September 22, 2009

Rachel talks to native South Carolinian Eugene Robinson about the sorry state of South Caronlina's education and health care systems in contrast to the attitudes of their politicians who are all opposed to health care reform.

MADDOW: We‘ve had that lot of reaction to our report last night about the appalling new data out of South Carolina that read like a statewide cry for health care reform.

Last night, we reported that South Carolina has among the country‘s worst women‘s reproductive health care. Rates of teen pregnancy, low birth weight infants, and infant mortality that are among the highest in the country. The rate at which young women in South Carolina received the important and effective HPV vaccine is also among the lowest in the country.

But wait, there‘s more—and it‘s all bad. The state has the fifth highest rate of obesity. It has the highest stroke death rate of all states in the country, and has maintained that distinction for five decades. It has the second highest death rate for oral cancer. The life expectancy in South Carolina is the third worst in the union.

If Governor Mark Sanford, for example, decided to move to Argentina permanently, he would be among people expected to live at least a year and a half longer than South Carolinians are—in Argentina.

Yes, South Carolina needs better health care. And to get it, it may need some civil servants who are slightly more interested in getting that for the state.

Governor Sanford, considered just a year ago a possible presidential contender in 2012, led the fight to turn down stimulus funding from the federal government, shunning federal unemployment benefits when South Carolina had the second highest rate of joblessness in the country. We should‘ve seen that as a symbol.

And that was all before he offered this fine moment in leadership.


GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I‘ve been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a—what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. About a year ago, it sparked into something more than that. I have seen her three times since then during that whole sparking thing.


MADDOW: After that performance, the Department of Homeland Security temporarily took away Governor Sanford‘s homeland security clearance, because they thought what the rest of the country thought—this man is not balanced.

And then there‘s South Carolina‘s senator, Lindsey Graham, who last week at President Obama‘s speech came dangerously close to clapping for the president but who has otherwise fought health care reform tooth-and-nail.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: People have tried this model in other countries. The first thing that happens—you have to wait for your care. And in socialized health care models, people have to wait longer to get care and the government begins to cut back on what‘s available because of the cost explosion.


MADDOW: South Carolina‘s other senator, of course, “Senator Waterloo,” Jim DeMint, a man who perhaps more than any other senator has staked his current career on killing health reform.


SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: We must stop this government takeover of health care. Friends, this is a critical battle for the heart and soul of America, and for freedom itself.


MADDOW: And then there‘s this guy, South Carolina‘s own personal metaphor for things are good just like they are.

It‘s one thing to make the case against the country fixing something if in your state you‘re doing great on your own. But if your state is a disaster area on its own, it is quite another thing to throw yourself in the way of what you more than anyone need for help.

Joining us now is a proud South Carolinian, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and associate editor for the “Washington Post.” He‘s also an MSNBC political analyst.

Gene, thanks for being here.


MADDOW: Is there a connection, or a lack of a connection between South Carolina‘s bad health care outcomes and how violently opposed South Carolina‘s politicians are to health reform?

ROBINSON: It‘s—it is, I think, you‘d have to call it a lack of a connection. It‘s amazing, you know? We don‘t have any health care and we don‘t want the government giving us any, by God. It‘s amazing.

You know, it is a problem. South Carolina has a lot of poverty—especially a lot of rural poverty, but there‘s urban poverty, as well. And all that comes with urban and rural poverty, both black and white. And, you know, it‘s just the sort of reforms that are being talked about that perhaps could begin to move the needle on some of these awful indicators that South Carolina has had for decades.

But our representatives, except one, most of—most of our elected representatives here in Washington are dead set against it.

MADDOW: Well, let me ask you the awkward question about what you‘re just alluding to there. African-Americans are disproportionately affected by poor health care. Obviously, poor Americans are, as well. And poor definitely straddles the race line in a lot of states, including South Carolina.

But here‘s a picture of what South Carolina‘s political representation looks like in Congress right now. And it is—it is all white except for James Clyburn.

Is race and race and representation a factor in South Carolina‘s bad health outcomes but also its politics about health?

ROBINSON: Well, I—sure. I mean, just to ask the question flatly, yes, it is. Now, is it same kind of factor that it was when I was growing up and Strom Thurman was our senator and students were fighting and dying in a demonstration in my town over a segregated bowling alley in 1968? No, it‘s not bad. And, in fact, I am struck when I go home to South Carolina and at seeing black people and white people together in integrated settings in a way that I never would have seen before.

That said, Jim Clyburn, the one African-American representative who happens to be in the majority whip in the House, which gives him an awful lot of clout is—talks about these health issues all the time and has for years and years. He is—he is aware in very specific terms of what the situation is. It is that faces poor people in South Carolina.

And Jim, frankly, Joe Wilson was best known in the state before he became a U.S. representative, when he was in the State Senate, as one of the last seven diehard state senators to oppose taking the Confederate flag down from the state house.

MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC political analyst—I believe when I talk to you about this, Gene, that if people know more about how bad the health care outcomes are in South Carolina, there will be more of a push for South Carolina politicians to want health reform. You make me believe that. Let us hope it is true.

ROBINSON: Let‘s hope that it is.

MADDOW: Thanks, Gene. Nice to see you.

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