Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Just when you think that the swiftboating of Graeme Frost was as vicious and venal as the right wing could possibly get, Mark Hemingway over at the National Review Online surges ahead, pushing boldly onward toward an even lower all-time low. Here's his (very) conservatively compassionate take on two-year-old Bethany Wilkerson, the second SCHIP poster kid. Hold your nose -- this one's pungent:
While the debate around the Frost family at least initially centered around their relative wealth, the issue really at hand is one of bad behavior....Dara and Brian Wilkerson are real poster children — for irresponsible decisions.
On the conference call, Dara admitted to me that she and Brian had been talking about having children since before they were married. She further admitted that after they were married she voluntarily left a job at a country club that had good health insurance, because the situation was “unmanageable.” From there she took a job at a restaurant with no health insurance, and the couple went on to have a baby anyway, presuming that others would pay for it and certainly long before they knew their daughter would have a heart defect that probably cost the gross national product of Burkina Faso to fix. But not knowing about future health problems is the reason we have insurance in the first place.
Now, pause for a second. Are you reading this at your computer at work, in a job that you don’t particularly care for or even downright detest because you have a spouse and child that depend on you? You wouldn’t be the first or last person to make that choice.
For Dara and Brian Wilkerson, the fact that they don’t have health insurance is less about falling through the cracks than the decisions they’ve made. We know that Dara is at least capable of getting a job with insurance — so why does she not have one now? Even if it is difficult insure her child’s pre-existing condition, what about her and her husband’s health? Perhaps it’s rude to ask that question, but I think it’s rude to accept huge amounts of public assistance and then express gratitude by asking taxpayers to extend a Children’s health program to cover college-age kids who come from households making more than $80,000 a year.
So follow me here.
Dara Wilkerson left a job with insurance -- we're not clear about whether it was before or after she got pregnant -- because it was "unmanageable." Hemingway argues that this was basically candy-assed of her. It doesn't matter to him what the situation was -- but if she was already pregnant, it may very well matter to us. Because there are a lot of reasons that jobs end before pregnancies do. The need to get off your feet, or get extra rest. A doctor worried about pre-eclampsia, or premature labor. Bosses who won't cooperate with changing physical needs. There are a lot of ways a job at a country club could become genuinely "unmanageable," particularly in the back half of a pregnancy. And even if she wasn't pregnant, you can bet nobody leaves a job with decent insurance unless there's a damned good reason -- and most of the best reasons are not the kind of thing most of us would be willing to share with a nosy parker like Mark Hemingway.
(One wonders if Hemingway's ever been around any pregnant women -- or, for that matter, ever been uninsured. One guesses not: he seems to think getting a job with insurance - or getting insurance with a pre-existing condition -- is easy, too. Perhaps on his planet, it is. But on Planet America, I know self-employed families with six-figure incomes who can barely manage the premiums.)
And, having left that job, he's boggled that "the couple went on to have the baby anyway." Yo, Mark: Are you suggesting that Dara should have had (scream, gasp!) a dreaded "abortion of convenience," just because she lost her health insurance? Or that the decision to carry a fetus should be an economic decision, instead of the sacred and unstoppable Gift of God the anti-choice crowd has spent the last 35 years loudly insisting it is?
I hope you didn't have your heart set on a featured speaker slot at the next National Right-To-Life Committee gala. Because if you're saying what I think you're saying...well, it's just not gonna happen, 'K?
Also: Don't look now, but your side has made it virtually impossible to get an abortion in vast stretches of the country -- and is doing its level best to ensure that anything else that stops a sperm from meeting up with an egg is taken off the market, too.
So, assuming the pregnancy was already underway, it's not like putting a stop to the pregnancy was a real option, even if the Wilkersons had wanted to. (And if it wasn't underway, Mark, how do you stand on the government providing free birth control to people like the Wilkersons? I thought so.) Perhaps you should volunteer to "counsel" such misguided couples. Given your obvious insight and sensitivity regarding these matters, I'm sure we can trust you to stop short of coercion.
So, to recap, here's the moral lesson the conservatives want us to take away from the Wilkerson family's public shaming:
-- People without insurance should not have babies.
-- Pregnant people who lose their insurance should abort.
-- Abortion is evil, and should be abolished.
-- Birth control is a personal choice, and should not be publicly subsidized. Let your insurance cover it.
-- If you don't have access to insurance or birth control, don't have sex.
Are you with me so far? OK. Let's take this all the way home now.
Under this New Conservative Order being promoted by NRO and its esteemed colleagues on the right, our society should rightly leave it to employers to decide who gets health insurance. Which, per Hemingway, means that they also have final say over who gets Official Permission to have sex. If you're one of the 47 million people in America whose employers have chosen to withhold this benefit -- which means restricted access to medical birth control, and no coverage for any children that may result -- then the consequences are clear: you need to stop having sex.
Who can argue with this? If you're too stupid and degenerate to get a job with health insurance, you don't deserve to have sex anyway. After all, there's no guaranteed right to sex in the Constitution (and if there was, you can bet we'd be shredding that one, too). No, sex is a privilege that only belongs to those of us who can afford it -- and, ideally, who have submitted to the daily economic supervision of their God-ordained betters. If that's not you, then no fucking, no birth control, no health care, and (especially) no having babies. We mean it.
With wingers, it always comes back to controlling people's sexuality. Always.
Update: Our commenters note several other problems with Hemingway's argument:
Skullhunter points out that there's nothing like taking away people's health insurance to increase their fear quotient. Since fear the way conservatives govern, they've got no incentive to make sure people's kids are covered.
Mary Racine wonders why Hemingway's nosiness doesn't extend to the restaurant owner. Shouldn't we be wondering why he's not providing his workers with health insurance? "Let's look at the owner's house, let's count his cars and how expensive his wife's shoes and purses are..." If the uninsured can be subjected to this kind of scrutiny, then why aren't we doing the same to the people who left them uninsured in the first place?
She also notices some message creep: the mantra "Don't have a baby if you can't afford it" used to be intoned only in the faces of teenage mothers. Now, it's effectively being used to tell the working classes not to breed at all. Feral Liberal points out that Hemingway's modest proposal -- don't breed unless you can afford health insurance -- should logically be extended to people with only catastrophic insurance as well, since a kid with problems like Bethany's would throw many of them onto SCHIP, too. Adding in the underinsured would bring Hemingway's not-qualified-to-breed pool to about 75 million Americans. (Timekiller points out that this would include most of those 10-kid Quiverfull families, too.)
If, under the Hemingway rule, the working class is effectively enjoined from having kids, then we're going to be importing a whole lot more foreign workers in the years ahead to make up for the loss. Which, as Enlightened Layperson notes, would be a demographic disaster -- at least according to racist anti-immigration wackos like Mark Steyn, who thinks we're in some kind of arms race to outbreed the Muslims and the Mexicans. (Apparently, this vital objective in the War On Brown People is critical to our survival as a nation.) The Frosts did their duty by producing a blonde, blue-eyed white baby for the cause -- only to find that is one war function the government is not willing to overpay contractors for.
Though, as Vox Publius observes: Dick Cheney's heart problems are being covered by government insurance -- and nobody thinks this is a problem.
I think we've found our next SCHIP poster boy.