Mr. Sean goes to Washington

Patriotism doesn’t pay

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Courage can be expressed in different ways. Some demonstrate courage by, on the day terrorists struck their greatest blow against America, finding it in themselves to resist the very human instinct to flee somewhere far away and safe, but instead stay nearby and try to help their fellow man, and then continue to stick around in subsequent days and weeks and months and years as it becomes clear that while Al Qaeda won’t be attacking again any time soon their attack has left behind a toxic legacy. Others demonstrate courage by denying these people health benefits. The Republican Party is in the latter camp.

Granted, the Republicans have their reasons. As the GOP’s version of Pravda puts it, critics have wondered whether the $7.4 billion 9/11 health care bill is “affordable” and does enough “to ensure that only people with illnesses related to trade center dust get help.”

Fair enough. Let’s address these concerns by looking at exactly what the bill does.

“The bill calls for providing $3.2 billion over the next eight years to monitor and treat injuries stemming from exposure to toxic dust and debris at ground zero. New York City would pay 10 percent of those health costs. The bill would also set aside $4.2 billion to reopen the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to provide payments for job and economic losses. In addition, the bill includes a provision that would allow money from the Victim Compensation Fund to be paid to any eligible claimant who receives a payment under the settlement of lawsuits that 10,000 rescue and cleanup workers recently reached with the city.”

These all seem worthy goals and at what strikes me as a reasonable price tag. As this item notes, the bill impacts a minimum of 10,000 people. $7.4 billion divided by 10,000 comes down to $740,000 a person, which is a good-sized sum but seems a lot more reasonable when you realize many of these people will first be incapacitated and then die horrible deaths. As anyone who’s had someone close to them with a terminal illness knows, in addition to being a brutal experience for both the patient and their loved ones it’s also an expensive one, even if you have top of the line insurance (which some Americans don’t — I know, it came as a shock to me too).

I realize Republicans take the deficit very seriously — at least, when they’re not in charge — so I’ll even find a way to pay for it. Don’t extend the tax cut for individuals making over $200,000 (or couples making more than $250,000). This will save $70 billion in the first year (meaning we could implement the plan nine times). Cutting the cut will only affect two percent of households and still keep the highest tax rate in America under 40 percent (though at 39.6%, it would be beginning to scrape that ceiling). And yes, I sympathize with the couple making $250,001 more than I do with Michael Bloomberg, but these people have already benefited disproportionately.

“No, we haven’t!” Goldman Sachs-ians cry indignantly.

Allow me to do something that pains me: use math. (I was an English major.) Yes, technically the majority of the Bush tax cut went to the non-elite — $300 billion a year — but it’s worth remembering that chunk covered 98% of America. If we split the $370 billion tax cut annual cost up by dividing by 100 so 1% of the population gets 1% of the loot, the top 2% would receive a total of $7.4 billion a year in cuts instead of the $70 billion they get. And these were the people who — follow me on this — needed the cut the least because many of them already had assloads of money. Throw in that Dubya and Obama have proved the President, regardless of party affiliation, would rather eat a live baby than not have investment bankers get their bonuses on schedule and I feel like the folks in the range I’d define as upper-middle-class to man-am-I-offensively-wealthy can weather this storm.

This brings us to the second Republican Party concern: whether that money may go to undeserving parties. This seems a valid worry. After all, billions and billions of dollars are unaccounted for in Iraq. And yes, these billions went missing while Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of congress, but still! C’mon! Clearly the only appropriate action is to have the moral fortitude to prevent possible fraud by the undeserving by denying all assistance to the clearly deserving.

To conclude, I’d like to note that the Republicans are working to make sure one man has proper health care. That man is Andy Harris. Harris is a new Republican congressman from Maryland who ran a vigorous campaign against government health care and then — you guessed it — became indignant when he discovered that he would have to wait before he could start getting government health care. I don’t know Harris’ stance on the 9/11 bill, but since the Republican Party prides itself on unity in the ranks I’ll presume he’ll vote against it any and every chance he gets and next time he takes his kids to the orthodontist on the taxpayer dime he can sit in the waiting room and smile, knowing he’s the biggest hero of all.

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