Corporations are people and health care is broccoli


Who can forget the abuse of congressional power when the Congress voted (November 2011) to make the tomato sauce on pizza a serving of vegetable? That’s real power when a vote by elected officials can turn a fruit, much less a sauce, into a vegetable. 

As it turns out most people don’t remember the day tomato sauce became a vegetable, probably too busy. I, on the other hand, was paying attention (I’m retired) because I am more than a little concerned about the rising obesity rate among children. Apparently Congress was lobbied by pizza makers, salt sellers and potato growers to relax school lunch standards that call for healthier meals. 

The whole idea that Congress would vote to reclassify a fruit and in the process undermine the health of children made no sense to me. In fact I think it temporarily broke the functioning synapses of the logical part of my brain and left a yawning blank of incomprehension. 

A few months later, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its ruling that corporations and unions are people and have the same rights of political free speech, which in this case meant free and unlimited use of money for campaigns as long as the money didn’t go directly to the candidate. If you were around me at the time, you would hear the sound of more synapses crumbling.

I find communicating with corporations more difficult than communicating with people, at least those I think of as people. I generally define people as at least having had at some time in their life faces with expressions, hands to shake, bodies to hug and voices to hear. Of course, it could be that corporations just don’t want to talk to me since they prefer to use automated voice recognition that doesn’t recognize screaming. 

Moreover, corporations don’t seem to have the same accountability for their actions that people have. I’ve never seen a jail big enough to hold a corporation. Wouldn’t it be simpler to just say large faceless entities without voices can give unlimited money? 

It’s really quite handy that the Supreme Court and the Congress can revise meanings that have been in place for hundreds of years in order to create the desired outcome.

Up until the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, I thought the court might be on the verge of making health care a vegetable. Among the controversial points of the act, the most controversial was mandated purchase of health insurance. 

The Act’s detractors attempted to instill fear of the mandate by claiming that the government could and would make people (I don’t think corporations) buy broccoli if the mandate were allowed to stand. 

Having come from a father who lived enough north in Norway that they didn’t grow vegetables, I didn’t even know what broccoli was until I went to college and then I didn’t know which end I was supposed to eat. I certainly don’t think it is bad enough to be the proclaimed evil twin of health care. 

I don’t know why health care would be thought of as broccoli. Broccoli may be better for you than pizza with tomato sauce but it can’t replace antibiotics for an infection or a surgeon saving your limb or life.

Recently the Supreme Court redefined words when it upheld the Affordable Care Act mandate. The justices ruled that the penalty for not buying health insurance was a tax not a penalty. I am sure they wanted to avoid having to determine whether taking care of us was as simple as picking and packing broccoli.

Besides having occasional synapse combustion, I am more disturbed by the ease by which institutions of government can make laws that trivialize our intelligence and our importance as people. 

Does someone think we are not smart enough to know pizzas have more in them than tomato sauce? Does someone think we are better people because we now count corporations and unions as one of us?

I guess I am most worried about the influence of vested interests and vast amounts of money that prop up a system that can redefine a government of the people, for the people and by the people. 

Should we be changing the definition of vegetables, broccoli, health care and people? Isn’t there a danger here somewhere?


Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at