Normally at this time of year, I eschew following politics to devote more attention to the world of football. Now, however, the health care debate in Congress has been fast and furious. All but the most slavishly rabid about politics are sick of the whole thing by now, from what I can see, with most folks now focusing on school, or the new upcoming TV season and college/NFL action.
To me, though, politics is a sport. There are two major teams, and their fans are as blind to the faults of their side as they are blind to the virtues of the other team. There are a few other minor leagues, but they have no clout in the game and are essentially ignored (Libertarians, Constitution & Green parties, etc.).
This has been made especially apparent to me in the wake of President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress last Wednesday, September 9. At a point when the President said, “There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.” At this point several Democrats in the audience audibly booed the President, but one Representative Joseph Wilson (a Republican from South Carolina) stood up and yelled “You lie!”, a retort heart by all listening and which caused a visible reaction from Obama himself, but more especially a visibly angry Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
Immediately the focus of the night was placed by the media and commentators on Wilson. And I saw everyone go back to their teams to either defend or denounce him as was politically expedient. Republicans for the most part denounced the timing of his statement but not the message. Democrats are shocked, shocked, at the lack of civility demonstrated by a member of the other team. Conservative and liberal bloggers each went wild, and Joe Wilson was the #1 “Trending Topic” on Twitter an hour after the speech. Everywhere I visited on the net, it was either “Joe was right!” or “Joe, YOU LIE!”
The subject soon switched to the question of whether illegal immigrants are, in fact, covered under the bill, HR3200 (all these bills just sound like Terminator models to me). I had a discussion at work with someone who affirmed confidently that illegals would not be covered, and decided to spend some time this weekend researching the issue myself. After a few hours, I came to the conclusion that I am not a member of either team. No, Obama did not lie, he was just plain wrong. But so, too, was Joe Wilson.
It was kind of a relief to me that I wasn’t a blind idealogue on the subject, that yeah, I listen to talk radio but I’m not a brainwashed zombie. I am able to think critically. As Monk would say, “Here’s how it happened” :
Exhibit A: Before this speech even left the lips of the President, the Congressional Research Service issued an 11-page report on August 25, 2009 entitled “Treatment of Noncitizens in HR3200”. The report expressed concern that illegal immigrants would be covered under the public option because there is no mechanism to verify citizenship to be eligible to receive benefits.
Not only that, David Freddoso of the SF Examiner reported on Aug 27 that “House Democrats defeated all attempts in committee to add an enforcement mechanism that would require proof of citizenship or legal residency for those getting subsidies.”
Exhibit B: After the speech, liberal blogs (as expected) were on fire, denouncing Wilson as a liar himself. I did a Google search on the phrase “Joe Wilson lied” and clicked the links on the first 5 pages, all of which contained support from the right and denunciation from the left. I noticed a common thread throughout all of the posts that claimed that Wilson lied. Which brings us to…
Exhibit C: Out of several dozen websites I visited engaged in defense of Obama’s claim, they all linked to one of two different “sources”: one from Politifact.com, and another from Factcheck.org. Both of these sources refer to a “Section 246” of HR3200 which they claim excludes illegal aliens from coverage. The problem is, both of these sources fail to examine what exactly “individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States” are being denied.
In a nutshell, according to the CRS report in Exhibit A, illegals are only denied “affordability credits”. What are affordability credits? Lemee ‘splain:
-Under HR3200, there will be a mandate for everyone who is not covered under a health plan to purchase insurance through the “Exchange” (the Exchange is all health insurance companies in conjunction with the public option) or be charged a penalty. Some illegal aliens will be required to purchase health insurance, depending on how long they’ve been here.
-If you cannot afford to purchase health insurance, you can get an “affordability credit” that will pay for your insurance premium. UNLESS you are an illegal alien. Then you still have to purchase insurance but are not eligible for this credit. “Section 246” does not deny coverage to illegal immigrants, it denies credits to those that are too poor to pay the government mandated insurance premiums!
Exhibit D: If illegal immigrants are not covered as the President claims, why did Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D – Montana), the day after the speech, tell Time that his “group would add a proof-of-citizenship requirement for participation in the new health exchange” ?
So now what? Was Wilson right? No, Obama didn’t lie, he believed what he was saying. But Obama was wrong, too. Neither team wins.
Two more quick points: A great number of Dems booed the prez when he proclaimed no coverage for illegals, and now Baucus has confirmed that there will be none in the bill. Is there going to be any infighting in the Dem party over this? I predict some.
Second: Both Wilson and his opponent are raking in tons of cash as a result of Wilson’s newfound celebrity status. His opponent, Rob Miller, has raised $800,000 since Wilson’s outburst, and Wilson himself has raked in over $700,000. I’m wondering, though, whose name people will still remember a month from now. Sorry, Mr. Miller. Wilson has (unwittingly, to be sure) worked this into a huge political coup for himself during his 15 minutes of fame. Wilson is the new Palin.
As far as my opinion goes, though, Mr. Wilson, you are a classless boob and I hate the fact that you are gaining politically and financially from your rude outburst. Mr. President, I am disappointed that you don’t even research the health care plan you are proposing and that you expect us to believe that this country can pay for it. Most of all, I’m glad I don’t consider myself on either of your “teams”. I think I’ll listen to the BYU-Tulane game on the radio now.
UPDATE: Wilson’s now passed the $1 million mark. Sigh.