robert-mankoff-look-it-could-be-worse-at-least-we-re-dead-new-yorker-cartoonIt has become clear to many that the anti-Obamacare jihad is more than just a little irrational. We have accepted the fact that everyone in America cannot be denied “lifesaving treatment” (which was enshrined into law under Ronald Reagan). Now that we have figured out that heroic care is very expensive, it only makes sense to do what we can to reduce the number of “near-death and resurrection” care opportunities. Doing so means approaching the problem as a system problem and not as a personal responsibility problem. So why are members of congress holding up immigration reform?

The stumbling block is GOP insistence that newly legalized workers now working in the shadows have no access to government-sponsored health care during their 15-year pathway to citizenship, according to two sources with access to the secret house “Gang of 8″ meetings.

The trouble here, in others words, is that House Republicans’ hatred of Obamacare is at such deranged levels that it is leaching into even largely unrelated problems. The House Democrats are arguing that the newly legalized immigrants will pay taxes, so they should have access to government benefits. And Republicans don’t seem to be suggesting they must be excluded from Social Security or denied access to national parks.

But Obamacare is in a different category in their minds — a law so illegitimate and evil that nothing can be allowed to touch it at all.

I have an eclectic (my wife says incredibly boring) reading list. Recently, I have been reading Race Relations in the Urban South 1865-1890. If you don’t feel like reading the book, I can provide you with the Cliff’s Notes version: They sucked. The enslaved population of the soon-to-be confederacy was almost 4,000,000 of a population of only 12,000,000. Prior to the war, local provision of social services was the rule. In the cities, wealthy white urban dwellers had access to health care, education, and other services. Poor whites had access to certain services through charity. African-Americans who were not enslaved had access to some services. Enslaved African-Americans had to rely on the kindness of “Massa.” Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Data from the plantations, as you might imagine, is sketchy at best.

Following the war, the local institutions for whites persisted. The local communities felt no compunction to provide services for the newly freed African-Americans. The federal government made an anemic attempt at creating a federal infrastructure (known as the Freedman’s Bureau) which was emasculated following Lincoln’s death. Political leadership at the local, state, and federal level let these folks down. Although information is limited, Montgomery County (67% African-American prior to the war, almost certainly higher following) provided little to no services for these ex-slaves who, no longer having a plantation home, were forced to live in abandoned barns and nearby hovels. From a story in the Montgomery Daily Ledger:

A freed-woman died in an abandoned dump cart after giving birth to her child. Hours later, the newspaper reported, hogs came along and ate the infant.

The newspaper (according to Race Relations in the Urban South) charged the Freedman’s Bureau with criminal negligence and claimed that such a thing would have never occurred under slavery.

In summary, I guess it could be worse. At least today we are only trying to deny folks health care (and I guess education). Also, we seem to have made a commitment to keeping all newborn infants, legal or not, from being eaten by hogs.