Tax-cheat Trump receives best medical treatment; taxpaying undocumented workers get nothing
Signs are seen during a Health Care Justice demonstration in Chicago, June 27, 2020. Chicago nurses, health care workers, and community activists united to protest racism in the healthcare industry and demand one, excellent standard of care for all people, no matter their race, ethnicity, or document status. | Nam Y. Huh / AP

Last week, as I watched the news video loop of billionaire hotel magnate Donald Trump being ferried by personal helicopter from his home to Walter Reed Medical Center to receive medical treatment, and then being chauffeured on a joy ride around the hospital later in the weekend, I couldn’t help but think of my friend, Francisco Gomez, diagnosed earlier this year with stage four cancer.

I called up Francisco with a question. How much federal income tax had he paid last year? It was an odd question, but he looked through his papers and told me: $2,011.

It’s fair to say that some portion of my friend’s payment, like mine and that of other taxpayers, helped finance the ostentatious rides of Mr. Trump, whose tax payments were less than half of Francisco’s. But meanwhile, Francisco himself is in desperate need of medical attention, care that he is excluded from despite his tax contributions for the last 20 years.

Francisco had worked for decades as a cook in a 5-star hotel near Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a facility similar to properties owned by the Trump enterprises. He never missed a day of work in that hot kitchen in the basement of a luxury banquet hall, part of a workforce that prepares millions of meals and generates billions of dollars in profits.

Francisco underwent surgery and began a course of intensive radiation and chemotherapy in January. At first, his treatment was covered by his top-flight medical insurance, a benefit won by union hotel workers in a hard-fought strike. But the coverage lapsed during the pandemic after hotels stopped paying into the health care fund.

Francisco, unlike tax-cheat Trump, is ineligible for even an Uber ride to the doctor, let alone the treatment he needs to survive. Undocumented members of our country’s working class like him have the “privilege” of paying federal taxes but are excluded from even the minimal benefits of Medicaid that they have paid tens of thousands of dollars over the years to support.

Francisco Gomez’s name and some of his details have been changed here to protect his identity. But his story is true and replicated in every city and state across our nation.

The relief that our class is fighting for in the face of the pandemic must include our fellow workers like Francisco Gomez. Illinois took a small step in that direction when the state Legislature included funding in this year’s state budget for a Medicaid-like program for those 65 and older who can’t qualify for federal Medicare.

The $5 million allotted for the program is less than 1% of the $758 million a year in state and local taxes contributed by Illinois residents without legal immigration status, according to a 2017 study cited in the Chicago Tribune. And the vast majority of workers who are under 65, like Francisco, still aren’t covered.

It’s a rigged system that rewards a parasite like Donald Trump and abandons our brother, Francisco.

His story is a stark reminder that it’s labor, not financial scammers, that creates all wealth. It’s a reminder that solidarity and humanity demand that we fight for fair treatment for each and every member of our country’s working class.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, the opinions reflected in this article are those of the author.

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Roberta Wood
Roberta Wood

Roberta Wood is a retired member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Wood was a steelworker in South Chicago, an officer of Steelworkers Local 65, and founding co-chair of the USWA District 31 Women's Caucus. She was previously Secretary-Treasurer of the Communist Party. Currently, she serves as a Senior Editor of People's World.