Obama Administration Combats Racist Air
The Obama Administration has identified the latest front in its tireless war against America's systemic injustice: asthma. A new report, succinctly titled the "Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities," issued jointly on May 31st by the EPA, HHS, and HUD, argues, in effect, that freedom has led to an unfair distribution of healthy lungs, and therefore steps must be taken to achieve respiratory justice.
The official press release for this report does not commit itself on the question of whether greater asthmatic-racial "parity" ought to be attained by reducing the incidence of asthma among minorities, increasing the rate among whites, or some combination of the two.
Here is a summary of the "justice" issue at stake:
Nearly 26 million Americans are affected by this chronic respiratory disease, including 7 million children, especially minority children and children with family incomes below the poverty level. Asthma rates of African American children are currently at 16 percent, while 16.5 percent of Puerto Rican children suffer from the chronic respiratory disease, more than double the rate of Caucasian children in the United States.
It is very clear from this statement that, were the asthma rate among whites equal to that among visible minorities, there would be nothing to talk about. The concern of this report, in other words, is not asthma, but alleged racial and ethnic inequality.
Consider very carefully the wording of this bizarre expression of the problem: seven million American children have asthma, "especially minority children and children with family incomes below the poverty level." What does "especially minority children" mean in this context? That minority children suffer asthma more severely than white children? That minority children and poor children are of greater concern than white children?
Notice, further, that the report singles out three races, namely African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Caucasians, the first two as unjustly afflicted, the third as unjustly under-afflicted. What about Asians and East Indians? Apparently, other racial and ethnic groups do not warrant great consideration in this regard. The reason for this, of course, is explained by the statement's casual blanketing of certain minorities together with "children with family incomes below the poverty level."
When will the "minorities" in question get tired of leftists casually blurring the distinction between race and poverty, i.e., of being treated by their supposed political benefactors as poor by default simply because they are black or Hispanic? To put this another way, are the children of a wealthy black family living on a ranch in Texas more susceptible to asthma than the average white child? If not, then the issue this report is really addressing concerns poverty; race, as usual, is merely being inserted into it artificially -- and with the left's typical boundless condescension to "racial minorities" -- in order to score phoney political points.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson develops this racial-economic theme:
Across America we see low-income and minority children [that clever pairing again] and families at a disproportionately higher risk for asthma and respiratory illnesses. Air pollution and other challenges are having serious health effects, which compound economic challenges through medical bills and missed school and work days.
This respiratory injustice is apparently the result of the "serious health effects" of "[a]ir pollution and other challenges." What are these "other challenges," and how might they contribute to a higher incidence of asthma?
At any rate, Ms. Jackson sees a role for the EPA in addressing this festering injustice.
As the mother of a child with asthma, I know what it means for our children to have clean and healthy air to breathe. This Action Plan enables federal agencies and our partners to work more collaboratively and comprehensively on tackling a major health threat, so that we can protect all Americans, no matter what community they call home.
Just what America needs -- more comprehensive collaboration among federal agencies, not to mention their "partners." This is needed, naturally, in the name of protecting "all Americans, no matter what community they call home." Implication: specific, collaborative, comprehensive steps will be taken to ensure that in the future, America will no longer be a nation that "protects" only wealthy whites. In other words, America is racist down to its lungs, and only a comprehensive liberal agenda can combat it -- "it," in this case, being America.
Note the added flourish of leftist economic determinism entailed in that quaint phrase, "no matter what community they call home," used to refer to poor inner city neighborhoods. A tidy residential neighborhood in the suburbs is a "community you call home." A farming village with two churches and a general store is a "community you call home." An apartment complex overlooking the park adjacent to a university campus is a "community you call home." A "community you call home" is a community of preference, a home by voluntary choice.
A ghetto full of dilapidated houses, gangs, drugs, and Al Sharpton wannabes is not a "community you call home." It is a predicament, a plight in which some decent people find themselves, and from which they strive to escape. To pretend otherwise is not merely political correctness. It is an act of moral abandonment, as it implicitly designates the poor (and specifically, in this case, poor minorities) as irredeemably downtrodden -- as denizens of their sad "community" by essential identity, rather than by misfortune.
(Consider, incidentally, what "community organizing" means in this light. A "community organizer," in such a "community" -- a community in which liberal moralizing equates race, a genetic fact, with poverty, a changeable condition -- is a person whose mission is to hold out a dangerous lie of "hope" of "change," i.e., to promise the future overthrow of the system that causes racial-economic determinism.)
Jackson's point is buttressed by Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Low-income and minority communities often face an unacceptable burden of pollution in this country ["in this country" = America is the problem], diminishing their economic potential and threatening the health of millions of American families. As we close National Asthma Awareness Month today, the President's Administration is standing behind his commitment to integrating environmental justice into the missions of federal agencies, promoting clean air and healthy communities, and ensuring this really is a country of equal opportunity for all.
Having identified the problem as an unjust distribution of clean air, the White House's official representative reassures everyone that the EPA's "environmental" agenda of redistributive justice -- "environmental justice" is "social justice" is "economic justice" is "racial justice," and so on, tyrannical world without end -- will be integrated into the regulatory agendas of other agencies as well. In other words, all federal agencies are in effect the EPA now.
The official environmental justice advocates having increased the atmospheric CO2 with their important observations, the floor is ceded to HHS Secretary Sebelius:
The report is a blueprint for how we can work together to reduce asthma disparities. One key factor that is so critical to controlling a child's asthma is access to health care. Uninsured people with asthma are less likely to take the preventive medicine they may need to keep their condition under control, making them more likely to suffer an attack. That's why we are focused on expanding access to care.
"Asthma disparities." If you needed a single phrase to add to your time capsule so that future humanoids could have a glimpse of the cultural absurdity of the era of modern liberalism, you couldn't do much better than that. And how does one combat "asthma disparities"? But of course: ObamaCare. The problem, after all, as Sebelius explains, is "uninsured people with asthma." Ergo, the Obama Administration proposes to put an end to "uninsured people" -- at the price of putting a premature end to a lot of "insured" people, when they are deemed too old or infirm to warrant further federal healthcare funding that might be used instead to ameliorate asthmatic injustice.
And this nicely summarizes the essence of socialized medicine, and the principles of its advocates. "Disparity" will be eliminated. If this requires deeming some people economically unviable and superfluous, so be it. Equality will be achieved, and asthma will strike as many whites as minorities, period.
If that last judgment sounds harsh, consider the message of this report. The explicit concern, which must be dealt with through public policy, is those causes of asthma which seem to be unequally distributed across racial or economic groups. The goal, in other words, is to reduce asthma in minority "communities" without necessarily reducing it in non-minority "communities." An across-the-board reduction would be counterproductive, as the purpose, as always with the left, is not to improve everyone's lot, but rather to guarantee equality of outcomes -- in this case, equality of respiratory disease suffering.
And finally, as the last presenter in this little class(-warfare) project, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan contributes this:
The numbers don't lie: Asthma disproportionately impacts low-income minority families which is why we must do everything we can to ensure all children have a healthy place to call home. Today's announcement will help the federal government support the development of innovative new approaches to improve and control asthma.
"Ensure all children have a healthy place to call home." (There's that quaint, condescending phraseology again: "a place to call home.") How can one "ensure" such a thing? Through entitlements and regulations, of course. Through enforcing FDR's "right of every family to a decent home" -- property rights be damned.
It is supremely fitting that now, on the eve of the long hot summer of the presidential campaign, the Obama Administration has chosen to add asthma to its list of "fairness" issues. Lest we forget, asthma was, and for some of us always will be, the locus classicus of the President's rhetorical grandeur.
Everyone knows that it makes no sense that... you send a kid to the emergency room for a treatable illness like asthma. They end up takin' up a hospital bed. It costs... when... if you -- they just gave, you gave 'em... treatment early, and, they got... some treatment, an' uh... a breathalyzer... er, an inhalator... not a breathalizer -- I haven't had much sleep in the last 48 hours.
And then the grand finale:
What they'll say is, "Well it costs too much money." But, you know what? It would cost, abo-... it would cost about the same as what we would spend... if... over the course of ten years it would cost what it would cost us... if, it.... Alright, okay, we're going to.... It would cost us about the same as it would cost, for... about -- hold on one second, I can't hear myself... but I'm glad you're fired up though... I'm glad, he-he....
Hard to argue with that.
Team Obama's new contribution to the asthma chronicles is almost as coherent as the master's original. Poor people, living in dirty neighborhoods in undesirable locations, are more susceptible to certain kinds of illness. The solution is not to ensure the practical conditions that improve everyone's chances of rising out of poverty, i.e., the conditions of freedom.
On the contrary, the solution is to create regulations and penalties to limit economic growth, and to divert greater amounts of societal wealth into make-work projects aimed at producing cleaner slums for the perpetually impoverished dependent class that can always be bought off in its induced hopelessness and desperation by a few unsubstantiated promises, in exchange for its continued support of the condescending slumlords of the Democratic Party.