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Put war money toward kids' health

November 11, 2007|By JONATHAN BURRS

Have you ever taken time to contemplate what life would be like if we lived in a society governed by elected officials who actually lived up to the moral standards they routinely proclaim and often pretentiously publicly exhibit?

This was the question I found myself asking when I began to delve through all the political rhetoric, the opinions, and perspectives of individuals both for and against the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2007.

While my initial thoughts were to spout off and blast supporters of this bill as bureaucratic liberal manipulators using the emotions and natural affection Americans have for children, in order to sway public opinion in support of a bill containing significant loopholes, I concluded it would be a waste of time. Instead, I decided to focus on what I consider to be the power points of the bill, what I would do differently and ultimately present one or two viable alternatives.

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To summarize, Congress passed drastic expansions to S-CHIP (state-sponsored children's health insurance), enrollment eligibility covering children with higher family incomes. Supporters of the bill suggest as many as 9 million additional children will be eligible for insurance coverage with the additional $35 billion requested funds over the next five years. The supplementary funding is to come from increased federal sales tax for packs of cigarettes.

President Bush vetoed the bill, citing coverage of children in families that "should" be able to afford health insurance. An attempt to override the president's veto fell short.

So what exactly is the president's problem? He has no difficulty asking Congress for $195 billion so the military can fight his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008. Surely, as the moral leader he proclaims to be, he should have no concern with supporting H.R. 976, right? After all, the funding is coming on the backs of people who probably don't support the bill. And considering the fact Bush is an avid runner who does not smoke, why should he care? This is about making life better for more children, right?

I submit these questions: Why didn't Congress simply approve funding for the wars in the Middle East for $7 billion less than what the president asked for in order to provide the necessary funds for H.R. 976 and tell the president if he really needs the $7 billion to get it some other way?

Wouldn't it be more equitable to increase the federal sales tax on each gallon of gasoline sold by 4 or 5 cents, which would generate more than enough revenue to fund expansions to CHIP and other social and educational programs desperately needed, such as the "No Child Left Behind" program?

How realistic is it to fund H.R. 976 by increasing taxes on packs of cigarettes, a tax that could be avoided by smokers and consequently cause a funding deficit? What is the contingency plan if taxes do not meet their projected income?

Although Democrats control both houses in Congress and often publicly chastise the Bush administration for the debacle in Iraq, they have proven to be unwilling to challenge funding of the war. Chalk it up to D.C. politics, campaign promises gone awry, spinelessness or sheer incompetence, but the Democrats have failed to come through for the American people in doing all they could have done to influence a troop withdrawal in Iraq.

The Republicans, on the other hand, continue to fail the American people by providing inadequate leadership and determining ways to implement a health care policy that would make life better for more American children.

While I agree with U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's analysis regarding H.R. 976 as being a crucial step toward universal health care, I disagree with that being the reason for him not supporting it.

The most powerful parts of H.R. 976 are that it provides affordable health insurance to more children in need of insurance coverage and moves the U.S. closer to offering universal health care. However, the proposed method of funding is based on flawed logic.

As the self-proclaimed world's only superpower, offering universal health insurance should be a matter of fact, not one of opinion and debate.

Large corporations that do not offer the most affordable health insurance to all levels of employees should be subject to an additional tax for each employee who enrolls a child in CHIP.

Or if the day comes when universal coverage is available, we should tax those corporations for employees who opt for universal insurance coverage over the company offered plan.

If I were running for president, the first thing I would do is to determine how to withdraw the U.S. military from Iraq within my first term, preferably in three years or less.

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