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To veto SCHIPS funding would be wrong

It would be generous to say the Bush administration has not had a record of excellence on competence in government programs.

Indeed, it has been the hallmark of the Bush administration that incompetence shadows every agency from FEMA to the FDA. In light of these failures there are a few still functional government initiatives, one of which is the SCHIPS program.

SCHIPS provides federal dollars, combined with state allocations, to provide the children of working parents with insurance. Few could argue that any federal program has more essential value than one insuring that our children can have access to good health care.

It could be argued that the very future of our nation is determined by our commitments to our children, including their health care.

Nevertheless, SCHIPS is under presidential attack.

The program began in the mid ’90s and actually performed as advertised. It gave insurance coverage to the children of working parents who had jobs that did not offer family insurance policies. Rates paid by parents vary by ability, but coverage protects many children who would otherwise not have protection at all from expensive health care events.

The states, who administer the SCHIPS program, find it very valuable and their governors have almost universally expressed their support for a federal expansion of the program. Congress, with bi-partisan support, has passed a five-year SCHIPS renewal that will increase the budget for the program by as much as $35 billion over the next five years.

But our president has indicated he will veto the bill when it arrives at his desk. Our president does not want more children having access to the coverage provided by the SCHIPS program.

Why you ask? The president has given three reasons. First, he is opposed to raising any taxes, and the funding for the expansion of this program is through an increase in cigarette taxes. While this president has been fiscally irresponsible for seven years policies, this bill, which is paid for, is unacceptable.

Apparently he would accept it if it was not funded, since he vetoed no spending bills in his first six years while adding trillions to our national debt. But actually funding a program? Absolutely wrong says the president.

The second reason the president is opposed to giving children of working parents insurance protection is because he opposes an expansion of socialized medicine. Yes, he actually said that.

Children whose parents work but cannot provide insurance should not have that insurance because it would be more socialized medicine. Now, one might ask if the president then opposes the rest of our socialized medicine in America, like his and government employees, subsidized by taxpayers. Or the socialized medicine for our military, or that of our veterans administration hospitals. Or that for our seniors, Medicare, or that of our poorest citizens on Medicaid.

Does this president oppose all of those socialized medical programs, or just the one for our children?

Finally, the president says the program is too expensive. He supports a $5 billion increase in the SCHIPS budget, but no more. The additional funds Congress is requesting amount to about $25 billion. That cost would be the price of 2-1/2 months of the Iraq war.

So we can afford a war that Americans do not want, but we cannot afford children’s insurance that they do want.

The president is again wrong about America. Let us hope his party sees the importance of overriding the veto.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist to The Ironton Tribune.