Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

October 17, 2007

SCHIP and Smears

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 8:31 am

Crooks and Liars has a video of the discussion between Keith Olbermann and Paul Krugman about the right-wing attacks against Graeme Frost and Bethany Wilkerson. There are various things about the current SCHIP legislation that I don’t like, such as, I don’t think it should be funded solely through an increase in the cigarette tax. However, the reason for this is simple, cutting taxes or at least maintaining the status quo is a central tenet of the modern Republican party. The core lesson they took away from George H. W. Bush’s defeat in 1992 to Clinton is that a Republican should never raise taxes as shown by the whole “Read My Lips” debacle. Therefore, the only tax increases Republicans will accept are on so-called “sin” taxes, or those that punish a minority of people. The strategy works because the right-wing pundits wax ecstatic about it. It feeds into their whole mythology that Democrats want to tax various “freedoms” into non-existence and establish a nanny-state. I have to wonder if temporary compromises to obtain bipartisan support but a clear loser to single issue voters (who quickly forget where the money goes but are reminded daily of the cost) allows some battles to be won but makes the war that much harder to win.

As for this battle in particular, throwing 4 million children currently without health insurance under the bus because Republicans refuse any other type of tax increase is unsatisfactory. While the new SCHIP legislation is not perfect, I also recognize that it is that way for a reason; to get some of the more reasonable Republicans to come along although the implacable elements will still complain.

As an instrument of public policy, SCHIP works. The fact that it works is evidenced perfectly by Graeme Frost and Bethany Wilkerson. Frost suffered horrible injuries in an automobile accident, and because of SCHIP he was able to get the medical care he needed and his family didn’t go completely bankrupt in the process. The same is true for Bethany Wilkerson who was born with a heart condition. As Sicko explored, medical costs are the number one reason for bankruptcy in America and it happens even if you have health insurance.

Many pundits claim that the children shouldn’t have been used as political pawns. I generally respect that point of view. For example, I think children should be kept out of pro-life or pro-choice rallies. They don’t have enough life-experience and perspective to really know what their views on the issue are and shouldn’t be paraded about as if they do.  This line of thinking also applies to a number of other issues. However, for SCHIP, Graeme Frost has a right to talk about it, because he was directly affected by the legislation. He is the human being behind the statistic. If, the right, wants to pull out a child that was a recipient of the SCHIP program and was somehow wronged by it, that is also fair. It would also have been a valid criticism if the Frosts were “living-it-up” so to speak. However, outright lying about them is not acceptable and the act of publishing their home address crosses the line of decency and some would argue basic humanity.

October 10, 2007

SCHIP and Health Care

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 9:20 am

I went to an emergency SCHIP rally a few days ago.  Let me qualify this by saying, I haven’t done much protesting in my life.   In the past, I wouldn’t have gone.  However, George W. Bush vetoing this bill really hit home.  In any framework of justice, it is recognized that children are essentially innocent.   To the extent people blame those in poverty to their sloth and other vices, certainly those arguments do not apply to their children.  The poverty children find themselves in is no fault of their own, and society has generally accepted a burden to a child’s health and education to ensure the continuation of the nation and democracy.

Every child that doesn’t have health insurance represents a tear in the social contract.  I’m not especially concerned about the wild edge cases that opponents of the bill suggest.  Not being able to afford health insurance while making $80,000 a year could represent the reality of cost-of-living in a particular area.  In short, it is something to be addressed by looking at particular cases, not worst-case hypothetical scenarios.  If actual abuse arises, fine.  The funding can be revised in the future to address those concerns.  The alternative scenario is worse, if a child only receives medical attention by going to a emergency room, that represents a public policy failure.   $60 billion does not seem like too much to extend a working program by 5 years, especially considering other spending priorities.  As one protester put it, “Money for Health and Education, not Death and Occupation.”  That said, I do believe we need to establish a sustainable budget, which means reducing the debt and deficit spending.  However, I do not believe sacrificing the health of children is the option of first resort.

As George W. Bush points out, this is a slippery slop.  Although, I think that national health-care is a good idea generally also.  All the same, there are some prerequisites before establishing a national health care system as Bill Maher shows.

I do not believe that either health or education problems can be addressed without an added emphasis on personal responsibility.  It is not just personal responsibility; society needs to change some parts of the equation, but the desired societal outcomes will not be achieved without individuals stepping up and playing their part.  The underlying cultural dilemma is that we’ve become a passive consumerist society.  We go for the quick fixes and easy answers.  We turn to pills to cure depression rather than simply exercising.  Education is seen as something that teachers provide instead of the student’s effort in learning.  If the populace continues to see itself as consumers of society rather than members of it, it will stagnate and decay and nationalized health-care will be a long-term failure policy failure.

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