"Truth about Bush's SCHIP veto doesn't match harsh rhetoric"
From the Baltimore Sun, of all places — a paper that I suspect just made Keith Olbermann’s list of “Worst Newspapers In the World” — here’s Grace-Marie Turner, founder and president of the Galen Institute, a free-market-oriented health policy research organization that I suspect just made the list of Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Free-Market-Oriented Health Policy Research Organization in the World”:
Is President Bush a liar who hates children? That’s what many of his critics now are asking. Why else, they say, would he refuse to sign a bill providing health insurance to poor kids?
Specifically, the president has vetoed a bill expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which was designed to provide health coverage to lower-income children. One nationally syndicated columnist went so far as to call Mr. Bush’s rationale in vetoing the bill a “pack of flat-out lies.”
This kind of rhetoric is wrong and misleads people about the facts of this important issue.
There is no debate over whether to reauthorize SCHIP so it can continue to provide insurance to needy children. The debate is about whether children in middle-income families should be added.
The president is absolutely right in insisting that SCHIP focus on its core mission of needy children. When SCHIP was created in 1997, the target population was children whose parents earned too much for them to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. The president wants the program to focus on children whose families earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In today’s dollars, that’s $41,300 a year.
About two-thirds of the nation’s uninsured children already are eligible for either Medicaid or SCHIP but aren’t enrolled. Raising the income threshold won’t solve this core problem. Congress should require states to focus on the 689,000 children who the Urban Institute says are uninsured and would be eligible for SCHIP if eligibility were limited to the $41,300 income level.
The other big problem is that many states are using SCHIP dollars to insure adults. Fourteen states cover adults through SCHIP, and at least six of them are spending more of their SCHIP dollars on adults than on children.
With this in mind, the Bush administration issued a ruling in August requiring states to demonstrate that they had enrolled 95 percent of eligible needy children before expanding the program.
Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?
But then, reason doesn’t factor into political rhetoric — where a failure to approve 40 billion of a requested 50 billion dollar increase is characterized as a 40 billion dollar cut to the program.
Which, of course, only makes sense to those who think themselves somehow existentially entitled to whatever it is they ask for.
No one doubts that SCHIP is a vitally important program for needy children, and that our nation needs to do a better job of helping working families afford health insurance. But giving the states incentives to add middle-income kids to their SCHIP rolls would prompt families to replace private insurance with taxpayer-provided coverage.
The goal of SCHIP should be to provide private coverage to uninsured children. If Congress would send the president a bill that does that, he says he would sign it in a minute.
The entire dustup over SCHIP has never been about the Frost family — except insofar as cynical Dems were willing to use an injured child already covered by the program as an emotional beard to demand an increase that would cover those making close to twice as much as the boy’s family.
Or, to put it another way, it was a carefully designed emotional appeal crafted by craven politicians looking for a stepping stone toward socialized medicine — providing incentives for the already insured to drop private healthcare in favor of healthcare paid for by tax dollars, and administered by a federal bureaucracy.
The backlash against those who “smeared” the messengers (who, given that the family was already covered, weren’t really the messengers for what it is supporters of the increase are demanding), therefore, represents the kind of faux outrage of the criminal caught red-handed who cries foul over the way his crime was exposed.
Hence, the defensive nature of the discourse — and the trajectory of the debate toward the emotional, with no regard for the substance of the issues actually under pressure.
Why canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t these debates ever work like this?
LEFT/DEMOCRATS: Ã¢â‚¬Å“OK, we know that the founders established a system of government that was supposed to be small and limited. They didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t plan on federal handouts. But history has since shown that certain situations rise to an unusual level of need, and require federal involvement. This program is one of them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
RIGHT/REPUBLICANS: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important to heed the foundersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ wishes for small government. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t continue adding programs to the federal budget. Where will it stop? We worry that it wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. This program is problematic because it runs counter to the type of government set out for the United States.Ã¢â‚¬Â
This SCHIP argument is not about who does or doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care about children. Christ. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about the proper role of government. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why the retorts from the Olbermanns of the world are so clueless at best, downright dishonest at worst.
If the left would at least acknowledge when its proposed programs do not fit in the intended government framework Ã¢â‚¬â€ that they go above and beyond, but are necessary because of such-and-such Ã¢â‚¬â€ the ensuing debates would be a lot less infuriating. But the left reliably skips that part every time. They proceed from the get-go as if everyone is operating in the same terrain, and pretend itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s thus merely a debate about the actual merits of various proposals.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a rhetorical approach that has gummed up the gears of our political discourse for more than four decades now. It has caused us all to waste a depressing amount of breath, time and energy, sitting here constantly arguing past each other, all because the left is sloppy/dishonest with the debateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most basic premise.
If only from the perspective of efficiency, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s maddening.
Well, if it’s any consolation, Tomas, it’s designed to be maddening.
You are dealing with those so impressed with their own presumed genius that they’ve given themselves license to use any means necessary to bring about their desired ends. Using a largely sympathetic press — and casting their political opponents as villains who hate for the simple pleasure of hating (hi, Mr Krugman!) — they are attempting to control public policy by way of rhetorical totalitarianism and cynical manipulation of the un- or ill-informed, a group to whom they both pander and empower.
Of course, once the “progressive” revolution achieves its ends — and soft socialism replaces the liberal democracy the founders envisioned — the “cream” will rise to the top, and a new class of elitist bureaucrats and politicians will take full control of the nannystate, just as they have long believed was their right.
Hell, it’s more than a right. It’s their destiny!
Which is why I recently purchased a plot of land in Idaho. And killed off any frog that may be endangered before some government flack surveys the land, declares it a protected area, and takes it from me.
For my own good.
Were George Orwell not already spinning in his grave, he’d be spinning in his grave.