Perhaps you’ve seen the TV commercials for Prius automobiles that show the trees, the sun, the earth… everything of the world configured of humans in costumes who flow together in waves like some international festival of Pilobolus dance companies and suggesting a oneness of humankind possible only if you buy a Prius and sing emo songs like a love child of Donovan. I like those commercials, and maybe Toyota will be the organization ultimately bringing mankind together in peace.
As I’m sure Gandhi once said, there’s a lot of administration and problem-solving to be done on the world peace front. Even at just the state level of government, you’ve got to figure out how to pay for services and make the administration of all of it fair. Take the challenges of health care reform: Essentially, in a country that can feed everyone (but is still working on doing so), and educate all the children (still working on that, too), we are now planning to see to it that everyone has affordable access to health care. Our motivation: It’s wrong for things to be the other way. That some would live longer and better with health care while others did not because of economic class doesn’t fit our vision of 21st century democracy. Even if you’ve never personally witnessed someone dying while waiting for care in an urban emergency room because they are indigent, it’s enough to know that it happens.
Last week Mirror Contributing Writer Tom Elias wrote convincingly on this page concerning the fact that without factoring in the health care needs of California’s illegal immigrants, health care reform in our state cannot be properly budgeted. (www.californiafocus.net if you missed it.) To discuss this at any length, we may have to set aside for a moment the fact that very little of the California state budget is working right now.
Having lunched with the man, I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Elias brought up the issue of illegal immigrants in health care reform because, like that one-world vision in the Prius ads, he believes all means “all” and that we’re not going to reform health care and then suddenly quit treating one particular group of people with needs.
But Obama has been quite clearly seen and heard confirming that, as Mr. Elias wrote, “his plan would in no way benefit illegal immigrants.” Elias estimates there are between 1.8 and 2.5 million illegal immigrants in California. Hospital emergency rooms are not going to turn these people away, especially as courts have ruled that they can’t do that. So, what’s it going to be?
Here’s one thing I’m pretty sure we cannot do: We can’t reform health care motivated by the knowledge that health care currently discriminates against many by way of economic class… and then simply continue that discrimination, albeit on the playing field of those drawn to America desiring to live a better life. Regardless of how much drivel and nationalism the Internet and FOX News supports, we’re never going to build an impassable wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Yet as Elias correctly points out, any Obama health care reform plan that did cover illegals would never get through Congress.
So maybe we need to view this more Prius commercial and less Glenn Beck. The reality is that illegal immigrants become legal immigrants… and then begin contributing as we all do to the resources of government. Yes, quality low cost medical care access might even drive up illegal immigration. But so might a decision by Levi’s and Nike to manufacture their products in the U.S. and suddenly create more jobs. Or a serious rebound in Detroit by way of making cars Americans want to buy. Or the renaissance of public education. In other words, the list of everything America is collectively striving for at this time in history.
Mr. Elias was right to discuss illegal immigrants from his pragmatic and practical view of the way things are regarding health care and money. But he was also correct as a citizen of the world. Of course the people of earth are not flowing together as one in brightly colored costumes; just ask that guy who claims his finger got bit off at a health care reform event. Still there is no conundrum created by including illegal immigrants in the final working plans of health care reform; it is simply another aspect of what we’re reaching for here. We already know this effort is ambitious and complicated. We may argue about it as a “right”, but there’s no way health care can continue on its present course of being a privilege of wealth. And any health care reform that really is change will inevitably reflect our basic humanity.