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How Low Can You Go?

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) was founded in 1997 to provide health insurance for families earning too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. The plan covered health insurance for almost 7 million children last year.

Congress recently passed a proposal to expand the program from $5 billion yearly to $35 billion over a period of five years. George Bush, finding better things to do with the money than help disadvantaged children, vetoed the bill which would have increased coverage to 4 million more children by 2012. Bush claimed the bill would “federalize” health care.

No money for children, but plenty of money for wars in the Middle East. We need $3 billion a week for Afghanistan and Iraq. A week! Give those kids an aspirin and tell them to wait awhile.

No money for our kids, but plenty of money for Israel. Where do we find the recently approved $30 billion over the next 10 years defence aid for Israel? Do we cut the Food Stamp allowance for poor Americans? Maybe returning vets should be required to pay for their prosthetic arms and legs.

How about the usual annual aid package to Israel? We have been told for years that it amounted to “only” 2 to 3 billion. Don’t believe it! If you count debt forgiveness and the costs of early payment – not even mentioning complete weapons systems giveaways – Israel gets over $10 billion US tax dollars a year!

You might not have heard the latest money-gouging scheme from our favorite so-called ally. Concerned with the declining dollar, the Israelis now demand their annual handout be paid in Euros. Since Euros are now worth about $1.40, that $10 billion would rise to $14 billion.

Nice. We have bridges falling apart, homeless veterans living in the street, poor New Orleans blacks abandoned by their government and still awaiting aid 2 years after Katrina – millions of children being denied health insurance – and Israel gets a raise! When does sanity reassert itself? When do we impeach the entire government? For starters.

To put a human face on the children’s health insurance debate, congressional Democrats enlisted the aid of 12 year old Graeme Frost to reply to George Bush’s weekly radio address. Young Graeme and his sister were seriously injured in a car accident and their recovery was aided by the CHIP program.

“If it weren’t for CHIP, I might not be here today,” Graeme said. “We got the help we needed because we had health insurance for us through the CHIP program.”

A story about the young spokesman appeared in the Baltimore Sun – and then the attacks began. Conservative bloggers pounced on the boy and his family. They announced that Graeme Frost and his sister Gemma attended a private school costing $20,000 a year. Their father Halsey is a self-employed woodworker – apparently choosing not to pay for insurance.

But it turns out that the Frost children attended school on almost full scholorships, and Halsey Frost made about $45,000 last year – not enough to afford health insurance. Gemma Frost attends a private school to help with brain injuries caused by the car accident. The state pays the entire $23,000 yearly cost.

Right wing Republican fanatics have earned the contempt of the entire country by their vicious smear tactics against a 12 year old boy and his family. Attacks against them have been unconscionable. Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh characterized them as being rich parasites and revealed personal details including Frost’s home address and his father’s place of employment.

Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is accused of spreading lies and personal details to the media through an email to a journalist at ABC. A McConnell aide denies the charge but McConnell is the sponsor of legislation that would actually decrease the number of kids covered for benefits.

Cui Bono? Why not personally attack a 12 year old kid just out of a coma, to push legislation designed to harm other kids? It’s beneath contempt. How low, indeed, can you go? The Frosts were harassed and attacked for no reason – other than a desperate attempt to prevent millions of children from receiving health care.

Republicans have just provided another pathetic spectacle of arrogance and greed. Its no wonder that this once great, compassionate country is self-destructing before our eyes.

You stand exposed, Republicans, as the personification of hate. You seek to punish a 12 year old child and his family – simply because they dared to speak out. Freedom of speech is still protected – just barely – by the First Constitutional Amendment. When its gone, we’ll all suffer the police state totalitarian government you are apparently so anxious to apply.

When a national news organization like ABC tries to excoriate a 12 year old child and his parents because they couldn’t afford to spend half their meager income for health insurance – we’re in trouble. And Canada is looking more attractive every day.

I know, I know – I’m a traitor, and all that. Wrong! I love this country. I really do. Unfortunately, I can’t help but hate and fear my government. I’ve traveled the world and I’ll always be an American. Funny thing, though. America no longer exists. We are an occupied country with a government that no longer represents us. We are, in effect, citizens without a country.

And try as I might, I envision no practical way of changing things. Our next unelected government will be as bad or worse than what we have now. Republicans will still be attacking children for their lack of health insurance. We’ll still be torturing people all over the world. We’ll still be destroying countries and stealing natural resources and taking innocent lives.

That isn’t the America I knew. So how do we change things? I fear its too late, and I don’t think we can. I’m too old to join in any armed revolution – I bleed real easy. Besides which, I am suddenly reminded of a survey I read quite a few years ago. Members of our armed forces were asked if they would have any objections to opening fire on American citizens if they refused to allow their weapons to be confiscated.

Their answer, by an overwhelming majority, was “no”. I’d think twice before trying to overthrow the government. You’d have the FBI, CIA, BATF, Secret Service and every other agency against you. Along with the police, who are more than ready to break every one of your bones right now – for any reason, or no reason at all. Along with Bush’s private mercenary army of Blackwater killers. Along with Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel.

Think you’d have a chance? I don’t think so. And the more I think about it, the more reasons I can find to at least consider our neighbor to the north. Not least of which is the question of health insurance.

Canadians think its more than a little bizarre to engage in any debate over whether an advanced western society should care for its children. They’ve had a universal, single payer Medicare system for 40 years – and for any party to even suggest privatizing health care and handing it back to private health insurance industry, would be political suicide.

Canadians watch our antics with amazement and disbelief. You can’t blame them. Depending on how drastic things become over here, I think one day I might be tempted to join them. You might want to consider it too. After all, they enjoy one thing we don’t. Unlike the United States, they apparently have a government that actually cares about its citizens. It would be a new experience, and a different world.