Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Fake's Progress

Editorial at the National Review:
Fervent gun-controllers and cynical political observers sometimes deride efforts to reform America’s mental-health system as a distracting, even unhelpful, answer to the problem of mass shootings. This is unfair, as no small number of young men who commit unspeakable acts of violence do indeed have diagnosable serious mental illnesses. But it is also ignorant, because fixing our mental-health system is also a response to everyday mass suffering — to the burden that serious mental illness presents for the 7 million or so Americans, many of them on the streets or in prison, who have serious illnesses, and the families and communities that want to help them.
Who's cynical, excuse me?

Or rather, who's opposed to fixing our mental health care system as a response to the suffering of seven million mentally ill Americans? It ain't me; I'm totally in favor; I just think gun control is needed as well. It's not anybody on the "left". It's not any Democratic presidential candidates, certainly, from Hillary Clinton, who is making mental health and substance abuse treatment a central part of her campaign, through Martin O'Malley, who has announced that he is "pissed" at the lack of action on gun violence and demanded better gun control and better mental health policy in the same breath, to Bernie Sanders, (more of a gun control advocate since 2013 than he was in previous years) who demands that mental health care be made available to all Americans regardless of income.

It is traditionally the conservative side that rejects mental health spending, ever since Ronald Reagan began tearing down the Carter Mental Health Systems Act as soon as he took office, beginning the era of abandoned mental patients living on the streets in which we're still living, and which is only a tiny bit improved since the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act got snuck into the 2008 financial stimulus program.

Marco Rubio? Had no record on the issue until after the Sandy Hook shootings, when he signed on to Debbie Stabenow's Excellence in Mental Health Act (or, as he prefers to say in his campaign material, introduced it himself, as if the other six Senators were just tagging along for the drinks).

Scott Walker? As Milwaukee County Executive campaigning for governor, working to cover up a horrifying story about abuse at county mental health facilities, although, as his deputy chief of staff wrote in an email at the time, "Nobody cares about crazy people." And privatizing mental health services. He had an unbelievably dismal mental health record at that point, which he has worked to repair somewhat as governor since Sandy Hook, passing a package of initiatives with a $28.6-million two-year price tag in 2014, which is not apparently too shabby, in line with progressive Wisconsin tradition, though it would obviously be much more effective if he hadn't also rejected the federal Medicaid expansion funds under Obamacare.

As a presidential candidate, though, he mentions mental health issues only as they relate to guns:
[o]pposed legislation in 2013 to expand background checks on firearm sales as a way to reduce gun violence, saying he preferred focusing on mental health efforts instead.
Ted Cruz? Hasn't said much that I can find, but after the Charleston murders seemed to think mentally ill people should be rounded up and put in preventive detention:
It’s sad to see the Democrats take a horrific crime and try to use it as an excuse, not to go after people with serious mental illness or people who are repeat felons or criminals
Donald Trump? Like most of the others, mentions mental health only in the context of opposing gun control legislation.
Well, these are sick people.  I mean, these are very, very sick people.  This has nothing to do with guns.  This has to do with the mentality of these people.
Or, of course, calling Obama a psycho for his failure to throw a quarantine around the entire continent of Africa during the Ebola crisis:
And J.E.B.? As governor of Florida,

Slashed every request for adult mental health

Bush's lowest spending priorities were for Florida agencies dealing with its most vulnerable citizens.
One embarrassing consequence of his lack of attention to social services agencies emerged in the days just before Bush left office when his secretary of the Department of Children and Families was fined and threatened with jail time for failure to provide enough beds to treat county jail inmates with severe mental illness. Records from the department showed that it had called repeatedly for funds for adult health and that Bush had slashed every request--in 1 year by 93% (Hunt, 2006; Rushing, 2006). To avoid court sanctions, the governor was forced to ask the Legislative Budget Commissions, an organization that authorizes appropriations when the legislature itself is not in session, for an additional $16.6 million for hundreds of new beds for these individuals.
Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p.107 , Dec 11, 2009
The fact is, care of the mentally ill remains, as it has been since Dorothea Dix in the 1840s, a progressive issue, in which conservatives take no interest. If you're a mentally ill person and you're not carrying a gun, they're just not going to notice you. And not even then: when it comes to action rather than talk, they don't show up: Republicans continually say there are alternatives to gun control, in improved mental health care and policing, but they won't pay for it, as they've shown again and again. So it's all just a fake, meant to deflect the broad public desire for gun control that rises every time one of these ghastly events occurs, and nothing more.

And they aren't on the whole willing to talk about mental health otherwise, and they're proving it in this campaign cycle. So the cynics are the National Review editorialists pretending they have something to offer on the subject.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


Victor said...

Pay for mental health?

Are you mad?

There are useless military project that our MIC wants to be paid for - whether the military actually wants that project become a reality, or not!

Besides, like the lam old joke goes, "If you think you need to go to a Psychiatrist, you MUST be crazy!"

Conservatives don't want to pay for regular health care, or accept Medicaid.

They don't want to pay for anything, except a military to protect us from invasions and terrorists.

Even while there's less and less worth protecting IN this failing and flailing country.

We used to lead the world in education, medicine, technology, science, etc.

And then along came Nixon and Reagan, and now the influence of conservatism has brought us back to the pack in a lot of those areas.

How do you cut education?
Why privatize it? Obviously, to make money for cronies, and soft places for politicians to land if they lose or tire of politics.

Why cut child nutrition programs?

You're poisoning the seed-corn, conservatives.

But you don't give a shit.

Feud Turgidson said...

Not everything said by GOP preznit candidates is awful, creepy, destructive and/or vile. Why, just today I learned that Scott Walker's pledging to bring in a new test for citizenship, complete with deciderers appointed by the preznit (him).

To me, it qualifies about as close to God's Work as can be that such a high mucky-muck GOPer takes such a bold step towards ensuring that absolutely every last American voter non-alabaster-complected skin not directly on teh payroll of the GOP will never again vote for Walker or indeed any Republican candidate for anything.

Thanks, Governor Walker!