Nonproblems, Nonsolutions

Business Casual
Susan Percy

It’s hard to figure why some relatively tame topics become flashpoints (anybody remember the fluoridation flap?) and some things you’d expect to provoke an outcry (skyrocketing heating oil prices, for instance) don’t stir much interest.

But most puzzling of late, in Georgia, is the phenomenon of solutions to nonproblems and nonsolutions to real problems. Exhibit A in the first category, also known as fixing things that aren’t broken, is Georgia’s Voter ID Law, whose constitutionality is being challenged in court. Its supporters convinced enough of their lawmaker colleagues that such a measure was necessary to protect Georgians from voter fraud – even though election officials have indicated there really is no serious voter fraud problem.

And if or when such a problem might occur, it seems safe to say that the fraud is probably not going to be perpetrated by octogenarians who lack drivers’ licenses because they lack cars. Yet those are the people most affected by the law. And it appears the “fix” designed to help the elderly get the photo IDs they now need to vote in Georgia isn’t working so well. According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story in late December, the lone Georgia Licensing On Wheels (GLOW) bus that travels around issuing IDs is plagued by breakdowns and scheduling glitches.

Even a new measure, introduced on the first day of this year’s legislative session, which would make free voter ID cards available at least one place in each of Georgia’s 159 counties, seems to be a little more than a costly solution in search of a problem.

And here’s a vote for the most blatant example of a nonsolution to a real problem – also called breaking something that’s already broken.

In this case, the real problem is the country’s system of immigration, which practically everyone agrees is not working. The nonsolution, though, comes in the form of HR 256, introduced by six members of the Georgia House of Representatives, that would, among other things, deny publicly funded health care, except for emergency care, to anyone who is in the United States illegally.

This resolution, introduced by Representatives Roger Williams (R-Dalton), Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta), Ronald Forster (R-Ringgold), Martin Scott, (R-Rossville) Jeanette Jamieson (D-Toccoa) and John Meadows (R-Calhoun), proposes, among other things, an amendment to the state constitution to make sure undocumented aliens do not get health care “provided by the state or any political subdivision of the state.”

I can’t, for the life of me, understand why any sane individual would think that having a population of sick people – whether they are legal or illegal – would benefit the state of Georgia.

For the sake of argument, let’s put aside – as most proponents of such legislation apparently have – considerations of whether it is humane or decent to deny health care to people who are sick. Isn’t there a public health issue here? Infectious diseases left untreated in one individual or one segment of the population are likely to spread through the whole population.

We can’t be sure some nasty TB germ won’t find its way from an untreated illegal alien into the lungs of an American citizen. A meningitis outbreak would endanger everyone, legal or not. And if the feared flu pandemic becomes a reality, it won’t discriminate on the basis of immigration status.

It’s hardly serving the cause of homeland security or even true-blue Americanism to spread sickness and disease. Are we really prepared to accept the consequences of refusing vaccinations to people who should have them? And what about prenatal care? Do we really want to increase the risk of illness and birth defects?

Why would we want to make someone suffer when the means of relieving suffering are available? What kind of people are we? Or, more to the point, what kind of people do some of our representatives think we are?

When we have the means to provide health care to all who need it, there is no good reason to deny it. Let’s get the immigration system fixed – but not on the backs of sick people.

At a time when there are more problems out there than there are resources for dealing with them, it’s hard to figure out why some of our leaders are so busy coming up with nonsolutions and dealing with nonproblems.

Maybe it’s easier than trying to combat the real ones.

Susan Percy is editor of Georgia Trend. E-mail her at

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