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Children's health should be above adult political gamesmanship

October 21, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

At first I thought it was a decent gesture, providing a check-off box on our income-tax forms giving us the opportunity to contribute a buck to presidential campaigns.

I may have even participated a couple of times.

Today, campaigns have turned into such money-churning machines fueled by special interests that the check-off seems dismally quaint. The thought that a president could be elected purely on public funds without resorting to big-money powerbrokers is an idea whose time has passed.

That said, might there be better uses for the income-tax-form check-off box?

I'm getting too weary of politics to try to sort out all the games surrounding the children's health care controversy. No doubt, some Democrats are aiming high, hoping to inspire Republicans to cast politically damaging votes against the welfare of kids. They probably salivate at the thought of using those votes against Republicans in the next campaign.

Conversely, it is stupefying that lawmakers who have no problem spending billions to kill people overseas would balk at spending billions to save people here at home. And how can one be pro-life, yet refuse to give these young lives the care they need to flourish?

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Defending his vote against children's health care, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett sent out a press release saying that this bill "is a crucial step toward achieving (Democrats') ultimate goal of 'universal health care'..."

Perish the thought that one day everyone in this great nation might have health insurance.

I'll even stipulate that this bill may overreach and could possibly provide insurance to some kids whose families have access to private health insurance. I'll stipulate that some proponents of the bill do see this as a step toward socialized medicine, which I have serious problems with.

But my question is this: What in the blue blazes does any of this have to do with a poor child in a city ghetto or a rural trailer who is suffering because his parents can't afford a doctor?

Does that child continue to waste away simply because one party is worried that the other might get the upper hand? Apparently so.

There is validity in urging the government to spend our tax money wisely. But too often, "wisely" crosses the line into selfishness. Too many people don't want their "hard earned tax money" to be spent on anyone other than themselves.

Children's health is one case that is serious enough to tell these people, fine, you keep your hard-earned tax money. It will be up to a higher authority to determine what happens to your hard-earned soul. But it's time for the rest of us to move on.

If the government won't save these kids, give us the chance. Give us a box on our tax forms to check, and a blank space to indicate how much money from our tax return we would like to be directed toward children's health. The revenue might not be sufficient to pay for the whole program, but I'm betting it would at least close the gap between what the hard-headed Democrats and hard-headed Republicans are insisting upon.

I know there are people out there for whom every dollar counts. They would not be required to pay this "voluntary tax." I also know there are people out there for whom every dollar counts who will contribute anyway - maybe $5, or even $1. At the same time there will be people who are rolling in it who will still refuse to contribute a dime.

That's up to each individual conscience - but it also may serve to provide a valuable morality check that we could all use in this day and age.

There's also a difference between being told to pay a tax and being asked to pay a tax. I believe plenty of people who are against this particular children's health bill for whatever reason will, if asked nicely, ante up. I bet anything that Roscoe Bartlett would be one of them.

As important as an adult's health and nutrition are, children's are moreso. These are formative years that will often dictate health later in life. Money spent on a child's health now will subsequently be repaid in the form of fewer illnesses in later life.

Last week, our minister Helen urged the congregation not to let politics cloud how we feel about the 9 million kids who are uninsured and, knowing them as I do, I doubt any of them will.

It's a pity the sermon wasn't heard by the people who needed it most. Political gamesmanship is one thing when you're talking about judicial nominations or commodity subsidies.

But a child is not a pork belly. For the issue of children's health to even reach the stage where it becomes a political football is an unconscionable barometer of how depleted the national well of morality has become.

If the president can override Congress and Congress can override the president, at the very least there ought to be a financial tool through which those who care about the solutions to problems can override them both.

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