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What if Joe Wilson Was Right?

Okay, let’s try this for a moment: Let’s suppose that the premise underlying Congressman Joe Wilson’s unconscionable outburst during the President’s address to Congress last week has some truth to it. Yes, I know: FactCheck.org points out that the bills before Congress all contain provisions that would prevent any Federal health subsidies or benefits from going to illegal aliens.

But Republicans counter that illegals might slip through cracks in a system that doesn’t have enough enforcement mechanisms to make those provisions effective. And, they say, illegals might also receive emergency room care that would wind up being paid for with Federal funds (as opposed to the current system which pays for all ER visits -- by citizens, legal residents, AND illegal aliens -- by increasing insurance costs for all of us).

And Republicans might be right about this. There, I said it. Joe Wilson might be right.

So what? What’s the alternative? Are we actually going to adopt a government health care program that denies all medical care to illegals living in the United States? Are we going to turn away the the sick and the wounded from our hospitals if they can’t come up with documentation? Really? Is that what we’ve become? Is that the America in which any of us wants to live?

Many of those who are in the country illegally right now receive health care at ERs. You and I pay for their care through higher health care premiums, and public health costs that are passed along to taxpayers. Given Wilson’s outburst and the ugly xenophobic frothing at the mouth of the Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, and Bill O’Reillys of the world, this is clearly unacceptable. So what should we do? Stop more people from entering the country illegally? Yes, of course. Deport those who are here illegally now? Yes, fine. But what do we do tonight, at the hospital in L.A. or Phoenix, New York or Chicago, Miami or Atlanta? What do we do with the young Latino kid who shows up at a hospital with swine flu or meningitis? What do we do with the farm worker who is having chest pains? What do we do with the little girl in the barrio who shows up with a gunshot wound after being caught in the crossfire between two gangs? What do we tell the father or wife or older sister who brings a loved one to the hospital, desperate for help?

“Sorry, but we would rather let her die than pay for her treatment.”

I don’t think so.

Here’s the point, and there’s really no way around it. We have a choice as a people. We can make our health care system so restrictive that we endanger lives. Or we can try to make health care as affordable and accessible as possible, even if it means treating the sick and injured among those living in the shadows. We can be correct and cruel, righteous and arbitrary. Or we can be humane. We can do our best to avoid rewarding illegal behavior, while also being flexible and generous enough to look past the law and see the humanity of those who are suffering.

Personally I think it’s an easy choice.

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
kmarkhoover
Sep. 17th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC)
David, it's an easy choice for you because you have a conscience and a moral compass. People like Joe Wilson and the other "Hate America First" troglodytes in the GOP would have no problem letting someone die, especially if that person was an illegal immigrant.

You have to remember who these people are and what depths of hate and racial intolerance they operate from. They want the POTUS to fail, and by extension, our country to fail. These same people who scream to the high heavens that they, and only they, love this country. What are dead illegal immigrants compared to that appalling cognitive dissonance which is part and parcel of the Republican ideology...?

davidbcoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
You know, Mark, I want to argue with you. I want to say that even Joe Wilson, and O'Limbeckity (Like that? It's my new name for O'Reilly, Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity) aren't so far gone that they'd stoop so low in pursuit of their agenda. But I can't. I'd put nothing past them. On the other hand, aside from the screaming nutters who have been totally brainwashed, I do believe that there remains a core of decency and humanity in the vast majority of Americans. Those are the people to whom I'm appealing with my post. Thanks as always for the comment, my friend.
kmarkhoover
Sep. 17th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
Lol, I do love that nickname, it's a doozy! :P
wyjoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 11:14 am (UTC)
The irony is that "Hate America First" is a phrase I've seen attached to some people on the far left.
davidbcoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
Only by the haters on the far right. Liberals and progressives have been said to hate America because they "dared" to question foreign policy fiascos in Iraq and Vietnam. I think Mark would argue that the Hate America First label when attached to the right wingers is rooted in the fact that while these people claim to love America, they clearly hate Americans, unless those Americans happen to be white, Christian, and wealthy.
shinyfab
Sep. 17th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
Hi there. I've never read your blog before and came across it via a link twittered (in case you were wondering :)). During the debate that has raged recently it does sometimes feel like we've lost our humanity and given into the fear. This fear (which is eerily similar to fear entrenched after 9/11, the Cold War, and even earlier eras (Witch Trials and anti-immigrant rhetoric from the turn of the century pops to mind)) has spread like wildfire because it's easier to fear something you don't know than to not. It's easier to let someone you don't know, who is more of an idea than real, die than risk your own neck. I would rather let them buy insurance like everyone else and be covered than let them die for being illegal. I have known people who were illegal, some my own family members. They fear the government finding out about them and even if they were allowed to get insurance, some would be too afraid to sign up. I would still want them treated in ERs. Because everyone should have the right to life saving treatment regardless of where they are from. An easy choice by far.

Wonderful post sir.
davidbcoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for commenting on the post. You're right, of course. The fear of The Other permeates this debate, just as it does much of the far right's criticism of the Obama Administration. Some differ with the President on key issues, and I respect that. But others simply can't get over the fact that the country is being led by an African American man, and that kind of bigotry I can't abide. I also agree with your last point, though it's one I hadn't considered until I read your comment. Even if a new health care system openly offered benefits to those who are in the country illegally, they wouldn't take it because it would force them into the open, where they could be arrested and/or sent back home. But, of course, that's too logical for the wing-nutters to understand.
Again, thanks for the comment.
sizztheseed
Sep. 17th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC)
Just a minor point--Why are these illegals here? Why are they employed? If we need them to do work, why is it that we don't want them to benefit from any social support?

It seems to me to be pretty morally void to expect people to keep broccoli on your table, but deny them access to health care while they're doing it. If you have a problem with illegals, then don't create situations where illegals are needed. Pay people a decent wage. That means paying $5/lb or more for broccoli to hire a legal, born-in-the-usa laborer to pick it. Someone like that can afford health care.

But the market "can't bear that price." Well, OK. If it's all down to market dynamics and we should only pay the minimum necessary to get the food to our tables, then why did we do away with slavery? Why not just enslave anyone who doesn't have health care?

Or have we done that already, but we don't want to admit it?

Eh?
davidbcoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 02:00 am (UTC)
Not a minor point at all. The same people who show up at town hall meetings and scream about illegals getting health care would go ballistic if they suddenly had to pay an extra buck or two for their table grapes and oranges. It's a great point. It's not slavery, but it's not that far from it either.
hedwig_snowy
Sep. 17th, 2009 02:06 am (UTC)
Reagan already signed a bill covering the cost of illegal alien medical care. They do tend to forget history.

The question becomes: If illegals can signup with a private provider that is then subsidized by the Govt...that means we're providing HC for illegals. Honestly, if that's the case, and they don't crack down on employers (which they didn't do much in the Bush admin either) then that is actually more cost effective (and better health-wise for those individuals). Plus, it's such a small amount compared to the total cost of the 15% of GDP that goes into HC annually to make the argument laughable.

And, it wasn't about whether Joe Wilson disagreed with the President about a comment he made during a joint session of Congress, but that he screamed out an ad hominem..during a joint session of Congress. Either the Congress has rules or they don't. If they really want to go down that road, do they want whoever blaring out during the next GOP President's speeches?

And, considering the mood of the country and the craptastic behavior of the more factually-challenged among us during the town halls...it just fit in with the idea that the louder you shout the more you make sense. Yeah, in bizarro Fixed Noise World...

"We can make our health care system so restrictive that we endanger lives."

We already do this, they're called private health insurance 'providers'.

Edited at 2009-09-17 02:08 am (UTC)
davidbcoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:42 pm (UTC)
Great comment. Thanks. I have to say that your point in the middle about Wilson is spot on, and it's why most on the right seem to be missing Jimmy Carter's point. Carter wasn't saying that Wilson's disagreement with Obama was based on questions of race. But he was saying that Wilson's utter disregard for decorum and propriety was. If that had been a white President defending the exact same policies with the exact same words, Wilson wouldn't have DARED to shout out what he did when he did. But because it was an African American man speaking, he felt justified in doing it.
hedwig_snowy
Sep. 17th, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC)
"he felt justified in doing it."

Not just justified, but entitled. That he wouldn't have felt the same way if it was one of the Clinton's, no matter their politics, says a lot about Wilson and about the truth to Carter's points.
davidbcoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
Agreed.
elisel
Sep. 17th, 2009 03:36 am (UTC)
This was inspired. Thank you.

And here before I started reading your LJ I thought you only wrote good fiction...
davidbcoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Elisel! That's a wonderfully nice thing to say.
(Deleted comment)
davidbcoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the comment, Brigid. Of course the very fact that you would be lying in bed at night worrying about such a thing means that you are NOT selfish or heartless or greedy or a bitch. (Although I have to say that my wife loves that fridge magnet that says "You say I'm a bitch like it's a bad thing...." But I digress....)

The ones who are selfish and bigoted and heartless are the ones who sleep like babies despite the suffering caused by policies they support.
patricia_writes
Sep. 17th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
I agree with you wholeheartedly.

My rep is John Boehner. While he's a conservative Republican that I have NEVER voted for, I can at least say he has the respect and dignity not to behave like Joe Wilson did. At least that's something.
davidbcoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for commenting, Patricia. I have to admit that I've wondered whether Wilson's outburst was truly spontaneous. Yes, it got him some bad press and it allowed his 2010 opponent to raise big bucks. But he's become the darling of the right, and he's raised a good deal of money, too. More to the point, it's allowed the GOP to continue to define the terms of the debate, despite Obama's terrific speech. Add to that the fact the Wilson just happens to be a) from a safe district, b) someone who has been in Congress for a while now (10 years or so) and knows the ropes, but c) is NOT part of the GOP leadership. In other words, he was the perfect person for this. What a coincidence. As opposed to Boehner who, I agree, probably wouldn't have done it, but also couldn't do it because he's Minority Leader. I have no proof to back this up, of course. But I have wondered about it.
wyjoe
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
I have an alternate hypothesis: What if he's positioning himself for higher office? I don't know that he actually is doing that. I don't see an actual upside to his outburst; even the most dyed in the wool Republicans have got to wonder about his self control.
damcphail
Sep. 18th, 2009 11:03 am (UTC)
Nicely said :)

D-
davidbcoe
Sep. 18th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Danielle.
markwise
Sep. 18th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
As someone who opposes government taxpaid insurance for illegal aliens, I must say that I am surprised by the name calling and down right viciousness of some of the comments on here.

I don't think anyone would deny emergency care to anyone. That is not at question. At question is heath insurance coverage for people who aren't supposed to be here to begin with. There is a reason we have laws and we should not debase those laws by ignoring them.

It is funny that the left wingers jump to namecalling and personal attacks when their arguments fail since that is what they accused the right wing of doing for years.
davidbcoe
Sep. 18th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you find the tone of some of the comments here offensive, Mark. This is an emotional issue that has gotten the better of many on both sides of the debate.

As to the details: Some Republicans, in defense of Joe Wilson, have said that they're concerned to see no prohibitions on illegals getting ER care under a new plan. So there does seem to be a vocal minority advocating the denial of care. The question of actual health insurance coverage for illegals is a non-issue. As pointed out in comments on my other blog, no one who is currently here illegally is going to sign up for a health insurance program. It will never happen, because in order to enroll in any new system, they will have to reveal themselves and risk arrest or deportation. Under both a current system and a future one the ONLY option available to illegals is medical care through ERs. And if we start denying care at ERs we not only put their lives at risk, but our own as well. Cities in this country used to be very dangerous places due to diseases that were rampant among segments of the population that were too poor to receive medical care. We are on the verge of creating a new urban nightmare along the same lines.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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