Friday, September 21, 2007

New Game: Sound Bite Detector- SCHIP

I'd like to introduce a new game in Fannie's Room. It's called, Sound Bite Detector. This tool dissects what politicians are really saying when they speak in public. And by dissect, I really mean "interpret" what lies behind the sound-bites.

As you may or may not know, Congress is in the midst of trying to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover more children. SCHIP is a national program, administered by states, for families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid yet not enough to be able to afford private insurance. This proposal is in response to high levels of children in the US lacking health insurance. Congress wants to expand this program. The Bush Administration doesn't.

[Sound-bite detector, on. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP]

Bush says about the proposal:

"Unfortunately, instead of working with the administration to enact this funding increase for children's health, Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know will be vetoed. One of their leaders has even said such a veto would be, quote, 'a political victory,'"

By that he really means, "Congress, ignore your constitutional duties to create legislation and just write the bill the way my administration wants the bill to look, mkay? If you don't let my administration, the Executive Branch of the government, make the laws, then my administration won't execute the laws."

Also note the use of the passive voice when talking about the bill that Democrats "know will be vetoed." As though a magical veto-machine, and not Bush, will veto this bill that would expand health insurance for children.

Democrats, of course, charged back that they're not merely playing a political game and that they do care about children.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan says:

"We were coming together in a bipartisan way to be able to give more children, American children, the ability to get their health-care needs taken care of."

And by explicitly using the phrase "American children," Sen. Stabenow probably wants everyone to know that she means the children of American citizens, and not "illegal aliens." Always an important distinction in determining whose children, exactly, should have their health care needs taken care of. Save the childrens! Unless, of course, they don't really belong here.

Now, the events and political talk surrounding this bill could very well be some political game. But I also think it's valid for Democrats to point out Bush's false claim of being a "compassionate conservative" who cares about families and children. Especially considering that almost every thing he's done while in office has been the antithesis of compassionate.

Further, Bush claims that instead of expanding the children's insurance program:

"I believe the best approach is to put more power in the hands of individuals by empowering people and their doctors to make health care decisions that are right for them."

What a great theory. In theory, anyway. People can say they want to go to this doctor or or that doctor all they want- and that they want to make this decision or that, but if they don't have the money to pay for it, do they really have a "choice"? No. They'll be stuck using emergency rooms as their primary care "option."

So, what Bush really means in the above quote is "let's not socialize children's health care any more than it already is."

Which is fine, but what are you going to do about those whose parents can't afford health care? What is your alternative plan to "care for the children"?

The bill, which is also supported by many Republicans, will pay for the expansion with an increase in the cigarette tax. Hmmmm, raise the cigarette tax and thereby discourage some people from smoking, to pay for more health care for children. Sounds like a win-win deal to me. Except..... Bush opposes this tax increase. Ohhh, right. Those pesky tobacco companies probably don't like this proposed tax hike. And we all know that profits of tobacco companies should always trump public health considerations.

Interestingly, Bush says he will veto the proposal because it will "raise taxes on working people."

And, by that he really means the proposal "will raise taxes on working people who smoke and the hard-working executives of tobacco companies." Let's be clear about this instead of scaring blue-collar folk everywhere with the specter of an income tax raise!

So, to sum all of this up our politicians are collectively saying:

Save the children! Save the children by expanding children's health insurance! Save the American children by expanding health insurance! Save the American children by expanding health insurance unless doing so would mean less money for tobacco companies that harm public health.

Save the American children by expanding health insurance unless doing so would mean less money for tobacco companies that harm public health and besides people should have the freedom to choose healthcare that they have no way to pay for!

See how empty campaign promises to "help children" are rarely put into practice when it comes down to poor and middle-class children and what politicians really think is important?

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