Health care reform has passed. I'm mostly ambivalent about this. I've heard of a lot of good cost-saving measures that are going to be tried, and the excise tax is good. I'm ambivalent about making universal health care the federal government's prerogative. But I'm skeptical that a giant new entitlement is going to go hand in hand with cutting health care inflation. And I also just have no idea of all of the nasty little surprises that are doubtless in the bill because, despite appearances, I'm actually a graduate student in physical chemistry and not a professional policy blogger. When congressional proponents of the bill say we'll have pass the bill to see what's in it, my confidence is not enhanced. And while everyone likes to say this isn't the last word on health care and we can fix the sundry fuck-ups later, some nasty surprises are really sticky. Of course my favorite example is the employer health insurance tax subsidy itself, which had innocuous beginnings in WWII wage and price controls and didn't start causing problems until decades later, by which time it had become politically untouchable.
I'm not inherently interested in health care policy, so when it all got very complicated my eyes started to glaze over, even though I think the health care status quo is truly lamentable. I wonder how my interest in and attitude toward all the compromises and horse-trading will differ for an issue I am deeply interested in. Murmurs around the campfire suggest that Obama wants to tackle immigration reform next. The current immigration policy is also lamentable, with 12 million or so immigrants under the radar and therefore easily taken advantage of and unable to seek legal recourse; it's my impression that immigration enforcement has become more brutal since 9/11, though it's been a couple years since I read Edward Alden's great book, Closing of the American Border. 387,790 illegal immigrants were deported by the Obama administration in fiscal year 2009, a 5% increase from Bush's last year in office. And 5,600 migrants have died crossing the border over the last fifteen years. And I just generally think it's crass that all visa applicants are treated as if they're potential terrorists instead of welcome visitors, whether they're well-regarded academics, businesspeople, or anyone else.
But the last time immigration reform was attempted, Bush's mostly laudable effort in 2007, the result was easily worse than the status quo. A 700 mile fence was commissioned and a few thousand more border guards were hired. Will the new immigration reform include stretching the fence across the whole border? Or doubling the fence? I'm sure some asshole out there has already suggested electrifying the fence. One idea for the new attempt at immigration reform includes mandatory biometric IDs for all individuals working in America. Maybe it's just my libertarian paranoia that makes me uncomfortable with getting saddled with yet more documentation to keep for perusal of the authorities. There's a general allergy to the dreaded amnesty, and any reform that has a hope of passing will include fines for current illegal immigrants and measures to make current illegal immigrants go "to the back of the line". I'm not even sure what "back of the line" means. Seeing how we always have more people wanting to immigrate than our visa caps allow, will this mean effective deportation? A fine is reasonable depending on the size of the fine. A fine too large will keep illegal immigrants in the shadows. There are many ways immigration reform could make things worse than the status quo. I hope for the best.