Hardhearted veto is symbolic of GOP
President Bush vetoed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). This bill would substantially increase insurance coverage for children of the working poor, those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford private insurance. This coverage is paid for by an increase in the federal cigarette tax, an increase that has the added benefit of reducing the number of people, particularly adolescents, who smoke.
The president defends his hardhearted position on SCHIP by claiming that free markets are the best route to covering the uninsured. Unfortunately, the markets have not only failed to cover the uninsured, but create millions of additional uninsured each year. Further, the cost of care provided to the uninsured, primarily through emergency room services, is simply passed onto the rest of us through higher premiums.
The position of President Bush amounts to little more than the worship of free markets, a form of idolatry that pervades Republican thinking on virtually every domestic issue. From poverty to energy and housing to health care, their mantra is to give the free markets free rein. Though the markets have utterly failed to solve our pressing domestic challenges, they have resulted in the highest concentration of wealth in the fewest hands since the gilded age of the late 1800s. Given this, one must wonder if Republicans are more committed to the portfolios of economic elites than they are to the basic needs of our country.
No program draws a sharper distinction between the values of the Republican and Democratic parties than SCHIP. Where Democrats are willing to help poor children, Republicans turn their back; where Democrats advocate for the common good, Republicans champion the privileged; and where Democrats stand with working families struggling to make their way, Republicans stand with the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. SCHIP reminds of us the basic values of both parties and makes choosing between them a matter of conscience.