Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bush follows Castro's lead by sending doctors to Latin America

By Nancy Jane Moore

NPR reported today that Bush is copying Castro -- he's going to provide some doctors for poor people in Latin America.

Actually, this is part of what The Washington Post termed a "modest" initiative. Bush is going to send a Navy medical ship down to dock in 12 ports. Apparently they're going to see 85,000 patients and perform 1,500 operations. He's also putting some money into teaching Latin Americans to speak English and helping folks in some countries get a mortgage.

I don't object to good neighbor programs, but these are pretty small ones. I'm not sure helping 85,000 sick people is going to make much of a dent in the health needs of Latin America.

But it wasn't the size of the program that got me. It was the fact that a country that can't seem to take care of its own people is supposedly going to go help folks elsewhere. If the doctors on that Navy ship can handle 85,000 people, maybe we ought to put them in charge of taking care of the wounded from the Iraq war. So far all Bush has done for our injured troops is appoint a commission after five years of ignoring the problem.

And let's not forget the 45.8 million folks in the U.S. without any kind of health insurance coverage -- a figure that doesn't take into account the people who have lousy coverage or the amount of time that those with decent policies waste making sure the doctor they need is on the plan or arguing over whether something should be covered.

The English lessons will be a good thing, though. Except that the place they're really needed is here in the U.S., where we say we want immigrants to learn English, but are cutting back the programs. The New York Times -- in an article that, alas, is no longer available online for free -- reported Feb. 27 on how English for immigrant classes are disappearing and waiting lists for the existing ones are getting longer.

One good thing about money for English education in Latin America: It'll provide work for U.S. expatriates who want to support themselves by teaching English while living in other places. Hell, if you think about it like that, it's almost a jobs program.

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