Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Senator Sanders says "We Can Do Better Than This" and Bush says that Congress isn't listening to him

President Bush just completed one of his Thursday press conferences.

Near the end of the conference, he had not been asked about his SCHIP veto so he brought it up himself. This was after his mentioned that he is NOT part of the Legislative Branch, but that he can only URGE Congress to pass bills, which the Administration helps to design and approves. He referred to the many veto threats he proposed while Republicans were in control of Congress, but explained that they listened to his threats and decided to work with him. Bush touts the Medicare Modernization Act as an excellent example of the Administration's fulfillment of promises to improve benefits to Seniors. I have my own opinions on Medicare Part D and fail to see it as 100% effective in truly helping seniors with drug costs and access, but it has been beneficial for pharmaceutical companies.

Regarding SCHIP, he reiterated that stupid argument about six states who spend more on adults than children under SCHIP and the misleading argument regarding increasing coverage to those earning $83,000. Somebody really should have given him unbiased FACTS regarding how the program HELPS those who do truly need help!! He also mentioned the vast number of children who are covered by Medicaid (sorry I don't have the number on hand), but Medicaid coverage excludes children from SCHIP eligibility (at least in Virginia.)

What is utterly frustrating about the SCHIP veto is the apparent disregard by the Bush administration for the increasing struggles of lower-middle-class families in our current economy. If you are earning more than the median household income in your community, I imagine you are more financially equipped to make choices which reflect your sense of personal responsibility or personal enjoyment. You have more freedom of choice.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Vote Nearing in Battle Over Kids' Health Care, Christopher Lee details the experience of one Maryland family who benefits from an SCHIP program and describes some of Bush's objections to the bill.
The president has repeatedly criticized the proposed expansion as an excessive governmental intrusion into health care that would siphon middle-class families away from private insurance. He favors a more limited $5 billion increase, for total funding of $30 billion over the period, although recently he said he might be willing to go higher. Bush believes the program should focus on serving children from families that earn less than twice the poverty level: $34,340 for a family of three and $41,300 for a family of four.

I live in Fairfax County, VA, where the median household income is $94,500 and the median income in the greater Washington, D.C., area is $78,978. If a family of four living in Fairfax County is earning $41,300, twice the poverty level, that family is surviving on an income which is 56% below the area's median income. Then complicate manners further regarding housing in the area. "The median new-home price in the region's largest jurisdiction [Fairfax County, VA] is $960,000, and the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,306, according to county data." It would be reasonable to deduce that a family earning up to 400% FPL might be considered upper-middle-class in Shawnee, Oklahoma. But that same family living in Fairfax County would definitely rank towards the lower end of the income spectrum.

What is becoming more apparent is the disparity of wealth and poverty in this country. And policy which is limited to the needs of an extremely small range of families, those earning between 133% and 200% FPL, is very narrow indeed. And it seems to me that the most narrow policies are usually the least effective in achieving their stated purpose.

I agree with the several points put forth in Senator Sanders' article found on Huffington Post: "We Can Do Better Than This"
Let's be very clear. A vicious and premeditated class warfare is being waged today against the American middle class. Poverty is increasing and tens of millions are working longer hours for lower wages. Meanwhile, the richest people have not had it so good since the 1920s, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider. For the first time in the modern history of our country it is likely that the younger generation will have a lower standard of living than their parents as the American Dream becomes an economic nightmare. The time is long overdue for members of Congress to look beyond the needs of their wealthy campaign contributors and begin addressing the issue of income and wealth disparity.

Today, disgracefully and despite all the rhetoric of "family values," the United States has, at 18 percent, the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. Since George Bush has been president, nearly 5 million more Americans have slipped into poverty, 8.6 million have lost their health insurance, 3 million have lost their pensions and median family income has declined by about $2,500. So much for the president's "compassionate conservatism."

And to try to be fair and balanced, I'll provide a link to an opposing view which was left in the comments section of the above article.

"Senator Sanders Lives in a Dream World" by Johnny Galt.

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