The adult home care provisions in President Biden’s infrastructure proposal connect in a personal way with me -- as they must with millions of others. My wife, Sue, has needed full time home care for years. The cost is far beyond what most people could afford. Sue's personal care alone costs nearly $70,000 annually for half day every day care. Had I not left Bowling Green State University where I was, at the time, among the highest paid professors, and prospered elsewhere, I couldn’t afford my wife’s care.
But we are in the hands of angels. We benefit from the extraordinary Hospice of Northwest Ohio. I use the word ‘we’ deliberately. Caring for another is a many person operation but the heavy lifting is done by the primary care givers. The persons that come to my home, and me too, need lots of support.
Mr. Biden estimates that his $400 billion adult home care plan would save Medicaid alone billions more than that. He argues, legitimately, that persons cared for at home have better care on average, because their loved ones are in charge. That I can well understand.
President Biden’s infrastructure plan is many years overdue. And though I personally feel less empathy about bridges falling into gorges in Idaho and Montana than home care, I still care. Those holes in the ground shouldn’t be cluttered with cars fallen from above. I don’t worry a lot either about broadband in Enid, Oklahoma, or Boondocks, South Dakota - and there is such a place – believe me I’ve been there on the way to the home of one of more creative 3d printing/inventors in the world. But I agree when the motorcycles descend on nearby Sterling somebody has to have a way to tell the locals which hospitals have beds for all those that thumb their noses at the dangers of the pandemic and fall off their bikes. So high speed internet in Boondocks is probably a good idea. But even more than bridges, every senior citizen, of whom I guess I’m one, should be a lot more worried about infrastructure that includes funding for quality home care for those that need it.
So who is this Joe Manchin dude? Besides the mister I’m powerful because I can be in the way of a Senator from West Virginia. He’s making me care about him – and you should care about him too. Ken Heckler cared a lot about Manchin and really didn’t like him. Heckler, at 96, did something about it. Ken Hechler, ran against Manchin in the democrat senate primary in West Virginia in 2010.
Heckler was a hero. With a Ph. D. in political science from Columbia, officer Ken, the Army historian, followed our armies in Europe. If you saw the movie, Bridge at Remagan, Ken wrote it. When the Nazis were defeated Ken was assigned to a castle in Luxembourg where 100 or more Nazi criminals including Herman Goering were stashed by Operation ‘Ashcan’ until he could be tried at Nuremberg and hung. Ken interviewed them all. So on my bookshelf is “Goering and His Gang” - 1100 pages of Ken’s interviews. Heckler, after Ashcan, became President Truman’s administrative assistant. In “Working with Truman” Heckler speaks of the many things he did in the Truman White House including write the speech Truman used to announce the National Science Foundation bill from a train in Pocatello, Idaho in 1950. Heckler resigned the White House position - ran for Congress from West Virginia, served 15 terms, resigned to run for Governor and lost, but came back as Secretary of State where he was elected for many more terms. Ken retired in his 90’s, but wasn’t finished. At 97 he married for the first time. He died in Slanesville, W. Va at 102.
In 2010 when Ken and I spoke at the same short course at Chautauqua Institution, Ken was pretty exercised. “I’m going to run”. .. (at 96 in the Senate primary against Manchin. – “Can’t stand that guy.”) [Ken liked his rival Arch Moore, but I’m not sure he’d like his daughter Shirley Moore Capito much.]
So he registered for the democrat senate primary to select its candidate to replace long term Senator Robert Bird. And at 96 with no formal campaign, Ken, the coal miner’s friend in West Virginia, got 16,000 votes. Eli Rosenbaum, special prosecutor in the department of justice and the man who found and deported the auto worker, Ivan Demanjuk, wrote out small Heckler for Senate buttons that some of us wore around Chautauqua Institution that summer. When we went to Charleston to celebrate Ken’s 98th birthday, I was a representative of the Robert H. Jackson Center and Eli because Ken so respected his work in hunting out escaped Nazis, Ken was handed a letter of congratulations from Manchin. Ken’s disdain for Manchin – even with a letter of congratulations in hand – was beyond palpable. It was a look more disdainful than Hillary Clinton’s look at Trump when he came to the National Cathedral for the funeral of former President Bush. Ken represented the little guys of West Virginia.
Manchin now is a senator from a state whose people Ken Heckler gave his life for. Many of us remember Joe McCarthy. Eventually, McCarthy overplayed his hand. Will Manchin do that too?
Home care for senior adults and even bridges in Idaho, are worth a lot more than the career of one trying to over achieve senator from West Virginia. So let’s hope the Biden team puts Manchin in his place, and the rest of the Nation can get on with those long overdue items of which programs for home care for seniors is at the top of that list.
Douglas Neckers is McMaster Distinguished Research Professor (emeritus) and founder of the Center for Photochemical Sciences at Bowling Green State University. He’s past Chair of the Board of the Robert H. Jackson Center 2017/18. See 3dScienceblog.com; fb Sciencein3d