Remember the phrase “compassionate conservative?â€ If you can’t remember, that’s OK, because that oxymoron has died several deaths already, in the sands of Iraq, the floodwaters of Katrina, and the classrooms of schools Left Behind.
And there’s one more death on the way: our compassionate conservative President is threatening to veto S-CHIP, the proven and popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program that has won wide and deep bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate.
In the witty lead of this weekend’s Christian Science Monitor: “President Bush heads into only the fourth veto of his presidency with most of America’s health establishment and nearly two-thirds of the Congress arrayed against him.â€
Mercy. Maybe this compassionate conservative hasn’t heard about the families of four who make less than $41,000 a year and can’t afford health insurance.
Maybe he hasn’t heard that it covers 10 million uninsured children.
Maybe he doesn’t know that these children have no health insurance.
Maybe he doesn’t know that the $35 billion needed for these children is a tiny fraction of the cost of the war.
Maybe he hasn’t read his Bible: “Suffer the little children to come to me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.â€
Or maybe it is as a small-town Minnesota newspaper said: “After a six-year free-wheeling spending spree on the military, homeland security and bridges to nowhere, President Bush says he’s finally putting his foot down– squarely on the backs of the nation’s kids.â€
The majority of the faith community has been both active and unified on the need to reauthorized S-CHIP funding for poor children. But apparently this Word — whatever you do unto the least of these, you do to me — is not the same Word that enters Bush’s ears, especially when Big Tobacco is threatened by a 45 to 61 penny tax.
The Carpetbagger Report distills the central issue of how politics trump principles and good policy again.
At yesterday’s White House press conference, the president kept things unusually brief, answering questions for 30 minutes, during which he avoided practically anything of substance. It prompted Dana Milbank to speculate as to why Bush even gathered reporters in the first place.The answer is pretty simple: Bush called a press conference in order to read a lengthy opening statement about S-CHIP. The White House seems to think the president is going to get slammed on this issue, and this was something of a preemptive strike.
The situation is breathtaking. Bush opposes a bipartisan bill on children’s healthcare because it offers too much help to kids who lack insurance. Republican lawmakers want the bill, Republican governors want the bill, American families want the bill, medical professionals want the bill, and congressional Dems are desperate to pass the bill. Bush has not only vowed to veto, he’s arguing that Congress is “putting health coverage for poor children at risk.”
Even GOP partisans are calling the president on his lies. First, there was Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Hatch, who helped negotiate the compromise, said it is flatly untrue that the bill would cover children in households with incomes of as much as $83,000. A recent Urban Institute analysis found that 70 percent of the children who would gain or retain coverage under the Senate bill, which resembles the compromise, are in households with incomes below twice the poverty level, or $41,300 for a family of four.
“We’re talking about kids who basically don’t have coverage,â€ Hatch said. “I think the president’s had some pretty bad advice on this.â€
It looks like Bush isn’t the only one standing firm to put Big Tobacco ahead of children. Wide-stance Sen. Craig is his domestic (issue) partner on this.
Looking for good news? Proof that caring about the world pays off in actual lives bettered. . .
The United Nations Children’s Fund reports that: “For the first time since record keeping began in 1960, the number of deaths of young children around the world has fallen below 10 million a year.” In 1960, 20 million young children died, now that number is 9.7 million, which shows that there is still plenty of work to do.
What’s making the difference? Education on how to avoid diseases such as malaria and measles, and stronger economies, especially in China and India. Africa still lags the rest of the world, especially in the south and war-torn countries like Sierra Leone and Congo.
The Census Bureau’s annual social and economic data report on income, poverty and health insurance came out today, bringing mixed news about Americans’ unmet needs. On the plus side, the poverty rate fell from 12.6 percent to 12.3 percent — 490,000 fewer people living in poverty. On the minus side, the poverty rate was still 12.3 percent, or 36,460,000 people.
One thing that often gets lost when we talk about poverty is the human face of it. Poverty is not a percentage. It’s a little girl who goes to school when she’s sick because she needs the free lunch. It’s a father who knocks on a neighbor’s door to ask for food for his children. It’s a family of four living in a tiny, noxious FEMA trailer that bakes in the sun and trembles in the wind. It’s a daily state of privation and insecurity endured by 36.5 million Americans, and the fact that we accept it is a serious moral issue. The decline in poverty is good news for 490,000 people, but that is dwarfed by the bad news of 36.5 million people still unable to meet their needs. We need to remember that when we order our political priorities.
PS, the adequacy of the Census Bureau’s poverty threshold isn’t something to be taken as valid on its face, but that’s a topic for another post.
The ONE Campaign just released some exciting polling numbers on the values of New Hampshire voters coming into the 2008 elections. The bottom line: Democrats and Republicans support candidates who make fighting poverty a priority.
Especially interesting is the values language that resonated with voters across the political spectrum:
Democrats and Republicans agree that America has a moral obligation as a compassionate nation to help the world’s poorest people through foreign assistance. More than nine in ten Democrats (93%) and 84% of Republicans agree that when millions of children around the world are dying from preventable diseases and hunger, we have a moral obligation to do what we can to help. Similarly, Democrats (90%) and Republicans (85%) agree that it is in keeping with the country’s values and our history of compassion to lead an effort to solve some of the most serious problems facing the world’s poorest people.
This is more evidence of a trend FPL has been tracking for some time: the “values voter” isn’t necessarily the anti-abortion anti-gay marriage activist we heard so much about in 2004, but someone who is concerned about “compassion issues” such as poverty.
Organizations like ONE Vote will be working hard to make sure these issues–and creative approaches to addressing them– take center stage in campaign 2008. Clearly, the citizens of New Hampshire are willing to speak out on this issue; lets all hope that the candidates listen.