The Real SCHIP Debate and Those Who Don’t Get It, Part I Part II

Herewith is my stab at substantive policy discussion on why expansion of SCHIP was rightly vetoed. This is a discussion that progressives claim to want yet can’t seem to get past demagoguing.

The current SCHIP battle is not simply about reauthorizing SCHIP, but rather a political and philosophical battle over the ridiculous expansion of SCHIP, beyond the program’s original intent.

The original SCHIP legislation passed in 1997 created a modest program designed to help children whose families made too much to qualify for Medicaid, and were too poor o purchase private health insurance. A worthy goal backed by a majority of Republicans at the time.
A lot of the left’s rhetoric deliberately distorts the conservative position as against reauthorization, which is patently false. In fact the president strongly favors reauthorization of SCHIP, just not the absurd expansion proposed by the Democrats. Bush has offered a sensible and reasonable compromise. His proposal is an expansion of $5 billion a year increase over the next five years. Apparently, this is not enough for the left.

Here are the problems with the expansion plan. The Democrat expansion plan includes middle class families that can well afford private insurance on their own, illegal immigrants, “children” as old as 25. As Deroy Murdock noted, it depends on what the meaning of the word “children” is.

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The Democrat plan would expand the program by $12 billion a year over the next five years. The eligibility threshold would increase to 400% the federal poverty line. By this standard a family making over $80,000 per year, able to afford private insurance, would be eligible for SCHIP, and not just their young children, but any childless adult children as well. What is more absurd is that this means these families are simultaneously poor and high income because they also get hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). This SCHIP expansion shifts welfare away from the truly poor and extends it to the middle class.

The main funding mechanism of the bill is a massive increase, 156%, in the cigarette tax, from 39 cents to $1 per pack. So in order for SCHIP to be fully funded the program would need nearly 22 million smokers to light up. As has been argued ad infinitum, a cigarette tax becomes a decreasing source of revenue. So when their expected revenue fails to materialize, non-smoking taxpayers will get the bill in the form of another tax.

The SCHIP bill also contains sneaky provisions that extend temporary Medicare provisions, increase doctor payments in 2008-2009, then drastically reduces them in 2010-2011, all of which are intended to mask the true cost of the expansion. The expansion also claims to have some cost offsets, but these offsets are from the president’s budget intended as cost savings for Medicare, not for an increase in additional spending. In addition to all the hidden costs, the bill would increase federal deficits by $73 billion over the next 10 years.

This massive expansion beyond helping poor children is nothing more than the first incremental step towards socialized medicine as first discussed by Hillary’s Healthcare Task force back in 1993. So there is a lot a weight behind the conservative argument that SCHIP expansion is a precursor to universal healthcare. I will give Andrew Kujan credit, at least he admits that progressive demogoguing of the issue is really about achieving socialized medicine.

A great deal of spittle-flecked liberal “outrage” at conservative meanies and hypocrites reveals a great deal about the philosophical differences between liberals and conservatives about the nature and functions of government.

For example, EJ Dionne in his zeal to slap the hypocrite label on conservatives writes,
“The left is accused of all manner of sins related to covetousness and envy whenever it raises questions about who benefits from Bush’s tax cuts and mentions the yachts such folks might buy or the mansions they might own. But here is a family with modest possessions doing everything conservatives tell people they should do, and the right trashes them for getting help to buy health insurance for their children.”

You can’t compare a tax cut with an entitlement program. They are very different things, which highlight the philosophical differences. Dionne sees tax cuts as government largesse, because in the progressive view of government, this is merely daddy government doing its job by giving us a boost in our income in order to boost the economy or as with SCHIP, fulfilling its role of mothering the citizenry.

As Rick Moran notes in his flaying of Ezra Klein’s doltish argument, similar to Dionne’s:

“tax cuts have nothing to do with government and everything to do with personal property. That money is the taxpayer’s. It is already in his pocket. A tax cut is nothing more than a law preventing the government from reaching into the taxpayer’s pocket and taking away his property. It is not a gift or a favor or even a responsibility of government. A tax cut has everything to do with expanding personal liberty and nothing whatsoever to do with government being nice to taxpayers.
This simple, basic, liberty loving concept has been forgotten by liberals like Klein who see tax cuts as part of a government “plan” for the economy hence, monies that the government will forgo collecting in order to modify or encourage some kind of economic activity. In short, the money “given back” to taxpayers is really the government’s money to begin with, theirs to do with as they see fit.
To not see how that concept turns the idea of freedom on its head reveals a moral blindness that makes it easy to posit that all property is subject to government approval and control. It justifies eminent domain and host of other egregious threats to human liberty that used to be a concern of liberals but is now seen as an impediment to government management of most every facet of people’s lives.”

The Democrats and the progressive left were never willing to debate either the substance of the policy or the philosophical issues. Their policy prescriptions are tired old retreads that they know are losers, Hence their use of Graeme Frost as a human shield to deflect any criticism of the real issues. Why deal with conservative arguments when you can hide your own flawed arguments behind a 12-year old boy and label your opponents as smear artists and hypocrites to effectively shut down real debate on the issue.

crossposted on The Main Adversary

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