This past summer, millions of Americans watched “SiCKO,” Michael Moore’s admittedly tendentious, although not inaccurate, exposé of the American health care industry. There is a palpable desire for health care reform in this country, and at least for once, Congress has taken notice.
The US House and Senate recently passed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a $35-billion initiative that would have provided health care to around 10 million middle class children lacking health insurance. And of course, in an attempt to reinforce stereotypes of the Republican Party as a mob of soulless, corporate lackeys, George W. Bush vetoed the bill. In a White House statement, President Bush brought out the usual GOP platitudes by stating, “I believe in private medicine,” while mentioning something or other about interfering with doctor-patient decisions. Somebody should probably let the big guy know that the SCHIP legislation doesn’t interfere with doctors, as those lacking health insurance, uh, don’t have doctors.
The Republicans have quite predictably resorted to trolling out the usual playbook to thwarting health care reform by closing their eyes, covering their ears and yelling, “Socialized medicine!” at the top of their lungs. Luckily for the American people, as well as millions of uninsured children, their rhetoric has worn thin. A Washington Post poll shows that approximately 72 percent of Americans support the SCHIP legislation. Which isn’t surprising, since it’s healthcare. For kids.
But George Bush didn’t just oppose SCHIP because it is “socialized medicine.” He also opposes it because new government programs cost money, and that means raising taxes. Clearly Americans don’t want to pay more taxes, because after all, the Bush administration has already exponentially raised taxes to pay for a war that experts estimate will cost up to one trillion dollars by its end.
What’s that you say? President Bush never raised taxes to pay for the war in Iraq, instead resorting to fiscally irresponsible deficit spending? Well, silly, that’s only because you are living in reality. In Bush World – which is a bit like Scarborough Country, but with fewer trees – wars pay for themselves in increased oil revenue. The only things requiring more taxes are scary liberal programs like health care. For kids.
What’s that, you have another retort? In President Bush’s first term, he proposed sending astronauts to Mars and building a space station on the moon. Well, you might have a good memory, but you’re forgetting another rule of Bush World. If increased spending creates a good opportunity for a photo op, then the spending doesn’t need to be mitigated by taxes. And we can all imagine how great President Bush would look in a space suit.
But don’t think President Bush has completely abandoned middle-class children lacking health insurance. In fact, he has pushed for a $15,000 tax deduction on families that can be used to pay for health care costs. Such a deduction is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a tax cut. A tax cut that does a great job of pushing Americans to buy low-cost, poor-quality health insurance, but does very little to lower costs or improve health care in our country.
So of course the Republican presidential candidates have followed suit. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s plan is suspiciously similar to Bush’s in that it’s little more than a tax cut for the rich. Meanwhile, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney – who actually helped implement a pretty decent universal health care plan in his home state – has spent the last year backtracking enough to please a GOP base. These are the guys that get hard at the thought of the invisible hand cavalierly yanking around middle-class families through a free market hell.
Luckily, the Democratic presidential candidates have all proposed programs that achieve universal or near universal health care. Health care is one issue in which the American people overwhelmingly favor the Democrats’ approach, and these candidates would be fools not to fight hard for universal coverage. If they do, the Republican candidates are almost certainly destined to be left behind in Bush World. And for that, we will be all the better and, of course, healthier.