How Much Compassion Can America Afford?

Do we have an obligation to help everyone who needs help?

The New York Times brings us this enlightening explanation of the giant sucking sound emanating from the vicinity of our wallets:

Thirty-eight end-stage renal patients, most of them illegal immigrants, would receive the dialysis they need to stay alive at no cost under a rough agreement brokered Tuesday among local dialysis providers and Atlanta's safety-net hospital, Grady Memorial. The deal, if completed, would end a yearlong impasse that has come to symbolize the health care plight of the country's uninsured immigrants and the taxpayer-supported hospitals that end up caring for them. [emphasis added]

By this time, most Americans are all too aware of the stunning number of "anchor babies" born at taxpayer expense to illegal-immigrant mothers in U.S. hospitals and gifted with American citizenship and welfare payments to boot.  Open-borders advocates like to cast any concerns for the costs of this situation as hatred of poor, innocent babies.

Here we have an even more inflammatory situation: By deporting or refusing to pay for the treatment of illegal immigrants, we are killing them.

Make no mistake about it: death is, indeed, the inevitable result.  In an attempt to cut costs, the hospital paid for the repatriation of some of their patients and arranged for a limited number of (much cheaper) treatments back home in Mexico.  The entirely foreseeable consequences?

Help me!
Or else!

One patient, Fidelia Perez Garcia, 32, apparently succumbed in April to complications from renal failure after running out of Grady-sponsored treatments in Mexico. Patients with end-stage renal disease can die in as little as two weeks without dialysis, which filters toxins from their blood.

Ms. Perez's mother, Graciela Garcia Padilla, said by telephone that her family was able to raise money for three additional dialysis sessions, at a cost of about $100 each. Ms. Perez then went 12 days without dialysis and persuaded a hospital to treat her only when she was close to death, Ms. Garcia said.

"They sent her to me just to die," Ms. Garcia said. "Here, they let people die."

Fact: Without regular and somewhat costly medical treatment, renal patients, along with many others suffering from other expensive fatal conditions, will die in short order.

Fact: Many people, such as the illegal immigrants discussed here, simply do not have the money to pay for the treatment which is needed to keep them alive.

Fact: Illegal immigrants are human beings too, every bit as much as you, me, or your mother.

The pressing question of the day is: is this a problem which it is your and my responsibility to solve?

All the Troubles of the World

Even in our current economic slump, America is still the wealthiest and most powerful society the world has ever known.  Most of the truly bad problems that have blighted human societies throughout history have been substantially solved in modern America; for example, we've seen how the war on poverty in the U.S. has been won.

That's not true of the rest of the world.  People still starve to death in Africa; people regularly die in Mexico of diseases easily treated here.  An American fast-food worker can earn $100 in a (long) day, enough to pay for a round of lifegiving Mexican dialysis which lasts a week or two according to the Times.

International bleeding-hearts like to argue that rich countries have a moral duty to provide everything the world's poor need that they don't have.  We recall one monumentally ludicrous article many years ago, in the Economist of all places, arguing that the West ought to dump so much free aid food into places like Somalia as to make it worthless and thus end the fighting over it.  To this day we are not sure whether this preposterous argument was meant seriously or tongue-in-cheek.

If you are a renal patient, dialysis is even more essential than food, as you'll die quicker without dialysis than without food.  Do Mexican illegal immigrants, or Mexicans in Mexico for that matter, have a moral claim on American wealth to meet this urgent and pressing health need?  Do the facts that Mexico has ample natural resources to take care of its people and that the cause of their inability to do so is old-fashioned bad governance have any bearing on your view?

There are some people who have a burning desire to use their own resources to help others; we call them philanthropists.  Bill Gates has donated many billions of his own dollars to cure diseases in Africa, and we honor him for it.

But this was his own money, earned legally through his own hard work.  It was his to spend as he saw fit.  He didn't demand one thin dime from you or from me unless we freely chose to pay to use his software.

What the Times is talking about is completely different: paying for the health care of illegal immigrants with taxpayer dollars - that is, your dollars forcibly extracted at the point of an IRS gun.  It's debatable whether the Constitution envisioned taxpayer dollars paying for the health care of American citizens.  The Founders would be aghast at the thought of paying to care for foreigners, particularly lawbreaking foreigners.

As a free, democratic people, we need urgently to consider this question.  Our elites already have, and have reached the conclusion that we do in fact collectively have an obligation to take care of the entire world.

We seem not to be allowed to control our own borders, or to expel people who came here without permission; we must pay vast sums to bring their health up to American standards, and pay for their education as well even though we don't really know how to actually accomplish that at any price.  That doesn't stop our ruling class from trying and failing at bankrupting expense.

There are only three possible outcomes:  First, that we'll succeed in making the whole world equal in wealth and success to the United States in a new global Utopia.  Great if it works, but is that really likely?

Second, that in trying to uplift everyone else, we'll merely succeed in dragging our own country down to their level.  They won't be better off, and we'll be in a far worse state.  We can already see this happening in places like Miami, Detroit, and south-central Los Angeles.  Is that what we want to do, and what we want our country to become?

There's a better alternative that has stood the test of time: Let each take care of his own self, his own household, and at most, his own country.  That actually works, and has worked well here for over two hundred years.

Which probably is why our government doesn't want to do it anymore.  The false compassion of a liberal government generous with everyone else's money will leave us with an empty pocket... and a world still full of starving, dying hordes, Americans newly among them.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
I think a "common" man once said, "get the log out your own eye first before trying to remove a speck from your neighbors eye".

We need to get our own house in order, deport illegal's, stop spending money we don't have and get a backbone. We will always have the poor, get used to it. They will always need help, always! Only give when it dosen't hurt your ability to give again.
September 9, 2010 11:09 AM
most world poverty is caused by bad government. American wealth came because we HAD good government. Mexico, Africa, Myanmar, they'd all be a lot better off if their governments weren't so lousy. We can't fix all the problems, and we've even stopped pressing governments to be better.
September 10, 2010 3:24 PM
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