Tuesday, October 09, 2007

SCHIP Wrecked (And Why The Right Makes Me Sick)

Oh my gawd, such drama! Check here, too. And especially here.

Yeah, it gets a little tiring when people trot out the "but it's for the children!" argument. Personally, I don't need an emotional hook to bring me into the discussion as long as the logic is sound. I can easily connect the dots between an abstract idea and how it might play out in reality. A lot of people, however, seem to lack whatever empathy chip is necessary to make such a connection. They require a more blatant demonstration.

And so it is that we find ourselves looking at 12 year old Graeme Frost as the new face of SCHIP.

Whatever you think of SCHIP, Graeme does indeed seem like the poster boy for promoting it. Unpredictable bad things can (and do) happen to good people who are unprepared to deal with the fallout. In health matters, if you don't have insurance and you get seriously sick or injured, you're pretty much fucked from every angle. It's an undeniable truth.

I have access to employer-offered insurance and, for all of my grousing about its imperfections, it's better than a lot of other plans. More importantly, I can afford it without having to make sacrifices in other standard areas like food, shelter, and childcare. 47 Million Americans are not so lucky. You can count on a certain percentage of idiots in the mix but for the most part these are people I can identify with. I've been there. I've had to make tough choices for my family. Regarding health care, it's not hard to imagine weighing risk factors along with available options. As in, "the odds of a catastrophic health event are low but the probability of my children needing to eat this month are high."

Here's the part where I get mad. Members of the right wingersphere are crawling out of the woodwork and onto a Fox News program near you to defend their world view by declaring Graeme and his family a fraud. Let's put aside, for a moment, their arguments (pitiful as they are). Let's look instead at their motives. It could be as simple as a reflexive anti-Democratic position but I think it's more subconscious than that. What I suspect to be the case with these people is that their egocentric, vain, tiny little minds are forever determined to disassociate luck from success. To accept that the two are commingled would be to rob them of the right to claim an earned superiority over the less fortunate. It would, in fact, undermine the whole of their conservative belief, which seems to be: you get exactly what you deserve in life and if you don't have much then it must be your own fault so for God's sake just shut up already and find some bootstraps from which to pull yourself up.

I have no problem separating myself from these noxious people. I look at my successes with pride and gratitude. I mean, I've worked hard and I've made some rather nice professional and economic advances in the past 20 years... it would be nice to stop there and give myself sole credit for it all, right? It's not humility that precludes such a thing, it's reason... my list of good fortune is long.

I was born in America. I was born white, middle class, and came of age post-feminism. My parents ensured that I understood the importance of an education and cared very much what I was doing at 1:00 in the morning. I'm healthy (despite my love of fast food and beer and whiskey). My kids are healthy. My husband is healthy. We haven't had any unforeseen, catastrophic events. I got my first IT job without any prior experience because I knew a guy who knew a guy. I have had three amazing mentors who taught me everything I needed to learn at various stages in my career. I haven't been offshored or downsized. In fact, my entire career has been one stroke of good luck after another, even when it initially looked like bad luck. You don't achieve success without hard work but hard work is hardly the only ingredient. Puffed up pride and holier than thou-ism doesn't make this any less so.

Which brings me back to SCHIP. The question we're forced to ask ourselves, now, is this: What kind of kind of society do we want to be and what are we willing to sacrifice to become it? That's the discussion we should be having about the whole damn SCHIP legislation. Obviously it isn't just a matter of conscience... we have a finite availability of resources (aka money) to work with. Just like a family must make hard choices on a micro level, as a nation we must make hard choices on a macro level. Pretending that misfortune is somehow deserved, though, just makes it way too easy to justify writing off an entire segment of the population.

To me, SCHIP seems like a fairly modest and worthwhile attempt to provide some very necessary health services to kids who probably wouldn't get them otherwise. Bush has passed a lot of congressional pork over the years without the threat of veto but I guess health care for poor kids doesn't quite trip his trigger. Maybe the new Dem strategy should be to extend SCHIP to cover corporate CEOs and fetuses.


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