way home.

I never thought I'd be in this position. A year ago, I was healthy, taking morning runs on the California coast and looking forward to a new life with my newborn son, Carl.

Then I developed ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It's a terrible brain disease with no cure and no good treatment. Every week, it's making me a little more paralyzed. Today, I walk with a cane. I have trouble breathing. And I can't pick up Carl to kiss him.

In the next few years, unless a miracle strikes, I will die, because I won't be able to breathe. Or I'll continue to live, hooked up to a machine that breathes for me.

This reality is hard enough to face. It's only harder knowing the financial burden will fall on my family. If I survive, that machine will be paid for by Medicare disability insurance, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

But the Republican tax plan would throw that insurance into jeopardy. The bill would raise the deficit by more than $1 trillion, automatically triggering cuts that would devastate our country's safety net. Both Medicaid and Medicare could be decimated -- and House Speaker Paul Ryan has already indicated he would tackle cuts to those programs after the bill passes.

If he does, I may not be able to get the ventilator I need to stay alive. My family might not have the insurance it needs to make ends meet and afford my care.

Fighting the bill at these last stages seems impossible. But I know that even the impossible can be overcome.

Before my diagnosis, I started a campaign called Fed Up, fighting for what seemed an unattainable goal: reforms to the Federal Reserve to make it more accountable to low-income communities of color. Just a few years later, we won a place for those communities at the same table as Fed leaders, where they heard firsthand stories of how monetary policy affected their lives. Through those conversations, we won unheard-of victories, including a promise for Fed accountability in the Democratic platform.

Now, faced with the impossible once again, we have to rely on the same weapon, the only one we have left: the power of our voices.

Republican politicians need to hear those voices. They need to take the blinders off and recognize what this bill will really do to people like me.

It will do none of what Flake or other Republicans say it will do. It raises taxes for tens of millions of Americans and, by nearly all independent estimates, explodes the deficit. It will widen inequality. And by stifling opportunities for people like me and my family, it will put the brakes on growth and progress for the whole country.

We still have time to defeat this catastrophe of a bill. We need to raise our voices even higher. My son and I and millions like us are counting on it.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115763

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
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