No doubt most Americans want to see a fair health care system. But when President Obama admitted in his address this week that there are "details" to be worked out, cynical reverberations went throughout the hall. Then, of course, when Obama claimed illegal aliens would not be getting health insurance, Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled "You lie!"—an impropriety for which he has since apologized, but used to gain votes at home on his web site. Further, he got headline attention on NBC's Today Show on Friday, September 11th.
So the battle will go on, with as yet an undetermined outcome.
But most important in this Wilson attack is its inadvertent highlighting of what must happen if any of the problems that America faces are to be addressed and solved.
We MUST solve the immigration problem. No health reform bill can cost less if we keep importing unneeded aliens, both legally and illegally, at this present rate of well over a million a year.
And how we can deal, in any health reform package, with the 11 or 12 million now here illegally remains a true conundrum.
In its usual agitprop style, the Washington Post, forced to headline its September 11th article Shout Draws Focus to Illegal-Immigrant Issue (by Alec MacGillis), sub-headed the piece Coverage Question Is Complex, Experts Say, but Less Ominous Than Reform Foes Warn.
An example of what these "experts" said:
"To counter claims that universal health care would cover illegal immigrants, Democrats and independent arbiters have pointed to language in the House legislation that says the federal subsidies, or 'affordability credits,' that would be the main avenue to expanding coverage would not be available to illegal immigrants."
Maybe, although Mac Gillis's article went on to admit that
"This language does not assuage the bill's critics, who say the proposals lack the verification tools needed to assure that illegal immigrants do not gain coverage either through federal credits or expanded Medicaid eligibility for the poorest of the uninsured."
(By the way, I don't notice Congress rushing to extend E-Verify beyond its present expiration date of September 30, 2009. E-Verify, you recall, is the highly effective Federal program which allows employers to determine quickly 99% of the time if job applicants are here legally.)
Of course, we already subsidize illegal aliens. As the Post reports, "It is estimated that there are 6 million to 7 million illegal immigrants without health insurance and that several million more have obtained coverage through employers or on their own. Taxpayers already subsidize health care for illegal immigrants — Medicaid reimburses hospitals for emergency treatments for undocumented immigrants, most notably for childbirth."
In the September 11, 2009 Wall Street Journal piece, Impact on Illegal Immigrants Is Left Uncertain in Proposals, Elizabeth Williamson reports that
"Democratic and Republican leaders all say illegal immigrants shouldn't receive government-funded insurance in any new health legislation, just as they are banned from receiving Medicare or nonemergency Medicaid. But in an exchange Thursday night clarifying the president's position in the aftermath of Mr. Wilson's outburst, White House aides said Mr. Obama's health plan would restrict illegal immigrants' access beyond what congressional Democrats have proposed."
This huge and protracted fight over health care reform leads us clearly to consider the larger, more troubling point.
It really doesn't matter what issue you bring up for a broad public policy debate—continuing to bring in sizable immigrant populations, legally or illegally, puts reform of all urgent public policy issues under extreme stress.
In aggregate, the increase of US population from 310 million today to 500 million by 2050—growth now almost totally the result of immigrants since 1965 and their offspring—will overwhelm all attempts at meaningful improvement on every pressing issue.
Here's a short list of the challenges we face, offered by Dr. John Tanton, founder of FAIR:
Jobs and overall economic recovery, restoration of consumer buying power, the key!
Energy consumption and efforts to bring change to climate change—certainly not helped by bringing in more generally uneducated people.
Education, the key to our future, hurt by crippling our classrooms with those unable to speak our language, feel comfortable in our culture, or wanting to participate in our democratic system.
Crime and the influence of drug smuggling and border security needs more attention, including consideration of legalizing at least marijuana, which constitutes a huge part of the present Mexican border traffic and the support of M 13 gangs.
Unemployment or underemployment now at well over 10% and continuing to rise.
Foreign war involvement which always generates more refugees at a time when we are least able to absorb them. Look at the aftermath of Vietnam and the Kuwait/Gulf Wars.
Environmental impact—not only on the Mexican Border states, but the crowding and overuse of our precious National Park heritage.
Our aging infrastructure—should be rebuilt using unemployed American labor, not imported aliens.
Perhaps the most major issue—assuring the solvency of Medicare, Medicaid and the Social Security system, all widely held to be imperiled.
As Tanton notes, "all these issues have demographic/immigration components", thus making "immigration reform, both legal and illegal, the capstone issue".
Americans have long been preponderantly in favor of much lower immigration. Perhaps now, facing these budgetary constraints on every side, our elected elites will begin to feel the pressure of their American voter constituencies.
So even if the mass media giants like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post can't connect the dots, Americans already have—and are increasingly demanding action.
How about starting with the extension of E-Verify?
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.