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Bush Wants Money for Iraq, but not America’s Children

President Bush recently demanded another $189 billion to extend his occupation of Iraq for another year–even as he stripped low-income children of their healthcare. The cost of funding an expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, pronounced s-chip) is only $12 billion per year, less than a tenth the money he wants for Iraq.”

Apples and oranges,” replies the White House, apparently not understanding the concept of opportunity cost. Every dollar that is spent on the occupation is a dollar that could have been put to a different use. Bush’s SCHIP proposal does not even include funds to continue insuring the children who are insured today. He claims he vetoed the expanded plan because it would federalize health care. Read: If we make sure children can go to the doctor, we’ll all turn into a bunch of Commies.

The implication is patently false. SCHIP is a stop-gap measure to aid state programs that help uninsured working families buy medical coverage. Under SCHIP, health care is delivered by private doctors and administered by private insurance plans, and thus is hardly “government health care.” Bush had polyps removed from his colon using government health care funded by taxpayers. Apparently it’s not socialist when Bush does it.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a key sponsor of the SCHIP reauthorization, takes issue with Bush’s federalization claim. “To call this a march toward one-size-fits-all, government-mandated health care, is just political, in my opinion, because this is a block grant to the states.”

Some Republicans are wise enough to consider how their SCHIP vote will affect their future election prospects. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was among 18 Republican senators who voted to re-authorize SCHIP. The Senate vote is strong enough to override Bush’s veto, but the House vote is about two dozen votes short.

Ninety percent of Americans favor providing healthcare for uninsured children. Anticipating such a reaction, Bush made a pre-emptive strike against children’s healthcare. “I mean, people have access to health care in America,” he claimed in a July 10 visit to Cleveland, Ohio. “After all, you just go to the emergency room.”

The emergency room is exactly where Americans do not want to see children with minor illnesses. We want their runny noses and sore throats remedied by doctors at $50 visits, not in the ER to the tune of $900 or more. Either way, taxpayers foot the bill. We’ll pay the lower amount, thanks–and reserve the ER for serious injuries.

Maybe they do understand the math, though. Maybe the health of American children is just not on the Republican agenda. The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mt 6:21) In other words, our priorities are revealed by what we do with money.

Let’s pretend that America actually has the $189 billion Bush wants to pump into the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and on top of the regular Department of Defense budget of $460 billion. The cost of the war has now hit half a million dollars per minute.

What is the opportunity cost of that money? For what Bush is spending each year in Iraq, we could provide health care coverage for every man, woman and child in America. Republicans are hard-set against such an idea, because their campaign accounts are bloated with the skimmings of exorbitant healthcare profits.

The United States and South Africa are the only developed countries that fail to provide health care for all their citizens. Under the Health Choices Plan proposed by Hillary Clinton, every man, woman and child can enjoy reliable health care coverage using private doctors. And the cost to American tax payers? It’s a net tax cut.

For that matter, $189 billion could go a long way to shoring up our ailing education system, repairing bridges and Interstates, and taking better care of our veterans and the elderly. Republican politicians would rather dump dollars into Iraq, where they line the pockets of Blackwater and Halliburton.

Bush is fond of saying “We have a lot of money, here in Washington.” No, Mr. President, we don’t have that $189 billion. We didn’t have the $455 billion you already burned in Iraq, either. You continue to pile deficits onto the backs of American children, even as you take away their health care.

Jeannie Babb Taylor is a wife, a mother, entrepreneur and writer in Ringgold, Ga. This column is adapted from her blog, “On the Other Hand.”