Friday, September 21, 2007

Getting Facts and Priorities Straight

When I heard the excerpt from the president’s press conference, I could only involuntarily cringe.

“Mandela is dead.”

That was news to me, to the reporters, to the world, and to Nelson Mandela.

I wonder if Mandela sent a duplicate of Mark Twain’s famous quip after a “scoop” that he had passed on: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

As it turned out, when the entire response is read, Bush was trying to make a point. Speaking to why there was not “instant democracy” in Iraq after Saddam, Bush said: I heard somebody say, ‘Where’s Mandela” Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.”

But that was not the main point of the press conference. That was the “State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) that will expire September 30 unless Congress renews it. The program is designed to assist poor families obtain basic health insurance for children. Bush and Congress both are in favor of the plan in general but disagree on the income level below which a family would be eligible to receive assistance. Bush proposed increasing the program by $1 billion per year for the next 5 years -- a “20% increase” over current spending. The legislation Congress is considering would, according to the president, increase spending between $35 and $50 billion by expanding eligibility to families earning $83,000.

Bush sees this as the first step toward a government-run health insurance and ealth-care system. Well, if the country doesn’t do something soon to reverse the continuing increase in the number of children without health insurance because the family income is higher than the current cut-off amount but too low to pay for health insurance, we will find that the costs of treating and caring for sick children will be much higher than the cost of basic preventive medicine and early treatment.

Yes the poor need help, but increasingly so do families that used to be described as lower middle class and even middle class.

It’s a matter of priorities. Ask the Iraqis; the Health ministry announced that Baghdad had its first chase of cholera -- apparently attributed to a lack of chlorinated water as chlorine can be usedn in car bombs.

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