A Philosopher's Blog

10 Years Later

Posted in Business, Environment, Ethics, Law, Medicine/Health, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on September 11, 2011
Sanjay Gupta

Image via Wikipedia

Today is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack. It is, obviously enough, fitting to look back on that terrible day and reflect upon it and its ramifications.

One matter that is of special importance is the fact that the 9/11 responders seem to be suffering from an unusual high level of health complications. Given that they were exposed to burning materials and various other hazards, this is hardly shocking. What is, however, rather shocking is the fact that it took congress nearly a decade to work out a health care bill for the first responders. What is rather disturbing is that Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican, said he would block the bill. He gave two reasons. First, he wanted it to be funded through spending cuts. Second, he claimed that the bill had not gone through the proper committee process. His second reason was also backed by fellow Republican Mike Enzi.

In regards to the first reason, it struck me as rather sad that after Republicans had “wrapped” themselves in 9/11 and spent billions on “homeland security” and two wars, a major Republican would do such a thing. While I do understand the need to be fiscally responsible, suddenly finding this fiscal faith when it comes to the 9/11 responders seems rather morally questionable. Surely those people earned the right by their sacrifices. To support this, one needs merely to turn to the speeches in which the Republicans spoke of 9/11 and the heroism of the first responders.

In regards to the second reason, Coburn actually missed the committee meeting in question (and he was a member of the committee). Hence, his complaint was spurious.  While following due process is important (although it was often bypassed in the name of national security), it seems rather petty and mean of him to have used such a point to try to delay or block the bill.

While the bill eventually passed, there were some significant changes. First, the money allocated to the bill was reduced. Apparently the new found sense of fiscal responsibility arrived to late to prevent the massive spending under Bush but just in time to cut back spending on health care for the first responders (who had been praised as great heroes by the very folks who insisted on cutting the budget). Second, the Victims Compensation Fund was set to close significantly earlier and  various other limitations were set.

Coburn justified his actions  (after acknowledging the heroism of the first responders) by claiming that they prevented the bill from “robbing future generations of opportunity.” On the one hand, Coburn does have a point: spending should be carefully reviewed to ensure that the need is legitimate and that the cost will not be too burdensome. Oddly enough, this rather laudable principle seems to be generally overlooked in other cases. In regards to spending on the war on terror, there seems to have been little concern paid to determining whether the spending would be effective (generally not) and whether or not it would burden future generations (definitely so). The main justification given for funding the war on terror is that doing so saves lives. However, terrorism is rather unlikely cause of death for Americans. Except, of course, for the 9/11 responders who became sick because of their exposure to a devil’s cocktail of toxins. There is a certain irony in a congress that funds x-ray machines for full body scans to “protect” us against the minute chance that someone will try to smuggle a bomb on a flight in his underwear (again) yet balks at medical care for people who are, in fact, in danger from the actions of terrorists. Of course, helping the first responders does not, in general, funnel money to the folks who help fund the re-election of politicians.

A final point of concern is that the bill leaves out coverage of cancer. While we went to war in Iraq without checking the facts, folks in congress claimed that a causal link had not been established between the exposure on 9/11 and the cancers that are appearing in the responders. After all, if these people did not get their cancer from 9/11, then there would be no reason for the taxpayers to foot the bill for their care.

One obvious response is that even if the cancer was not caused by their exposure during the 9/11 events, these people should simply be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, treating sick or dying people who put their lives on the line for others hardly seems to be a waste of money. If arguments are needed for how important this event was and how great these people are, one can merely look at what the Republicans said about them, at least prior to the debate over the bill.

A second reply is that it seems reasonable to believe that being exposed to that devil’s cocktail of toxins that arose from the wreckage could very well cause cancer. There is also the fact that the 9/11 responders seem to suffer from cancer at a higher than expected rate. Of course, given that our understanding of cancer is limited, there are grounds for “cancer skepticism” (which has been fueled by the tobacco and other industries). I suspect that one reason that congress has been reluctant to provide coverage for cancer in this case is that doing so would seem to admit that the various chemicals and toxins the responders were exposed to do cause cancer. This would, obviously enough, present various liability problems and could also be used in backing up stronger regulations regarding pollutants. This sort of result would not, of course, please the corporations who donate so lavishly to re-election funds. Then again, perhaps it is just about saving money by not paying for cancer treatments.

A third reply is that there does seem to be a causal link. Sanjay Gupta has been investigating this and reports what he has learned in “Terror in the Dust.” If such a link has been established, then the 9/11 responders should receive coverage for cancer. After all, this would show that at least some of their cancers were caused by the events of 9/11 and that would seem to warrant the state picking up the  tab. At the very least, the Republicans owe them for years of using them for political purposes (the Democrats too, only to a lesser extent).

Enhanced by Zemanta
About these ads

15 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on September 11, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I agree. Well said!

  2. dhammett said, on September 11, 2011 at 9:20 am

    As usual, The Onion puts this day in perspective.

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/nation-would-rather-think-about-911-than-anything,21309/

  3. T. J. Babson said, on September 11, 2011 at 9:47 am

    And this classic from The Onion was quite prophetic:

    Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job

    November 5, 2008 | ISSUE 44•45

    WASHINGTON—African-American man Barack Obama, 47, was given the least-desirable job in the entire country Tuesday when he was elected president of the United States of America. In his new high-stress, low-reward position, Obama will be charged with such tasks as completely overhauling the nation’s broken-down economy, repairing the crumbling infrastructure, and generally having to please more than 300 million Americans and cater to their every whim on a daily basis. As part of his duties, the black man will have to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind. The job comes with such intense scrutiny and so certain a guarantee of failure that only one other person even bothered applying for it. Said scholar and activist Mark L. Denton, “It just goes to show you that, in this country, a black man still can’t catch a break.”

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/black-man-given-nations-worst-job,6439/

    • dhammett said, on September 11, 2011 at 10:51 am

      Not from The Onion:
      A few moments ago during ABC’s coverage of 9/11 events in NYC one of their reporters (Pierre Something-or-other), speaking on the subject of lack of preparedness before the 9/11 attack, said “. . .the government was literally caught with its pants down.”

      • magus71 said, on September 11, 2011 at 10:57 am

        Maybe the reporters should have discovered the 9-11 conspirators. They’re usually quite busy finding things US soldiers are doing wrong.

        • dhammett said, on September 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

          They do find things, like MyLai and Abu Ghraib. At least someone did. Maybe not the press. I don’t know. Of course, it could be argued that those soldiers shouldn’t have been “doing wrong” in the first place. But I don’t think the major networks or newspapers– or for that matter Fox News or the New York Post– are “usually busy finding things US soldiers are doing wrong.”

          I’m not sure why you think “reporters should have discovered the 9/11 conspirators”. The job of identifying terrorist conspirators, foiling terrorist plots, and everything else spy-related, for the most part, belongs to our intelligence community. And they were, for the most part, (and I’ll correct Pierre Something-or-Other from ABC here) ‘figuratively’ ” caught with their pants down”.

          • magus71 said, on September 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

            The press didn’t find Abu Ghraib. A soldier reported it to a superior officer. The press has reported on it enough to make it look like Auschwitz, though.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on September 11, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Mike, can you explain why the 9-11 responders deserve better treatment than the members of our military?

    • magus71 said, on September 11, 2011 at 10:13 am

      According to Mike, just about anyone does. Even criminals and layabouts.

      • dhammett said, on September 11, 2011 at 11:24 am

        Even the military does. . .

        Maybe the US government can explain why it was so slow to compensate Vietnam War vets who had been exposed to Agent Orange (dioxin ) in the line of duty.
        The US presence in Vietnam ended in 1973, yet it was 18 years(that’s ‘eighteen years’) , “In 1991, [that] the US Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act, giving the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to declare certain conditions ‘presumptive’ to exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin, making these veterans who served in Vietnam eligible to receive treatment and compensation for these conditions.” Wikipedia “Agent Orange”.
        Eighteen freakin’ years!
        . . . . . . . . .
        Tell me if thegovernment and our military seem to think ” the 9-11 responders deserve better treatment than” our soldiers. Read below.

        http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=2896907&page=1

        “It was a sentiment LTG Kiley echoed later at a press conference, ‘[Soldiers say], ‘Hey sir, you know, I was living in Iraq and now I’m living here. Life is good.’”

        We should be proud of our soldiers for their service to our country. It’s no surprise they’re willing to put up with such conditions and remain strong and positive. But the WR situation is certainly not a situation the Veteran’s Administration ,the US Government or the US taxpayer should be proud of. Is it?

        • magus71 said, on September 12, 2011 at 1:20 am

          “Even the military does. . .

          Maybe the US government can explain why it was so slow to compensate Vietnam War vets who had been exposed to Agent Orange (dioxin ) in the line of duty.
          The US presence in Vietnam ended in 1973, yet it was 18 years(that’s ‘eighteen years’) , “In 1991, [that] the US Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act, giving the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to declare certain conditions ‘presumptive’ to exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin, making these veterans who served in Vietnam eligible to receive treatment and compensation for these conditions.” Wikipedia “Agent Orange”.
          Eighteen freakin’ years!”

          Mike’s argument is that we asked for it by signing up.

          • dhammett said, on September 12, 2011 at 7:13 am

            There should be an easy way to test that opinion, if that is indeed what he argues. Perhaps we could delve into the history of treatment of service personnel before the army became voluntary and compare the state of affairs then to the situation since the volunteer era began. If government screwed returning servicemen in both situations, then the question of whether soldiers asked for it or not is sort of irrelevant.
            I
            Is there a clause in papers the new volunteer signs that says he absolves the government of any responsibility for how he may be treated, if he’s seriously wounded and returned to the States and put under VA care for an extended time? His signing would be good evidence that he “asked for it”. Or at least acquiesced to it.

  5. FRE said, on September 11, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I also find it shocking and alarming that so little has been done to help the responders to 9/11 deal with their resulting health problems; that is inexcusable behavior for a supposedly civilized country. It is also inexcusable to ignore military service related health problems.

    Here are letters to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald that address other aspects of our response to 9/11:

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/letters/all-people-entitled-to-freedom-and-hope-20110911-1k4da.html


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,916 other followers

%d bloggers like this: