An American Editor

September 26, 2011

If They Were Editors, They Would Be Fired!

If they were editors, they would be fired! I’m referring to the Republicans contending for the Republican nomination to oppose Barack Obama in 2012.

The one thing that every client wants from an editor is consistency. If you chose to spell distension with -sion in chapter 1, then the client doesn’t want to see it spelled with -tion in subsequent chapters. Although “[a] foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines” (Ralph Waldo Emerson), editorial consistency is a positive trait because it is not a foolish consistency.

To demand that our politicians be consistent in a very broad sense is to deny them the possibility of intellectual growth and the ability to change as circumstances change, yet some consistency, especially on overarching policy, at least for a year or two, is warranted. Alas, as the Republican fight gets nastier, the inconsistencies in overarching policy grow.

Consider Rick Perry’s statements regarding children of illegal immigrants in Texas. Perry, rightfully I believe, encouraged the state legislature to allow children of illegal immigrants to attend state universities at in-state tuition rates. Needless to say, his current opponents are attacking that stance. What is Perry’s response? According to Perry, he has shown “heart” for these children who are in Texas through no independent action of their own. So far, so good.

Now ask Perry to show some heart for the citizen children who lack health insurance and thus fail to get needed drugs or treatment (26% of all Texas citizens lack health insurance), and he demurs, suggesting that it is not government’s role to provide health care for citizens, let alone for noncitizens. But there must be a stink of money somewhere, because Perry tried to force every adolescent girl to be inoculated at state expense against cervical cancer.

Similarly, look at Mitt Romney. His creation of a statewide health plan in Massachusetts with a requirement that everyone must purchase the insurance was the model for Obama’s national plan. In fact, there are very few differences, mostly minor, between the two plans. But ask Romney today and he boasts of his Massachusetts plan and derides Obama’s national plan. It must be that only citizens of Massachusetts are worthy of health care insurance.

Worst of all, however, are the candidates who ape Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann. Their response, which the Tea Party cheered loudly, is that citizens need to be free to take their own risks and if they choose not to have health insurance and get sick, let them die. Of course, these wonderful candidates neglect to tell the audience how it is the members of the audience who would die because these showers of Christian charity all receive subsidized health insurance courtesy of us taxpayers. Interestingly, the one question they do not answer is what about those taxpaying citizens who want health insurance but can’t buy it? These folk don’t want to assume the risk but are forced to do so.

Another twist in all of the Republican candidates’ thinking is the issue of abortion. Each candidate loudly proclaims that they are prolife and antiabortion. There is nothing wrong with that position until one second after the child’s birth, when all of the candidates are willing to let the baby — or the birth mother or both — die if the parent doesn’t have health insurance. Republican-Tea Party caring seems to terminate as soon as the underlying political issue is no longer an issue.

America now has 50 million citizens who lack health insurance; that’s one-sixth of our population. Yet the people who make the decision about whether or not those 50 million men, women, and children should be given health insurance (which most would under Obama’s plan) all have taxpayer subsidized health insurance for themselves and their families.

To say that providing health insurance like Romney did in Massachusetts should be left up to the states is just another ploy. First, it would mean that many people could never migrate from their state no matter the opportunities elsewhere. Second, it would leave Americans subject to the whims of politicians. This year the Democrats are in control so we have health care; last year the Republicans were in control so we didn’t have it. Who knows what next year will bring.

Third, and perhaps most important, states like Texas would not provide universal (and probably not any state) coverage, but when an epidemic hit, would want the rest of the country to bail it out. (Notice the difference between the Republican federal emergency response to Hurricane Katrina and the Republican response to Hurricane Irene? In the former, Republicans demanded federal relief and got it within 10 days; now they obstruct relief.)

I sometimes wonder whether the Republicans are trying to find some way to make the country disintegrate — that is, do away with the concept of a United States and instead have 50 individual countries (I’m not sure what they would do about Washington, DC). Republicans like to talk of “state’s rights”; why not think, instead, of citizen rights.

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