I try not to pay much attention to politics. I mean, I am interested in policy issues and problems in the world and things like that, but I don't have much interest in politics. It seems like professional wrestling, or middle class religion. But then, every once in a while, I'll read something that really makes me to scratch my head. And makes me get angry. And makes me want to care about politics.
Today was one of those days. I was reading the Times. And came across an article titled "Bush Is Prepared to Veto Bill to Expand Child Insurance." Here's the article. Apparently at issue is the Children's Health Insurance Program. Now, I'll admit upfront that before I read this article I did not know about this program. So I went to this government website to try to learn more. And apparently the goal of this program is to offer insurance to those under the age of 19 who come from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. And "too much" means earning more than $36,200. For a family of four.
According to the article, the program has been around for a decade, enjoys widespread support and insured nearly 8 million people last year. The program is set to expire September 30, so Congress is in the process of passing legislation to renew the program.
The program to insure children.
Who come from families of four making less than $36,200.
And our president is going to veto this bill. Why? Here's the quote from Tony Fratto, White House spokesman:
“The proposal would dramatically expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, adding nonpoor children to the program, and more than doubling the level of spending,” Mr. Fratto said. “This will have the effect of encouraging many to drop private coverage, to go on the government-subsidized program.”
I'm sorry. I try to be optimistic and positive on this blog, but what a fucking asshole. God forbid that "nonpoor children" have insurance. Nonpoor children. We're talking about families who make up to $36,200. Asshole! And, and, and: "it will more than double the level of spending" he says. This WaPo article says that the program has a $5 billion annual budget. And this bill seeks to increase funding by $35 billion over the next five years.
Okay, so let me do some quick math. The program costs $5bn annually, $25bn over five years, but Congress is looking to increase this to $50bn over five years. Asshole White House Spokesmen says this is too much; all Congress ever wants to do is spend money. Of course it's not a problem when Congress spends $70bn in FY2007 alone to fight George W. Bush's delusional war.
Yeah, yeah you Bush defenders out there (what are there, 20 of you left in the country?) will say I'm blurring the issue by comparing the relatively small amount it would take to continue a very successful program to the huge sums it is taking to run the abject failure in Iraq.
But assholes like Tony Fratto stay relevant for only so long. George W. Bush? Uhh, he's not going be in the White House much longer. And the next president won't be a Republican. So Tony Fratto will soon find himself unemployed. And if he gets testicular cancer before he finds new employment and a new insurance policy, and cannot independently qualify for private insurance because the insurance companies call his testicular cancer a "preexisting condition" that precludes coverage, then I'll care about what he has to say about the cost of health insurance.
That we do not have universal insurance now is not a matter of economics. It's a matter of lack of political will.
But here's the thing. Eventually the people will wake up. It might not happen this election cycle. Or even this decade. But eventually this country will have universal insurance. People don't want socialized medicine, they want socialized insurance. This successful Children's Program shows that the economics can work and make sense on some level. Now it's just about us as a country optimizing the allocation of priorities and resources. The country is finally coming to after a hazy period. People are ready for a new allocation of priorities and resources. Soon there will be a new person in the White House and that person will assign a group of smart thinkers to figure out how to scale the economics of the program, and they'll make universal insurance real.
Tony Frattos of the country, your days are numbered.