Friday, October 5, 2007

George Draws the Line

From a Washington Post editorial:

To say that George W. Bush spends money like a drunken sailor is to insult every gin-soaked patron of every dockside dive in every dubious port of call. If Bush gets his way, the cost of his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will soon reach a mind-blowing $600 billion. Despite turning a budget surplus into a huge deficit, the man still hasn't met a tax cut he doesn't like. And when the Republicans were in charge of Congress, Bush might as well have signed their pork-stuffed spending bills with a one-word rubber stamp: "Whatever."

So for Bush to get religion on fiscal responsibility at this late date is, well, a joke. And for him to make his stand on a measure that would have provided health insurance to needy children is a punch line that hasn't left many Republicans laughing.

Bush's veto Wednesday of a bipartisan bill reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program was infuriatingly bad policy. An estimated 9 million children in this country are not covered by health insurance -- a circumstance that should shock the consciences of every American. Democrats and Republicans worked together to craft an expansion of an existing state-run program that would have provided coverage for about 4 million children who currently don't have it.

I'm a social worker; I care about kids and know something about the ways that poor kids live.

Myself, I'm firmly in the upper middle class. I have nice stuff, a nice house, a reasonable job, decent clothes in my closet and good food in my refrigerator.

I mentor a 10-year-old girl who doesn't have these things. She spends most of her time shuttling between a housing project, where she and her mom live (illegally) with mom's boyfriend, and a ramshackle house dominated by a sometimes-abusive grandfather. This girl is adorable, spirited, fun, appreciative. And she's poor. Before she met me, she'd never been in a movie theater. Never played miniature golf. Never gone ice skating. These are simple and inexpensive pleasures that middle-class kids take for granted. Not so for poor kids; they don't expect these treats and rarely get them. They just cost too much.

A couple of months ago my little girl fell when she was playing in a sprinkler and broke her wrist. The next time I saw her, she was wearing a cast. How did her mom afford the care? The state of New Hampshire's S-CHIP program. Without it, this girl simply wouldn't have had insurance. Would she still have gotten treated? It's hard to say. Probably eventually, and begrudgingly, and at high cost to her mother, who wouldn't have been able to pay the bills in any case. Luckily for her, she had the low-cost S-CHIP insurance, and nobody had to worry about it. She got to get the same medical care that richer kids would get.

Enough said. We're spending $333 million a day on Iraq. And children's health insurance is where we're drawing the budgetary line?

My live-in David is a Republican, which makes him a big anomaly in my life. My sort generally don't mix with his sort. But I've learned quite a bit from him about how conservatives think, and, shocking to admit, not all of it necessarily appalls me. In fact, I get some of it. I agree with some of it.

This is what David says about the Washington Post editorial. It doesn't specifically address the S-CHIP veto, which David hadn't been following and didn't know about. But it does speak to how conservatives are feeling about this president. (Yes, I know. We dislike our president for different reasons, but not even David is against insuring poor kids.)

I'm a life-long Republican who leans towards the Libertarian end of the spectrum. Politically, I operate on the principle that one votes for a party, not an individual. The party you select mirrors, in the aggregate, your personal values and beliefs. It is the coherence and discipline of a party that generally ensures that it’s members operate (and vote) in an expected fashion.

Something sad has happened to the Republican Party in the last dozen or so years. First, they lost focus on what they ought to stand for – what their core supporters expected. There was less and less to distinguish them from Democrats. This resulted from the repeated “triangulation” beatings administered by Bill Clinton. Then they fell victim to the natural pitfalls of being the party decisively in power (think Democrats in the '80s).

Over time, the Republican Party has drifted further away from me. George W. Bush embodies this drift. I voted for him – twice. The second time without enthusiasm. He has demonstrated a shocking lack of conviction or purpose. President Bush has consistently approved ever greater government spending of money we don’t have. He has encouraged monetary policies (first under Greenspan and now Bernanke) that promote debt creation, asset bubbles, and currency devaluation. None of this helps to maintain a healthy middle-class, a necessary condition for a healthy democracy.

I have become disappointed in President Bush and disillusioned with the Republican Party.

1 comment:

DRPI said...

SnowDahlia - great blog! I like your observations and mix of topics.

Concerning government health insurance, the problem is that demand for benefits outstrips funding. Americans loves benefits - they just want someone else to pay for them. The solution so far has been to rely on the kindness of (foreign) strangers (the current accout deficit is running ~$2B/day). When foreign central banks and investors get a better offer, America is going to have to make some hard choices about what it can afford. Look at Britain:

"NHS deficit rises to over £1.3 billion
By Toby Helm, Chief Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:49am GMT 21/02/2007

NHS 'overspending by millions' on drugs

The NHS has slipped even deeper into debt over the last three months with the total deficit reaching £1.318 billion in the third quarter of this financial year, it was revealed today.

The figure rose from £1.179 billion in the second quarter - despite claims by ministers that they are bringing the NHS financial crisis under control."

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