By Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice (etc.) 10/11/07

It seems someone around the White House recently told George W. Bush about vetoes—a tool he never once used when Republicans ran both houses of Congress. Last year’s arrival of Democrats, at least in name, on the Hill appears to have changed that. Thrilled with his sharp new veto pen, it seems Bush has his tricycle all oiled up for a 15-month joyride. His most noticeable piece of road kill to date, victim of veto number four, is the bill to fund health insurance for children of lower-income families—and let’s forget, for the moment, why they’re low income, or why their parents don’t have similar rights to healthcare.

The bill, which Congress passed last week, expands a child health program which currently serves 6.6 million poor kids. The expanded program will offer healthcare to approximately 10 million uninsured children, including those whose working parents don’t receive health insurance from their employers and don’t qualify for Medicare. The bill funds the program for the next five years at a cost of approximately $7 billion per year. By comparison, according to a study commissioned by the American Friends Service Committee, that’s roughly how much the Iraq War costs us every 11 days.

The veto means the program, instead of expanding, dies—like a sick child without healthcare. The Bush White House had earlier proposed an alternative plan which would have limited the number of children covered and initiated a one-year waiting period before children with no healthcare could join the program. Little Johnny, I guess, just needs to learn patience. Children need to understand the value of cancer treatment—they can’t have everything handed to them the moment their doctors want it.

Creeping Bolshevism

Vetoing healthcare for kids fits right in line with the man who once comically mocked a death row inmate’s pleas for mercy before signing her death warrant. It’s just one more small piece of fodder for those who argue that Bush is psychotically sadistic. Sick children should pay for their own healthcare just like everyone else—there’s no free ride for the lazy here in America. In vetoing the bill, Bush argued that it was fiscally irresponsible and a move toward socialism.

So let’s start with the socialism argument: Healthcare for poor sick kids is the forbearer of a red menace lurking just around the corner. But the socialism of publicly funded highways, police forces and US military bases in over 50 countries is cool. And so are subsidies to rich corporations and bailouts for greedy bankers. It’s pretty simple—the feds can subsidize Exxon-Mobil when they search for oil to sell to us at record-breaking prices, earning more profits than anyone has ever before in history. That’s okay. Money for kids’ healthcare, however, means the jackboot of Bolshevism is stamping down upon us.

Then there’s the issue of fiscal responsibility. Seven billion dollars a year for kids’ health is irresponsible—this from the administration that just surpassed the New Deal’s expansion of government. The only difference is that the New Deal gave us social services, rebuilt the economy and created real jobs and a real future for the nation. The Bad Deal, by comparison, is just giving us a police state, insane endless wars and environmental devastation (ever look at the environmental impact of the US military?) while making us more and more vulnerable to violence, disease and an environmental holocaust.

Waffles and Spaghetti

Let’s look at where Mr. Fiscal Responsibility’s government is spending our money. We can start with $141 million per year for abstinence education programs. Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich recently reported in The Progressive that one program training teachers in abstinence education tells them that they should “Bring to class frozen waffles and a bowl of spaghetti noodles without sauce” to use as visual aids. The program goes on to explain how “research has found that men’s brains are more like waffles” while “women’s brains, on the other hand, are more like spaghetti.” Get it? Little Johnny has to keep his johnson in his pants, cause, well, waffles and spaghetti don’t mix, sauce or no sauce. It’s then up to his Sunday school teacher to make the more difficult argument that waffles shouldn’t bone waffles either, and spaghettians will burn in hell. That’s $141 million for some really confused kids—who, by the way, according to a congressionally mandated study, are no more likely to be abstinent then kids who learned about the birds and the bees instead of waffles and spaghetti.

That $141 million is still less than the $146 million that the Government Accountability Office reports high-ranking officials, particularly those working for the Ashcroft-Gonzales State Departments, spent upgrading their taxpayer-funded plane tickets to first class.

Then there are the everyday expenses of running the Bush White House, such as $200 million this August for George W. Bush’s five-day trip to Australia. It seems his entourage brought three Boeing 747s and five military transport planes to haul 20 vehicles and two helicopters. The White House staff, presidential advisors and Secret Service agents accompanying Bush totaled 300 people, though I suppose the exact breakdown of how many of each there were is classified. The Sydney Morning Herald referred to this menagerie as “Bush’s Traveling Circus.”


And of course there are all the smaller “brushfire” wars around the world we must fund, such as “Plan Colombia,” with a price tag of $1 billion a year. Most of this money goes directly to that oppressive regime’s military, ostensibly to fund the “War on Drugs.” Bush’s drug czar, John Waters, however, recently, in an interview with the Associated Press, said operations in Colombia “have had little impact on the flow of cocaine on American streets.” The War on Drugs, like the War on Terror, or any future wars such as a War on Persnickety Journalists, is as endless as the human rights abuses and misappropriations of federal funds that they justify. Of course, US funding for Colombia’s military pales in comparison with the $91 billion American taxpayers have spent to prop up the Israeli military and government since that nation’s 1949 formation.

The granddaddy of all boondoggles is, however, that great black hole we continue to shovel money and lives into—the war against Iraq. Using numbers from the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office, The American Prospect magazine estimates the total cost of the Iraq war, including expenses such as caring for those wounded veterans lucky enough to get federally funded care, will total out at $1.27 trillion. This figure, which amounts to over one thousand billion, needs to be written out. It’s $1,270,000,000,000, or $4,233 for each and every person alive in the US today.

Where is this money going? An Inspector General’s audit found, for example, that it’s quite common to come across stacks of “bricks” comprising crisp, new $100 bills piled up in the offices and living quarters of US officials in Iraq, where multimillion dollar government “contracts” are often paid in cash. With US dollars going from the printing press straight to the streets of Baghdad, it’s no wonder the greenback has fallen in value lower than Canada’s “looney” for the first time in over a generation. It’s even falling against Cuba’s peso. Way to go, George!

This is all good sound policy, however. It’s healthcare for children that’s going to bankrupt us. If we don’t stand up against the little tykes today, they’ll be ruling our country tomorrow.

ęCopyright 2007

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