SCHIP: What About the Children, Mr. Bush?


Our dearest president George W. Bush has done many a foolish, destructive, and likely down right illegal thing during his tenure. To discuss them all would require volumes, and surely volumes there will be in the years to come once his presidency passes away as one hell of a historical speed bump. Perhaps his politicization of disasters and pain can best be summarized by merely watching his address to the nation about the Minneapolis bridge collapse, during which he took one minute to lament the collapse, and another 4 to lambaste Democrats in Congress for raising taxes, creating budget deficits, and all but failing to stop that bridge from falling down. We should be used to this, and perhaps we have become too used to this behavior, and the president is very aware of this fact.

We have become so accustomed to incompetency and abuse that our president has decided to resist a bill supported by nine out of ten Americans, because he knows that in the end we will not do a thing — cannot do a thing — and probably will not even notice. Our president has decided to veto only his third bill to stop the State Children Health Insurance Plan from passing. This plan, ironically, one of the most successful and appreciated policies during his governorship my home state of Texas, provides health insurance to children who qualify for neither Medicaid nor can afford health insurance themselves. This program could potentially serve 9 million children in the country, and our president will veto it because he knows that we, the American people, are irrelevant in the political process.

Some say that SCHIP raises taxes, but the taxes are primarily on tobacco products. Others say that it taxes those who pay for private health insurance, a point which I have not seen substantiated elsewhere. If that is the case, perhaps this aspect of the policy should be changed. But, the core argument underlying the opposition is that it’s a move toward socialized health care. On the first point, so what? Argue against socialized health care then, but do not pretend that the phrase in and of itself is enough to damn a policy choice that would help 9 million children — and that has helped millions of children in the past with great success and no harm to private insurance firms. As a second point, it is arguable whether SCHIP even counts as socialized health care in the sense meant by individuals such as Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). It provides for those who, as Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) pointed out, have been failed by the markets.

As a former recipient of CHIP in Texas, I can say I saw it function. Dental care and optometry, completely out of my family’s economic range without CHIP, were provided by the program before it was gutted at the end of Governor Bush’s tenure. Congress needs to utilize its veto override power to remind the president that he serves the people, not his political interests, and to show the people that this reign of Democratic and Republican failures are over. It would be a reminder to the American people that the policies of the past 8 years are not the norm, that their voice matters, and that they should not be used to this behavior from their elected officials. Congress should ask Mr. Bush, “What about the children, Mr. Bush? Are your politics more important than them?”