Thursday, October 18, 2007

273 Votes for Socialism

That's a relief. Earlier I was wondering what I'd write about if the expansionists had prevailed. But looking at the vote count is still a bit depressing, because there were still 273 Congresspeople who think this S-CHIP bill is just fine as it is. Here's some text in the bill that should make everybody stop and think.

Let's start with what proponents of this bill hope to achieve:


    It is the purpose of this Act to provide dependable and stable funding for children's health insurance under titles XXI and XIX of the Social Security Act in order to enroll all six million uninsured children who are eligible, but not enrolled, for coverage today through such titles.
Let that soak in and consider the implications and assumptions. That six million uninsured children figure apparently comes from the Congressional Budget Office:
In response to your letter of July 10, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has examined available estimates of the number of children who lack health insurance but are eligible for Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance program (SCHIP). Some empirical studies have found that there are between 5 million and 6 million such children. In contrast to those studies, the Administration recently estimated that a much smaller number, 1.1 million children, lack health insurance but are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP.
So they're going with the higher number, naturally. But let's go back to the stated goal of this legislation; to make sure every uninsured child that's eligible for this is covered. The assumption is that if a child is uninsured the best remedy is to get them enrolled in what is essentially public insurance. Notice the emotional argument designed to overwhelm common sense.
  1. Six million children are uninsured.
  2. We all agree that's not a good situation.
  3. Various causes of the problem have been cited, mostly relating to the high cost of health insurance and health care in general, too much bureaucracy, corruption in the system, over/under regulation, not enough personal responsibility, and on and on. So while there's agreement on there being a problem, there are several different competing ideas on solutions.
  4. This bill, if it or any other legislation ever makes it into law with this formulation, decrees that the only solution to the problem is the get all the uninsured kids (and their families) covered by the state.
  5. If you disagree with any of this you hate sick kids, smear them, and hope they die.
And you thought all that talk about it being a step toward socialized medicine was simply bluster and posturing. On top of that it insults intelligence by claiming covering every single currently uninsured child can be paid for by this:
Title VII: Revenue Provisions - (Sec. 701) Amends the Internal Revenue Code to increase the excise tax on: (1) cigars; (2) cigarettes; (3) cigarette papers; (4) cigarette tubes; (5) smokeless tobacco; (6) pipeless tobacco; (7) pipe tobacco; and (8) roll-your-own tobacco. Allows a credit of $500 against such increased excise taxes. Makes such tax increases on tobacco products effective January 1, 2008, and payable on or before April 1, 2008. (em)
here are so many problems with this it's hard to know where to start. I don't know how anyone can square the contrast in principles if they believe smoking is an unhealthy activity which should be discouraged, while at the same time believing it makes moral or reasonable sense to fund other government activities with the proceeds from that activity. What's more, this revenue is to be extracted by demanding more money from those who are not only disproportionately poor, but also addicted to nicotine. There exist poor people, even with families, who will put back groceries if that's what it takes to get their smokes. It's also practically wrong-headed. If more people stop smoking because it costs more, which is the first stated goal of anyone who wants to raise the tax, then the tax base will shrink.

Where will all the money come from to complete the stated goal of blessing every uninsured child in America with socialist medicine? Will the tobacco tax continue to be raised until, according to the logic, there's a lone smoker required to pay for the entire bureaucracy? I get the impression those arguing in favor of this know damn well it's crazy, but they just want to get legislation passed now. They're confident they'll be able to add other sources (taxes) for funding this by simply saying; "Oops, the tobacco tax didn't work, but we can't allow everybody being helped now to be kicked off ! We need to raise taxes on the wealthy, and if you disagree you're a cold, heartless bastard"!

If you believe the language in the bill about the phase-outs of certain aspects of the program, as promised in the bill, your mind should be changed by this part of it:

`(a) Outreach and Enrollment Grants; National Campaign-

    `(1) IN GENERAL- From the amounts appropriated under subsection (g), subject to paragraph (2), the Secretary shall award grants to eligible entities during the period of fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to conduct outreach and enrollment efforts that are designed to increase the enrollment and participation of eligible children under this title and title XIX.

    `(2) TEN PERCENT SET ASIDE FOR NATIONAL ENROLLMENT CAMPAIGN- An amount equal to 10 percent of such amounts shall be used by the Secretary for expenditures during such period to carry out a national enrollment campaign in accordance with subsection (h).

Part of the smoking tax revenue will be used to expand the reach of program. Ten percent is supposed to go into an enrollment campaign. I have no problem with making people aware the service is available, but that's not what this is. This goes beyond informing people of a safety net that could help them. In this case outreach means getting as many people as possible dependent on socialist medicine. By the way, one of the most important activist groups in this, appropriately called the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has some ideas for outreach: (pdf)
Support efforts to cover families — While enthusiastic outreach efforts aimed at enrolling children are critical, a growing body of evidence shows that providing family-based coverage appears to make a substantial difference. States have aggressively expanded eligibility for low-income children, but working parents are still likely to lack coverage. In most states parents qualify for Medicaid only if they have income far below the federal poverty line. In the typical state, a parent in a family of three loses Medicaid eligibility when her income surpasses 67 percent of the federal poverty line. A parent working full time at $7.00 per hour earns too much to qualify for Medicaid in 37 states. New research finds that family-based Medicaid expansions that cover parents result in a significant increase in Medicaid participation among children who already are eligible. (em)
So there you have it. If they get their way, part of that outreach to get all uninsured kids will be to pay off their parents with socialized medicine. Well, they have research that says if you give parents socialized medicine, it's easier to get their kids enrolled. After all, this is about helping sick kids. If you don't agree with it you're just a big old meanie.

Here's a new link to the bill 273 Congresspeople voted for today.

Side Notes:
Later I'll fisk a bogus poll that's been put out by the activist groups pushing for this.
I know I said I'd talk more about the smearing of Michelle Malkin going on in the media recently, but now I think I'll include her in a post about the smear campaign in general and the various people it's aimed at.