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Proviso Probe

Monday, February 09, 2009

IL05 Dems on health care and amnesty for undocumented workers

Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organizations (IVI-IPO) has queried the candidates running for U.S. House of Representatives in IL-05. (The Proviso portion of the district is Northlake and most of Melrose Park.) The questionnaire is long, over 140 questions on issues. That's not including questions candidates have to answer about their campaigns and personal lives.

I have pulled out some of the responses that I consider either more important or will be more interesting to the Proviso Probe audience.

I picked the issue of single-payer health care because the U.S. health care system has serious problems. It's too expensive. The HMOs and insurance companies preferred business model is to make it hard for their clients to get coverage or to make it difficult to get the insurers to pay the bills.

The out-of-control health care costs are a burden for state and local government as well as businesses and organized labor.

Single-payer health care is a subset of universal health care. Universal health care sound good, but it doesn't fix all the unpleasant (and unnecessary) hassles of dealing with HMOs and insurance companies in a for-profit system.

One of the problems (among many) in basing health coverage on employment is that when someone is considering taking an ethical stand when an employer is violating the law or basic decency the whistleblower is risking losing her/his health coverage and that of his/her family. If you want people to behave ethically at work you should want health care coverage delinked from employment. Would you risk losing health care for your children to draw attention to your employer cheating the customers?

IVI-IPO asked, "Do you support comprehensive, universal, single-payer health care?" (It's question 67 if you click through the links.)

Frank Annunzio: Yes.

Paul Bryar: No. Bryar favors having “access” to health care at “affordable” prices.

Sara Feigenholtz: Yes

John Fritchey: Yes. Fritchey also provided some details which show he is an incrementalist, but that he's put some genuine thought into how to get there from where were are now.

Tom Geoghegan: Yes

Carlos Monteagudo: Yes. “I believe that health is a human right.

Mike Quigley: “It is our job to convince the public that single-payer is the most efficient and effective method of keeping people healthy.” Quigley seems to favor incremental reforms to the health care system. (Quigley did not provide an answer on the yes/no question about single-payer health care.

Charlie Wheelan: No.

Bryar's answer is unsatisfactory to me because it's what we have on some level. If you get sick enough you do get to visit the hospital before you die. The question is, does the United States value it's citizens who don't have health insurance (or have crappy insurance) enough that they can get routine medical care before their conditions worsen.

Monteagudo's answer is the most passionate by making health care a moral issue.

Fritchey's answer reflected the most thought.

I'm a little surprised that Quigley seems to be waiting for single-payer to become popular. Yeah, the answer reflects the reality that the health reformers have to persuade more people of the merits of single-payer, but do you get the impression he wants to fight to make the case in Congress? Or wait for others to fight and then vote the right way?

My dear friend, Arnie Bryant, differed with me on immigration. I tend to favor letting people who want to be U.S. citizens become U.S. citizens. And I favor protecting the dignity and rights of immigrants documented or not. Arnie was more of the Lou Dobbs camp.

I mention Arnie because there are people I respect immensely who disagree with me on immigration completely.

IVI-IPO asked (question #121), "Do you support amnesty for undocumented immigrants currently working in the country?"

Annunzio: Yes. No comments.

Bryar: Yes, when combined with path to citizenship. Also favors enforcement focused on employers who hire undocumented workers.

Sara Feigenholtz: No answer, but lengthy platitudes.

Victor Forys: “I do not support amnesty, but I support legalization and allowing people to work and live in the U.S. while they apply for permanent residency or citizenship.” Forys has a number of paragraphs that start with bolded sentences.

  • Create a dependendable and workable guest worker program.
  • End the backlog of people who have applied to come to the U.S. from other countries.
  • Pass the DREAM Act.
  • Stop families from being torn apart.
  • Ensure immigration applicants are treated with dignity.
  • Modify or eliminate the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision

John Fritchey: "YES, I support a fair and responsible path to citizenship for undocumented individuals residing in the United States and contributing positively to our communities.” He also wants to eliminate visa backlogs and “create a responsible guest worker program”.

Tom Geoghegan: Yes. “I support providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants to join our society and enjoy the benefits of this great country.

Carlos Monteagudo: Yes, if pay back taxes, a penalty and don't have criminal backgrounds.

Mike Quigley
: No. “I support a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. I also support lowering the cost of citizenship for immigrants.

Charlie Wheelan:
Yes. “I will work hard to create a more diverse and inclusive nation. To that end I support a comprehensive immigration bill that includes both border enforcement and a path to citizenship for undocumented individuals who currently reside in the United States.

“I would also support increasing the number of visas granted to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent U.S. residents. Similarly, I support an increase in the number of HB-1 visas (those issued to highly-skilled foreign workers), in order to strengthen our workforce and move our economy forward.”

Feigenholtz has established a pattern of avoiding giving answers in favor of statements that are vague. At the DePaul candidate forum many people thought she did poorly because she didn't take strong positions on much of anything. Feigenholtz says all sorts of stuff about her mom being an immigrant, but if she's for a "path to citizenship" why not say it?

Monteagudo took the time to think about the issue and include the caveat that criminals aren't welcome to apply and reminding people that taxes and fines have to be paid.

I'm not sure what Quigley means by lowering the cost of citizenship. Reducing government paperwork fees? Reducing the need for lawyers to get involved?

Forys gave the most specific answer. If elected, I see him being a leader in Congress on the issue of immigration.

Unions usually have concerns about guest worker programs. As I understand it there are a couple main objections. One, unions are concerned that a hostile administration (like the Bush administration) would allow too many workers as a tool for reducing wages and breaking unions. Two, guest workers would presumably have fewer rights than citizens. And unions are worried that one group of workers will be played-off against another.

However, defenders of guest worker programs would probably counter that allowing a large amount of illegal immigration (this source estimates 5% of the workforce lacks legal work status) to fill low wage jobs has all the problems of a bad guest worker program with no benefits except a false sense of security.

I'm skeptical of guest worker programs, but am open to good guest worker programs supported by politicians who are friends of organized labor immigrants (like Fritchey and Forys); I'm opposed to guest worker programs supported by people who are Neo Liberals and otherwise hostile to organized labor, like Charlie Wheelan.

Wheelan's answer about investing in border security sorta sounds good, until you realize that most illegal aliens came to the United States legally and overstayed their visas. People illegally crossing the border are the minority. And there's no practical system that will make the border impenetrable. The Bush administration loved that border security stuff. If the increase in funds under Bush and the GOP didn't make our borders secure, how much more money does Wheelan want to spend on this? How many millions of dollars would Wheelan spend to keep a 1,000 low-wage workers from illegally crossing the border?

Wheelan supports more H1-B visas. Many tech workers strongly disagree with this. They argue that there isn't a shortage of people who can do computer programming and other technical work in the United States; it's that employers would rather pay immigrants lower salaries than pay experienced U.S. citizens higher salaries.

Wheelan sees the benefits to corporations, employers and shareholders when low wage programmers and tech workers are brought into the United States, but he seems to have a blind-spot about the plight of tech workers who are already here. It seems weird that in a period of record unemployment that one of Wheelan's priorities is to bring cheaper labor into the country.

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