The American government, in my opinion, contributed to the deaths of my parents by not providing universal health care.

In every other advanced industrial nation, they would have received quality health care as a right.

Here they did not.

My father first came to this country as an agricultural worker from Mexico during the Bracero Program, and he and my mother settled in the United States legally, with work permits, in the late 1960s.

He later worked dead-end jobs in different factories while my mother labored as a domestic worker — cleaning the homes of countless middle-class Americans — for more than 40 years.

Neither of them accumulated enough wealth to afford a home of their own for my siblings and me, much less afford private health care.

My father died in 1996 after a prolonged battle with prostate cancer. My mother died earlier this year after a major stroke left her bedridden for many months.

If only my father and mother had access to government-supported health care before the symptoms of prostate cancer and heart problems reached a critical stage, they might have lived many years longer.

Most doctors will tell a patient, for example, that with regular checkups, proper diet, medications and exercise, severe medical conditions such as prostate cancer and heart complications can be treatable. But they couldn’t afford the regular checkups that could have extended their lives.

We need universal health care in this country, or at the very least a public option that will cover the 47 million Americans without coverage today.

Isn’t it hypocritical that the conservatives in Congress who ferociously attack the public option themselves benefit from a public option. As taxpayers, we not only pay their salaries but we also provide them with a health care insurance plan they can access. And if they are seniors or veterans, they’re already covered by a public option that works well: Medicare or Veterans Affairs.

It makes no sense for President Obama and Democrats in Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement with a conservative party that is beholden to special interests — the existing private health care industry — and that is diametrically opposed to domestic government programs that benefit the public.

At the end of the day, any bill that excludes a public option would represent just another case of corporate power prevailing over the public interest, of Wall Street conquering Main Street.

Once again, the less fortunate would lose out to people of privilege, who could afford the skyrocketing costs of premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

It was just these costs that my parents couldn’t cover — and they paid with their lives.

Now, my 10-year-old son, Joaquin, has no paternal grandparents. He misses them. So does my wife, Antonia. And so do I.

Alvaro Huerta is a Ph.D. student in the department of city and regional planning at the University of California — Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA. He can be reached at

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It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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