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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

October 18, 2007

 

Killing Sick Children

Although I truly hate to use words so frequently misused by the Bush administration, here goes: The SCHIP bill deserves an up and down vote and the President should bend to the will of a Congress which has come together, with a huge bi-partisan majority, to pass it. The majority, including a decent number of the GOP minority - those who haven't been held hostage by their party's purse strings control by the Bushies - did sit down with the democratic majority and try to get something done as an important piece of legislation came, and now may have gone forever.

The following will be the Bush response (if it hasn't happened already):
"The Democrats won't sit down and negotiate."

It's bull.

The Democrats and their GOP counterparts who voted along with them failed in their attempt to change the minds of an additional 24 Republican Representatives to get the SCHIP bill done, in spite of the Bushco veto. In the end, they fell only 13 votes short. The Senate passed the bill veto-proof. And in the end, the Bushies will come out in force: On the Sunday talking head shows; on Fox News; on every MSNBC show not hosted by Keith Olberman, and will say that the SCHIP bill wasn't passed because the Democrats failed to compromise. It's the same tact they brought to the American people when the Democrats took over a very slim control of both houses of Congress in relation to the Iraq war, the war on terror, Education and any and every other policy they wanted passed into law.

"The Democrats don't support the troops if they don't give the President everything he asks for to win the war,"
"The Democrats don't support the war on terror if they don't acquiesce to allowing the President to spy on Americans and break the FISA law,"
"The Democrats don't support our children if they don't allow the President's brother, Neil Bush, to make lots of money on No Child Left behind."

As former New York Yankee great, Yogi Berra said, "It's like Deja Vu al over again."

And here's the cry of the great minority who got their way today as the SCHIP bill was defeated:

"SCHIP stands for Socialized, Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents."
-Representative Steve King (REPUBLICAN-IA)

There can be no doubt (as if there ever was) that getting rid of the SCHIP bill was the only conclusion that the President and his Congressional cronies wanted. And thee can be no doubt that the reasons were these (in order of importance:
1- To show the world that president Bush, in spite of losing both houses of Congress in 2006, is still in charge and can still get his way all the time;
2- That the failure of the SCHIP bill was nothing but a political issue to most of the Republican party; and
3- The Bush "base" of "haves and have mores", which include the big money health care insurance giants, were given their gift of no health-care-for-the-needy-unless-we-get-paid

And statement like Rep. King's is the proof. In the end for those like King, it was more important to blast Hillary Clinton and associate her with another failed health care effort than it was to get health care to 10 million of our neediest citizens.

"Americans are tired of the rhetoric. They're tired of the political games, and they want us to find a way to work together."
-House Minority Leader John Boehner (REPUBLICAN-OH)

But in the end, all that us Americans are getting from the GOP is their rhetoric. Nothing will get done for the American people as long as there are enough Republicans who follow this president this blindly.

Here's to the 44 GOP Congressmen who crossed the aisle to do what was right for the American people; and how dare the two Democrats who voted against this bill.

And in the long run, we all know that protecting American children, and adults, from disease will save money, including President Bush and his administration.

"Denying healthcare to those in need only RAISES health care costs in the long run,"
-Kerry Weems, the Acting Administrator Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services , the guy who runs the SCHIP program

They know it, too!

Seven billion dollars per year over five years - a small increase compared to other Bush expenditures - would have funded this bill. And it would have been funded with an increase in a tobacco tax. And if my memory serves me correctly, the big tobacco states vote overwhelmingly for the GOP. How's that for even more proof that political preference overrules the well-being of our children every step of the way?

In order to get the bill its veto-proof majority in the Senate, the Democrats gave in to the demands of far Right winger Senators such as Orrin Hatch (REPUBLICAN-UT) and Charles Grassley (REPUBLICAN-IA). Let's face it, in the end, if it was good enough for those two, it should have been good enough for those of the farthest reaches of the GOP. At least politically speaking, it wasn't.

Seventy-five to eighty percent of the nation's people polled are in favor of passing the SCHIP bill into law. We all know that it's nothing but politics and kow-towing to their true "base" that has left this bill broken and beaten.

When the agents of the GOP (Fox News; Rush Limbaugh; etc.) come out and "Swift-Boat" Graeme Frost, the 12-year-old who is the unofficial poster child of SCHIP, we know how bad it is for them and we know that their aim is nothing but power, money and politics.

The Democrats have an obligation to keep trying to pass this bill and keep trying to make it veto-proof. And if they can't, in the end, those who oppose it must pay the political price.

-Noah Greenberg


REPUBLICANS AGAINST KIDS, IRAQ VETS AND THE PLANET
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

On October 18th the Democrats in Congress acknowledged they would not have enough votes from Republicans to override President Bush’s veto of SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) which provides health care to children whose parents are uninsured or under-insured. Although many Republicans in both the House and the Senate have voiced their unhappiness with the Presidential veto, they are unwilling to override his veto. The Republican argument against expanding the SCHIP budget is that it will “lead to socialized medicine.”

Socialized medicine is when everyone, regardless of income, has health insurance. The U.S. is the only western nation that does not have socialized medicine.

On October 17th Bush gave his own rationale for keeping kids from having health care: “Sometimes the legislative branch wants to go on without the president, pass pieces of legislation, and the president can then use the veto to make sure he’s a part of the process. And that’s what I fully intend to do. I’m going to make sure. And that’s why when I tell you I’m going to sprint to the finish, and finish this job strong, that’s one way to ensure that I am relevant. That’s one way to ensure that I’m in the process. And I intend to use the veto.”

Bush is denying health care to needy kids to secure his “relevancy?” In his seven years as president, Bush has executed fewer vetoes than almost any other president. Just five: he twice vetoed stem cell research that could save millions of lives and vetoed two different Democratic proposals for a time line to withdraw our troops from Iraq. Now he’s vetoed the SCHIP expansion.

Bush is staking his “relevancy” as a president on keeping lives from being saved: our soldiers in Iraq, the sick in America and now, sick kids. During *his* presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt staked *his* relevancy on making sure all Americans had access to money and food by instituting food stamps and Social Security programs. Perhaps Bush could take a page from FDR’s book on relevancy: saving lives versus taking them.

Of course the President has had help with the SCHIP debacle. While some well-respected Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have called Bush’s veto of SCHIP “misguided,” others have been part of a vicious smear campaign of sick kids and their families. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was at the helm of a smear campaign against 12-year-old Graeme Frost and his younger sister. The two were nearly killed in a car accident that left them both brain damaged and SCHIP has been their lifeline to health care.

The program is for families that cannot afford health insurance for their children. However many children with pre-existing health conditions are denied health care by insurance companies. This was the case for the Frosts, but Republicans insisted that they had a “nice house” (the father has a word-working business). Apparently that means you don’t deserve health care for your kids.

The family is *not* destitute–just hard-up because of the costs of caring for the two children with dramatic special needs. But while Democrats used the family as an example of the problems families face with health care, Republican Congressmen and conservative talk show hosts and columnists went wild–*attacking the children.* Apparently if you don’t go bankrupt from medical costs–the single leading cause of bankruptcy in America–then you are not really needy.
Is it essential that kids be on the streets before we help them? Because that is how the Republicans have framed this argument.

Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin have been the most vicious. Limbaugh–himself caught in a drug scandal last year–insisted the Frost children were “faking” their brain damage. (He had previously asserted that actor Michael J. Fox, who has the most severe form of Parkinson’s Disease, was faking his tremors to get the stem cell research bill passed.)

Malkin carried her attack on the Frosts and other SCHIP families (like that of two-year-old Bethany Wilkerson, who was born with a serious heart defect) so far as to assert that there really aren’t any truly poor people in America worthy of government aid.

“Are there even a thousand people in America who are truly poor–with running sores?” Malkin queried.

America isn’t the developing world, it is the third wealthiest nation in the developed world. On a trip last week to Cairo, my sister saw a woman in the advanced stages of leprosy lying in the street. *She* had running sores. Because in the developing world, governments do not care for their poor and sick. In the developing world, governments are uniformly corrupt and people are left on their own to suffer and all-too-frequently, die.

Is *that* the standard the Bush cohort wants to set for America? Withdraw government services so people *are* lying in the streets with running sores? Is *that* what Republicans want? One of the clearest distinctions between developed nations and developing countries–what used to be called the First World versus the Third World–is that developed nations can, should and in most cases *do* take care of their most vulnerable citizens. Since the Bush Administration took office, the President and his cohort have done everything they can to orchestrate a reversal of this code of ethical responsibility for the citizenry. The SCHIP debacle is just one of many instances where Bush has put his “relevancy” before the needs of Americans.

More than 80 percent of Americans are in favor of SCHIP expansion. More than 75 percent believe that some form of socialized medicine is okay. These poll numbers include Democrats and Republicans. The expansion–$35 billion over five years–is what we spend in Iraq in two months.

Iraq war vets have been another target of Republicans, who have rhetoric about support for the troops in Iraq, but previous Bush vetoes prove otherwise. Republican hate radio, with Rush Limbaugh and others at the helm, has made a new career out of bashing soldiers who come back from Iraq with their legs blown off and say the troop surge isn’t working.

In the weeks before Limbaugh took on a 12-year-old and a two-year-old, he was attacking wounded and disabled Iraq veterans, calling them “phony” soldiers because they now choose to speak out on the war and also demand health and disability benefits in the wake of their incapacitation. Many Iraq vets are living in their cars, homeless; thousands of others are being denied benefits.

The Bush Administration has repeatedly stinted on benefits to Iraq veterans. Last month a scandal erupted when National Guard troops who endured the longest deployment in the entire war were denied benefits. (That latter instance was reversed by the Pentagon with the intervention of Congressional Democrats.)
Republicans have never been friends of the poor and needy. They have always been the party of money and privilege. But throughout the Bush Administration, the trend toward such exclusivity has reached an apex, aided and abetted by a slipshod press and a well-oiled conservative machine.

The result has been a dramatic increase in poverty in America since the Clinton Administration, when the percentage of people in poverty went down exponentially. Another result of the Bush “relevancy” agenda has been to increase the numbers of people who do not have health care by over 12 million.

The images from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina should have been a wake-up call to Americans about how little the Bush Administration cares about the poor–yet, it wasn’t. The current assault on children cannot and must not be ignored.

Nor should the Republican assault on the environment. When former Vice President Al Gore won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, Republicans went into high gear trashing Gore and the Nobel Committee. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called the award a “mistake” and said it should have gone to someone “worthy.” The White House–but not the President himself–congratulated Gore, yet hastened to add that it would not change its position on global warming.

Rush Limbaugh assaulted Gore with every weapon in his arsenal. Hannity and Combs decried the award as the fall of civilization as we know it. The spin is still going on.

That 3,000 scientists shared the Nobel with Gore seems to escaped Republicans. Scientists the world over are in agreement and a quick scan of Google earth can show the quickly receding Arctic icecaps. It’s 80 degrees in Philadelphia in mid-October and we’ve only had rain three times in two months. Gore’s win was an assertion by the most respected body in the world that his work over the past seven years was essential to the preservation of the planet.

But when the Bush cohort isn’t bashing kids or Iraq vets, they’re bashing the planet.

A message of hate and hopelessness lies at the core of the Republican Party and its current leadership. Kids are to blame for being sick or their parents are to blame for not being wealthy enough to pay for exorbitant medical costs. Soldiers from Iraq whose legs have been blown off are “phonies” if they speak out against the war and don’t deserve benefits. The planet is dying due in large part to American industry and wastefulness, but that’s someone else’s problem, or maybe Al Gore just made it up with the help of 3,000 scientists.

This is the message the Republicans have for America: their own mismanagement of the country, the war and the planet is in no way to blame for the problems we have now. Rather it is the fault of sick kids, amputees from the war and Al Gore, the wannabe president and perennial spoil-sport trying to take SUVs away from deserving rich people who bought them with their tax cuts.

Many Americans still believe Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin are presenting facts. But the actual facts can be seen if we just look outside our own front doors.
I live in a mostly poor and wholly struggling neighborhood where the two local elementary schools have no libraries or computers and I had to open my own animal shelter because there are so many abandoned pets on the streets. Some of my neighbors joined the National Guard to get an education. They are in Iraq now. Some of my neighbors have SCHIP because their kids have asthma and other illnesses and they don’t have health care. All of my neighbors are struggling in an economy that benefits the rich and penalizes the poor and working poor.


Unless you are in the top two percent of wealth in America with no sons or daughters serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, you are worse off than when Bush took office. Your stocks or IRA is worth less. Your house, if you still have one, is worth half of what it was worth in 2000. Your chance of collecting Social Security if you are under 55 is nil, because the Social Security surplus was funneled into the Iraq war.

The air you breathe and the water you drink are more dangerous because the Bush Administration has eviscerated the clean air and water acts that were in place for years. Your child is less likely to go to college or have health care. Your new baby is twelve times more likely to be born into poverty.

These are the facts. Bush might want relevancy to be his legacy, but what is much more likely is that he will be known for leading the country into a war it couldn’t win and that he refused to help sick kids who needed help.

If the Republicans get their way, as they continue to do despite what Americans want or need, soon we will indeed have the kind of poverty Michelle Malkin says is the only real poverty. What a sad day for our nation’s kids, our nation’s soldiers and our planet. The 2008 election cannot come soon enough. The question is, how much more damage will be wrought by this Administration and their Republican cronies in the interim? And what can we do to stop them?


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-Noah Greenberg