My Challenge to the President

I want to make sure you see the latest video from Families USA, one of the most important advocates in the ongoing battle to protect children’s health care.

Families USA is part of the broad, bipartisan effort that achieved a solid initial victory last week, when both the House and the Senate approved a bill extending and reforming the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Unfortunately, President Bush vetoed the bill.

Earlier this week, a group of children pulling little red wagons went to the gates of the White House to urge the President to sign the bill, because it’s so vital to good health care for the nation’s children in the years ahead. I hope very much that President Bush and Congress will hear and heed their plea.

Apparently this President’s priorities aren’t the same as mainstream America’s:


He says the bill costs too much. But for the price of one day in Iraq, we could cover 256,000 children. One week would cover 1.8 million children. And just over one month of the Iraq war would cover the full cost of the bill and insure 10 million children for a whole year.

Because the current SCHIP program falls far short of meeting the need, hundreds of thousands of children have lost their coverage on President Bush’s watch. It’s incomprehensible that the President would threaten to veto legislation that corrects this serious problem.

There’s one thing President Bush and I do have in common, though – American taxpayers cover 72% of our health care premiums, because current law has long-permitted good insurance coverage for federal employees.

So I ask President Bush and the Members in Congress who support his veto:

Would you deny your own family what you’ll be denying to millions of other families if this bill is vetoed? If you don’t believe the federal government should support children’s health care, how can you in good conscience accept it for your own families?

All Members of Congress have the peace of mind that when their children are sick, they can afford to take them to the doctor. Why doesn’t every American family deserve that peace of mind?

The President’s veto will have terrible consequences – just look at the faces on the Families USA video. It’s time everyone understood what those consequences are.

That’s why so many of us in Congress – Republicans and Democrats alike – are fighting so hard for this bill, to keep the faith with the millions of children who are counting on us for the healthy start in life that every American deserves.

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  1. Cost

    Is there a consensus in Washington as to the cost of expanding SCHIP?

  2. Kennedy speak

    But for the price of one day in Iraq, we could cover 256,000 children. One week would cover 1.8 million children. And just over one month of the Iraq war would cover the full cost of the bill and insure 10 million children for a whole year.

    Translation: Why waste money on a war when we can be wasting it on middle class welfare program? 

    FYI: SCHIP has nothing to do with the Iraq war.

    All Members of Congress have the peace of mind that when their children are sick, they can afford to take them to the doctor. Why doesn't every American family deserve that peace of mind?

    Translation:  I have lobbied for Universal Single payer for nearly 4 decades and have failed miserably.  Let's try again. Think of the children.

    No mention in the Senator's post that President Bush's proposal would:

    -- increase SCHIP funding to $30 billion over 5 years;

    -- would cause the state to make sure that 95% of the children under the 250% poverty level were covered before expanding the Bill to those in excess of 250% poverty. 

    By contrast, this vetoed welfare bill will cover families earning in excess of $56K in most states, and in NY and NJ, will provide welfare to those earning well in excess of $70K.

    Welcome to the dole.  Let's video some cute kids in a private school lamenting they'll have to attend public school if the parents don't get their SCHIP coverage.

    • If you were to go to any other industrialized nation on the globe

      and refer to medical care as "welfare", they would send you to the hospital thinking you are delirious with fever. 

      (and in that hospital they would treat you for only a small co-pay) 

      • If you give out goodies

        on a means tested basis, it is welfare.

        • So you are good to go with universal single payer system then?

          • Irrelevant

            Whether "good to go" or not, universal single payer is for large block of the population, welfare.

            • Universal single payer is not means tested.

              so how can it be welfare by your definition?

              • I gather my definition differs from gary

                He obviously means it in terms of the cradle-to-grave welfare state, and I in the more American sense of the dole.  Upon reflection, when the government hands out goodies as if it were Santa Claus, it is probably welfare regardless of whether there is means testing.

                • Why is that a monodirectional concept?

                  I submit to you that we are currently forced to be Santa Clause and provide corporate welfare with the private system we have in place now because the vast majority of us pay in much much more than we use.  

                   

                   

                  • corporate welfare?

                    I submit to you that we are currently forced to be Santa Clause and provide corporate welfare with the private system we have in place now because the vast majority of us pay in much much more than we use.

                    Why did you limit your distinction to 'corporate' welfare?  You get more from the government than you give, then you're getting welfare. 

                    All those '3' ratings upthread, go ahead, dispute my definition.

                    Maybe the 'vast' majority of us pay more.  In which case, the vast majority isn't on welfare.

                    Presently, 45% of the nation's children are on welfare:  SCHIP plus Medicaid/Medicaid.  The House SCHIP Bill pushes that welfare percentage to 70%.  It's too much.  Expanded welfare of the 60s + 70s lost an entire generation of inner city kids all in the name of preventing poverty.

                    • If were are going to use charged language, let's use it properly.

                      The current private system meets the same definition of "welfare" in reverse, so it's welfare, welfare, all the way.  The question is:  Who benefits?   When I give more than I get, should the difference go to help keep my kids healthier by making sure all of their classmates get regular healthcare, or should the difference go straight into the bank accounts of billionairres like UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire?

                • It is definitely welfare regardless of whether there is means testing...

                  ...and that is why much government subvention of private industry is welfare.

                  People who bitch and moan about government subvention of individuals--yelling "welfare"--but who wish to ignore government subvention of private industry are pretty much hypocritical.

                • patently ridiculous

                  He obviously means it in terms of the cradle-to-grave welfare state, and I in the more American sense of the dole.  Upon reflection, when the government hands out goodies as if it were Santa Claus, it is probably welfare regardless of whether there is means testing.

                  Welfare  [wel - fair] noun.  "the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization; well-being: to look after a child's welfare; the physical or moral welfare of society."

                  Welfare is a good thing.  Whatever gave you the idea it wasn't?  The garden of Eden was a welfare state.  Your childhood bedroom was a welfare program from your parents.  The roads you took to work and the cops who patrolled them are all part of your own personal welfare state.  Good for you. Firemen are constantly on the lookout for your welfare and soldiers are constantly defending it. The education you received and the job in which you employ it are all facets of your welfare.  If you don't already, someday you'll probably have kids who'll live off your dole til they fly the coop.  It's all around you man...

                  So farewell to you...

            • Not sure what you mean.

              I think you are using the wrong term in an attempt to avoid having to make a fact-based argument against the SCHIPS legislation. "Welfare" which is now "welfare to work" is not the same program as the SCHIPS program.  And what is wrong with trying to make sure that as many children as possible are covered by health insurance? The income levels you list probably include a lot of families  who do not have insurance provided by their employer.  That is what the health care crisis is all about.  What is wrong with helping middle-income families?  President Bush has been really good at helping the upper income families during his administration.  I guess when it comes to middle income people, he just thinks it is wrong.  By the way, one could easily say that the tax cuts President Bush provided to the wealthy, particularly while we have been fighting a war, is a form of welfare; that is, using your use of the word. 

        • Um...

          If you give out goodies on a means tested basis, it is welfare.

          ...So?

          I'm always amused at comments like yours.

        • If you give out goodies on a means tested basis, it is welfare.

          Like tax credits, college financial aid, federal first time home buyer incentives? If your definition is true, then the middle class needs to start owning up to all of the welfare benefits they receive.

      • Welfare

        If you were to go to any other industrialized nation on the globe and refer to medical care as "welfare", they would send you to the hospital thinking you are delirious with fever.

        Define the terms:  welfare is wealth redistribution.  Recipients get more than they gave.  i.e. Social security is to many elderly collecting now, welfare, because they receive more than they paid.

        I can't imagine anyone who thinks of universal single payer, in any country, as anything other than social welfare.

         

        • You need to expand your imagination.

          welfare is wealth redistribution.  Recipients get more than they gave.

          I disagree.  I have known several people who, due to a short time collecting welfare, have become productive members of society with the ability to earn and pay enough taxes to repay many times over the cost of the benefits they used.

           

          • ok

            I have known several people who, due to a short time collecting welfare, have become productive members of society with the ability to earn and pay enough taxes to repay many times over the cost of the benefits they used.

            Fair enough. Arguably, over his lifetime, the person of the example didn't live off benefits in excess of which he paid.

            However, with unemployment benefits, I don't regard them as welfare.  Unemployment is funded by employers, not by taxes.  It's an insurance program; not a government welfare program.

            • Moving the goalposts.

              This is not a question of how we want to define welfare.  This is a question as to whether society can derive a greater benefit from goverment initiatives to provide essential services cheaper and more effeciently than the private sector.  When applied to health care, this question is a no-brainer.

                Medicare's overhead is just 1.5 percent, compared with 13 to 16 percent in the private sector. John Sheils of the Lewin Group, a health-care consultant, says that the health insurers' overhead came to $120 billion last year, of which $40 billion was profit. By comparison, it would cost $54 billion to cover all the uninsured.

               http://www.msnbc.msn...

               

              • The 3% myth

                There's plenty of debunking of the seemingly low percentage attributed to Medicaid/Medicare overhead.

                I'll provide my own concrete example:

                In MA, we spend $12B annually at the state level to insure about 950K people. That's a per person cost of about $12.6K annually.

                Consider that the most expensive plan offered by the GIC costs $8,400 annually, and you realize that about 30% of what we spend on health insurance through the "MassHealth" programs is  above and beyond the costs of a comparable program.

                Those 1.5% figure is based on a lot of cost hiding because those costs have been pushed to the states.

                • Also

                  Those 1.5% figure is based on a lot of cost hiding because those costs have been pushed to the states.

                  Also, pushed to providers. 

                  • Any way you slice it it's more effecient than the private insurance industry.

                    Let's say for the sake of argument that you can whittle down the cost difference to, say, within 5%.  

                    How is that an argument for using a less effecient system? 

                • Obfustication.

                  So when, in this comparison, you replace Medicare with other types of plans that are not medicare, the numbers are not the same.  Shocking.

                  In MA, we spend $12B annually at the state level to insure about 950K people. That's a per person cost of about $12.6K annually.

                  How did you arrive at thos figures?   

                   

        • I can accept your characterization that

          welfare is wealth redistribution.  No society exists without wealth redistribution that I know of. 

          • I guess the variable is in which direction is wealth redistributed?

            Will it go from the lower classes up to the elite?  Or will it be spread out more evenly among the population as a whole?

            • Just to point out...

              ...it isn't wealth that would be re-distributed, it is income.  There is a subtle, but major, difference between the two.

              • Excellent point.

              • One more point regarding wealth vs. income

                When I was growing up in a northern suburb of Cincinnati in the 1960s, there was what was called an "intangibles tax," which was basically a property tax on the value of  intangible property--stocks, bonds and so forth.  IIRC few people had heard about it and very few people paid it, but it did exist.  Rumor had it that it was supposed to support the actually quite excellent county library system.

                More recently, there was in Germany a Vermoegensteuer--a wealth tax--levied on intangibles, including monies in savings accounts.  The Germans also had to pay income tax (Einkommensteuer) on the dividends and interest paid on those investments.  About a decade ago, the Vermoegensteuer was repealed, but the Einkommensteuer remains.

                Those--the intangibles tax and the Vermoegensteuer--are examples of wealth taxes.  The US FedGov does not tax anything like these examples.  An observation: the US Constitution probably does not allow for levying such taxes, in any case.  But the US Constitution does provide for taxing incomes, and this could be ameliorated by taxing income from wealth--capital gains and dividends--more heavily than it does now.

          • Agreed

            I can accept your characterization that welfare is wealth redistribution.  No society exists without wealth redistribution that I know of.

            Agreed.  Welfare is the means of redistribution where society tends to those members less well off.

            The policy issue at hand is where should the welfare end. 

            Do you support SCHIP expansion to the point that families who can afford to send their kids to private schools should qualify for welfare?

            • That is a question I cant answer. Private school

              varies in cost and availability.  In general I am biased toward more children being supported by SCHIP than fewer

          • A nit...

            ...welfare is wealth redistribution

            ...Welfare is not wealth redistribution.  It is largely income redistribution.  And there is a difference.  Except for taxes on real property, the US does not tax wealth very heavily, and with the recent reduction of taxes on capital gains and dividends, the tax on wealth has been significantly reduced from what they were even a couple of decades ago.

            • I'm sure you are correct about the semantics

              In practice commonwealth/welfare/government revenues come from a combination of wealth, income, and transaction (fees, sales tax etc) money that is redistributed.  I am assuming all three when I used the term wealth.

              I could use the term resource redistribution.  I'll leave that to someone who is better with precise definitions than I am. 

        • fare thee well...

          Define the terms:  welfare is wealth redistribution.  Recipients get more than they gave.  i.e. Social security is to many elderly collecting now, welfare, because they receive more than they paid.

          Casinos deal in wealth distribution as do the Boston Red Sox and your employer (whomever that may be...) I guess the difference here is that you don't feel entitled to pinch their pennies

          I can't imagine anyone who thinks of universal single payer, in *any* country, as anything other than social welfare.

          You're the only one I've heard who thinks 'social welfare' is a bad thing...  

    • LOL - Oh WOW

    • SCHIP and the Iraq War

      FYI: SCHIP has nothing to do with the Iraq war.

      We're talking about funding here.  In particular, to rebut the argument that SCHIP expansion would be "too expensive", which a lot of its opponents have said.  We compare what the country actually spends money on, as a way of seeing what our priorities are.  Those who oppose SCHIP expansion for being too expensive, and do not oppose the Iraq war for the same reason, even though it costs many times as much, are showing that they place a much much higher priority on occupying Iraq than they do on health care for kids.  Comparing the two is simply pointing out that priority.

      Now, if you believe that continuing to occupy Iraq is in fact that much more important, fine, you can make that argument honestly.  I'm sure some members of Congress do believe that, and do make that argument honestly.  It's right for Kennedy to point this out, though, because most Americans probably disagree with those financial priorities.

      Sure, there are other reasons one might oppose SCHIP expansion.  I'm just addressing this particular objection.  Your statement that "SCHIP has nothing to do with the Iraq war" shows that you don't get it, and I wanted to explain what the comparison is about.

      • Not about funding

        It's not about funding, and you know it.  It'a about rhetoric and democrat pr spin:  Compare SCHIP to Iraq, haul out the doe-eyed kids. 

        The question isn't can we afford it, but should we.  Of course the US can afford it.  If you truly believe the SCHIP is remotely related to Iraq, then you obviously don't get it.

        • I have a proposal for you...

          The question isn't can we afford it, but should we.

          That is the same question regarding Iraq.  Suppose we put a check-off box on the 1040s for the supplemental budgets providing the funding for the war on Iraq--similar to the check-off box for campaign financing.  And no other funding source from the general revenues.  If someone wants to volunteer to pay extra taxes to support the war on Iraq, he or she is perfectly within his or her rights to do so.  I'd almost be willing to bet that few would, and that might stymie GWBush's war effort.

          Quite frankly, it is interesting that you appear to be uninterested in the fact that your children and grandchildren yea unto the seventh generation will be paying off the additional debt incurred in GWBush's little Iraq adventure.  Why is that?

          • proposal

            If someone wants to volunteer to pay extra taxes to support the war on Iraq, he or she is perfectly within his or her rights to do so.  I'd almost be willing to bet that few would, and that might stymie GWBush's war effort.

            I bet if we put a checkoff box that said "check here to give more money to orphans with aids, baby seal protection, and fight global warming" few would check it.

            Quite frankly, it is interesting that you appear to be uninterested in the fact that your children and grandchildren yea unto the seventh generation will be paying off the additional debt incurred in GWBush's little Iraq adventure.  Why is that?

            Frankly you have no idea what I am, or am not interested in.

            However, if you wish for my opinion on the size of the national debt. it's proportional with that of Germany and France.  Further, US interest rates are stable, so the credit markets aren't terribly concerned with the current US debt load. 

  3. Veto #4

    This is Bush's fourth veto ever.  You may recall that he didn't veto anything in his first term, which IIRC makes him the first president ever to go a full term with no vetos.  But now he's on a ... roll?  Well, four so far:

    • Vetoed funding stem cell research.  Twice
    • Vetoed a withdrawing US troops from Iraq
    • Vetoed expanding health care coverage to more kids

    Whose President is he really trying to be?  Certainly not President of all the people of the United States.

  4. Alterman's comments on this...

    ... yesterday were pretty compelling

    So this is the point. Bush's argument is explicitly ideological. He wants children to get sick and die in order to prevent what he believes will be a slide toward what he calls "socialized medicine." Conservatives may not wish to claim him anymore, but this speaks to a fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives, and it's not just about letting kids get sick and die.

    ...Liberals are often understood to be "pro-government" or even "pro-taxation" but this reflects a fundamental confusion between ends and means. Liberals believe in "government" only insofar as it is necessary to achieve necessary goals, including public welfare, investment, redistribution, defense etc. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue against government as a matter of principle: the less government involved, the better, period.

  5. Examples of welfare

    • roads
    • police
    • firemen

    Inevitably, some people use each of those services more than others, some people get a better "return on their investment."

    You either support a vision of a unified country working together for the betterment of all, or you want an America of "every man for himself, I've got my back who's got yours?"

    The rest is just details.

    • No

      Roads, police and fire protection are not welfare.

      Those are examples of society's contribution toward a service which serves all.  If, however, the fire protection was limited to say, those earning less than $72K, and those earning in excess of $72 had to seek out their own private fire protection, then that would be welfare.  Same with roads, police.

      Distinquish police and fire, from--for example--SS benefits, welfare benefits, SCHIP, Medicaid where the richer contribute to the poorer.

      Social welfare is important to any society where society should bear responsibility to those less well off.  But, when the "less well off" is expanded to include those with a home, 2 cars, kids in private school, then we have expanded the definition too far.

      • Erm..

        Roads, police and fire protection are not welfare.

        Those are examples of society's contribution toward a service which serves all.

        And how, exactly, is that not welfare?

        • Geez

          Poor guy calls police; police respond. Rich guy calls police; police respond.

          Not Welfare.

          Poor guy applies for Medicaid; gets Medicaid. Rich guy applies for Medicaid; doesn't get Medicaid.

          Welfare.

          Middle class guy applies for SCHIP; gets SCHIP. Rich guy applies for SCHIP; gets SCHIP.

          Welfare.

          Poor guy retires; gets SS Rich guy retires; gets same SS as poor guy even though he paid more.

          Welfare.

          • Geez???

            Poor guy calls police; police respond. Rich guy calls police; police respond.

            Not Welfare.

            Police respond out of concern for your welfare, not your bank account.  Try again.

            • That's my point

              Police don't means test.  They respond to all calls regardless of socio-economic status, therefore, the service police or firemen provide is not welfare.  Welfare, in its common useage involves redistribution of wealth.

              Just curious, how old are you?

              • geezer

                That's my point (0.00 / 0)
                Police don't means test.  They respond to all calls regardless of socio-economic status, therefore, the service police or firemen provide is not welfare.  Welfare, in its common useage involves redistribution of wealth.

                Welfare, in it's common usage means seeing that people fare well. 

                And capitalism, in its common usage, also means redistribution of wealth.  You seem to have a strange reluctance to use the adjectives boiling just beneath the surface of your argument.

                Just curious, how old are you?

                Old enough to be amused at the question. I was born the day after Gus Grissom died and about a month before Kurt Kobain was born... That answer your question?

          • Can you qualify this?

            Poor guy retires; gets SS

            Rich guy retires; gets same SS as poor guy even though he paid more. 

            Welfare.

            Explain the situation where a "rich guy" pays more into SS and somehow gets less?  I was under the impression that you stop paying into SS after your first $97K or so.

             

            You also forgot:

             

            Poor guy gets a loan:  Pays more interest.

            Rich guy gets loan:  Pays less interest.

            Welfare?

             

            Poor guy saves some money: gets very low rate of return

            Rich guy saves some money:  gets very impressive rate of return.

            Welfare?

             

            Poor guy works and earns income:  pays standard income tax rate

            Rich guy invests and earns income: pays much lower capital gains rate.

            Welfare? 

            • This a quiz?

              Guy paying SS on $40K per year over time, will received about $1100 monthly.  Guy making $97K per year over time will receive about $1700:  54% more although paying in more than 100% more.  Welfare.

              Your examples of transactions of a poor v. rich guy in the marketplace aren't welfare, because it's the marketplace charging less for large transactions.  It takes the Government to create welfare--by statute.

              The last example of poor paying one rate while the rich pay another isn't welfare.  If the poor guy sells a capital asset he'll pay a similar tax rate as the rich guy (actually the poor guy will pay slightly less). 

              I never considered it, but I suppose progressive taxation is a form of welfare...I'll have to think about that.

              • You seem to be arguing that anything you want to define as welfare is unfair to rich people

                yet you defend that same unfairness in the "marketplace" as a matter of course.

                 

                Is this a double standard or do really think rich people just need more of a leg up in modern society? 

                • relevant insight...

                  "We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had much."

                  Second only to;

                  "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. "

                  John Kenneth Galbraith

                • Then you misunderstand

                  Welfare is necessary to any society in as much as society owes a duty to those who are unfortunate.

                  My point is this.  SCHIP, which is absolutely welfare under any reasonable definition, is being expanded to include families earning up to $83K for NY; $72K for families in NJ, and $60K or so, for families in Massachusetts.

                  Anecdotally, there are families who own their own home, send their kids to private school, own and drive multiple vehicles.  Are those families such as those, unfortunate to be given welfare?

                  • I must misunderstand

                    because I'm sure an issue as important as healthcare should not hinge upon the charged connotation of the world "welfare" and your personal jugdement over who is and is not worthy of it. 

                     

                     

                     

                  • What if I told you

                    that these families with what you consider unacceptably high incomes were small business people who are not getting the same square deal as employees of corporations who get healthcare packages as a part of their compensation packages above and beyond their salary?

                    NOW are they unfortunate enough?  Will those plucky underdogs of conservative mythos, the small businessman, appeal to your sense of mercy as you judge acceptiblity for their children's healthcare? 

          • First of all...

            ... The 'rich guy paying more' is misleading because there is a cap on the amount of income that is taxed toward SS.  The vast majority of 'rich' income isn't taxed for SS, which is one of the reasons its underfunded.

            Second,... people who don't use roads, police, or firemen pay for them nonetheless.  So the notion that any government spending for which one subclass of people helps pay for but does not partake of constituting welfare by definition doesn't wash.

    • Welfare policy

      Would you support a change to Social Security, whereby those earning $72K or less, needn't contribute to Social Security but yet would receive benefits?

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