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April 6, 2007 | Page 10

Denying health care to all
Playing politics with women's lives
Till and the legacy of racism
Taking on the pro-war chorus

Denying health care to all

THE ANTI-immigrant fever among lawmakers has been hitting other victims over the past six months.

Poor and working-class people on Medicaid have been steadily kicked off the program since last summer. The reason? They aren't able to, or can't afford to prove, that they are citizens of the "wealthiest nation on earth."

A federal rule that requires anyone currently on or seeking Medicaid coverage to prove their U.S. citizenship was imposed early last summer. The rule requires an original passport or combination of birth certificate and driver's license in order to obtain Medicaid.

Ostensibly imposed as a way to keep undocumented immigrants from obtaining health care, it has also shut out tens of thousands of American working-class people who don't have, or can't obtain, these documents.

This slap in the face to people who work all their lives and pay for this program out of their taxes has exposed the divide-and-conquer strategy of the politicians. The director of the Department of Human Services in Iowa said, "The largest adverse effect of this policy has been on people who are American citizens."

This proves that the attacks on immigrants open the door to attacks on all working people.

In six months in Florida, the number of children alone on Medicaid dropped by 63,000. Similarly in Ohio, since September, there has been a drop of 39,000 children and parents on Medicaid.

In Wisconsin, from August 2006 through February 2007, 868 people a month have had benefits terminated for failure to prove citizenship or identity according to the eligibility director of the program. In addition, the state denied an average of 1,758 applications a month for the same reason.

In Georgia, where anti-immigrant sentiment has reached a more fevered pitch, the story is even worse.

"Georgia now has 100,000 newly uninsured U.S. citizen children of low-income families," Dr. Martin Michaels, a pediatrician in Dalton, Ga., told the New York Times. The long-term health implications are frightening. According to Michaels, "Many of these children have missed immunizations."

As someone working in the health care industry for the first time in my life, I am also without health care coverage for the first time in my life! How can anyone deny that native and immigrant workers have much in common? Not only do we have the difficulty of proving citizenship in the U.S., but we also face the same enemy in the form of the corporations and politicians who deny us basic human rights while exploiting us for all we're worth.

The only way to overcome these attacks on workers, both native born and immigrant, is to declare that "an injury to one, is an injury to all"--and organize together to fight back.
Erik Wallenberg, Seattle

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Playing politics with women's lives

TEXAS GOV. Rick Perry made waves on all sides of the crazy politics of Texas when he issued an executive order requiring that all girls entering the sixth grade be given the recently approved human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

HPV is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease and contributes to 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. Evangelical Christians, who were courted relentlessly by Perry during his campaign, are upset because they feel the vaccine will encourage promiscuity.

In fact, in this mandate, Perry seems to be admitting what thousands of statistics have made obvious--the abstinence-only sex-ed curriculum in Texas that he advocates is failing miserably.

Perry insists that huge contributions to his campaign from Merck, one of the makers of the vaccine, had nothing to do with his decision. It is unclear where funding would come from for the vaccine, and the Texas legislature is likely to overturn the decision.

It is also unclear, in the light of Perry's newly discovered concern for the health of his constituents, whether draconian cuts in the children's health insurance program in the state will be restored.
Cindy Beringer, Austin, Texas

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Till and the legacy of racism

SHARON SMITH'S piece, "Justice denied again for Emmett Till," provides a launching pad from which we can talk about the persistence of brutal racism in the U.S. (March 9).

The recent coverage on the racist criminal injustice system, including continued coverage of the Gary Tyler case, underlines this point--but the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina are a unique microcosm of the poverty and racism that have continued to exist since the murder of Emmett Till.

A friend recently referred me to a comparison that Michael Eric Dyson made in his book Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster: In Pompeii, when Mount Vesuvius erupted and the city was destroyed, large numbers of slaves and poor servants were smothered by ash because they could not afford the horses and chariots necessary to escape.

Similarly, a predominately Black group of poor New Orleans residents were unable to evacuate because they too lacked money for transportation.

Dyson notes that many of the poor and enslaved residents of Pompeii who were left to die in the city (after the rich evacuated) spent their last few hours of life collecting riches that were left behind. Many bodies that were excavated from the site were found clutching jewelry and other symbols of wealth, seeking to experience what it was like to have some amount of luxury if even for a short while.

Dyson points out that the "crime" of "stealing" these trinkets pales in comparison to the crime that was the life of the slave/servant in Pompeii before the eruption of Vesuvius.

The analogy to Katrina and the "looting" is fitting, and the media's coverage of the hurricane, which spent vastly more time demonizing the poor Black victims of the hurricane than it did exploring the conditions of poverty and racism that so exacerbated the disaster, provides further evidence that systemic racism in the U.S. was not abolished by the civil rights movement that Emmett Till's brutal murder helped spark.

The tragedies of Pompeii and Katrina, nearly 2,000 years apart, show how class society neglects to offer the most exploited and oppressed even the means to escape an avoidable death. Today, however, a better world is possible.
Gary Lapon, Northampton, Mass.

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Taking on the pro-war chorus

RECENTLY, WHILE waiting in line for coffee, a man noticed the Iraq Veterans Against the War button on my bag and asked me, "Are you an Iraq vet against the war?" I told him no, but I support them.

He asked if there are a lot of them around here, and I indicated I knew of several in Seattle, Olympia and around Fort Lewis. He said, "That's too bad." I didn't know how to respond to this. My first thought was that he meant it was too bad there weren't more. But it was my turn to order, so I dropped it for the moment.

After we had both placed our orders, the guy piped up again: "Because I support Iraq vets for the war."

There are so many different things I could have said. I wish I had pointed out that he supports a dwindling minority--since over 72 percent of vets want to be home. Or how supporting the war means thousands more shattered vets being abused by the reprehensible Veterans Administration system.

However, what I told him was: "Then maybe you should pick up a gun and fly to Iraq." He didn't have a response to that.
Nicholas Hart, Seattle

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