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Progressive Politics Matters: SCHIP, Immigration And GOP Lies

Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) on the floor of the House talking about the SCHIP legislation.  You can help Rep. Solis advance a progressive agenda by contributing to her via Blue America.

Chris Bowers at OpenLeft and Simon Rosenberg at NDN both have some critical peeks at the electoral numbers from the last election cycle.   And while the numbers and analysis may prove shocking to the David Broders of the punditocracy, they back up what we’ve been talking about across the broad spectrum of progressive blogs:  the victory that brought Democrats into the majority in both houses of Congress in 2006 was a progressive victory, not a centrist one.

And the Democratic leadership and consultant classes ignore that vital piece of information at their own peril.

Let’s take a single issue as a case study on why progressive politics matter to all of us — and as an example of how Democrats, adhering to progressive values in legislating, can not only do some good but can also reach out to a vital piece of the base that has been shoved to the side for far too long — the working poor.  As Ruth Marcus points out in a WaPo op-ed today, the SCHIP legislation recently passed by Congress has gotten a lot of GOP heat — factually inaccurate, trumped up, false heat, but heat nonetheless:

…Bashing Democrats on immigration — accusing them of doing everything but carrying illegals’ luggage across the border — is a GOP mainstay. But the accusations that Republicans started to peddle last week reached a new low in dishonest nativism.

The first salvo involved the House version of the measure to extend the children’s health insurance plan, SCHIP….

Paid, fed and sheltered? Federal law already prohibits this. But this debate isn’t really about making good use of federal funds. It’s about using immigration as a weapon against at-risk Democrats — and assuming voters won’t bother to learn the truth.

As Jane has already pointed out, the GOP keeps on trumping up their spew on immigration at a price — and the numbers show that the hispanic vote, in particular, does not favor the Republican party as a result of their constant racially-tinged malignancy. SCHIP as an “illegal” immigrant bonanza?  It’s just so much bullshit, and Rush Limbaugh has been at the forefront of the wingnut Wurlitzer’s factually inaccurate malarky peddling:

First here is an editorial from yesterday’s Washington Times. “Unsatisfied with thwarting a Republican effort to authorize $3 billion for a border fence, congressional Democrats are trying to enhance the incentive for illegal aliens to enter the United States by removing the citizenship requirement from the popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).”…So this is the sneaky way that the left is attempting to get universal health care without taking it in one big bite. They do it in a stealth fashion, and they put it under the guise, (sniveling voice) “It’s for the little children. We cannot deny the children health care. There’s so many of them without insurance.” So it’s a sneaky little thing, and now to expand it even further; remember this is about the redistribution of wealth. This is about controlling people. This is about eliminating or putting as many obstacles in the way to acquiring wealth, by the way, on the part of wage earners as possible.

Here is the truth. Having worked with at-risk kids for years in my legal practice, both in my own firm often as a guardian ad litem representing the kids or as a prosecutor representing the state’s interests against abusive parents, the problem of uninsured children living in poverty, and of the working poor, is enormous. Most especially because these children have health care issues that desperately need to be addressed, but cannot be because the only recourse uninsured or underinsured parents have in this situation is to continually take their children to the emergency room where care is costly and far too often comes with little to no follow-up. Which can be disastrous. (via the Children’s Defense Fund)

Deamonte Driver, died at the age of 12, Prince George’s County, Maryland: Deamonte Driver, a seventh grader in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C., died because he couldn’t find a dentist who would accept Medicaid and his mother couldn’t afford an $80 tooth extraction. The inexcusable loss of this 12-year-old’s life started when he complained of a toothache. His mother, Alyce, who works at low-paying jobs, had been focused on finding a dentist to see Deamonte’s brother, who had six rotting teeth, when Deamonte began complaining of pain.

After an unsuccessful search for a dentist who would accept Medicaid, Alyce took Deamonte to a hospital emergency room where he was given medicine for a headache, sinusitis and dental abscess and then sent home. But his condition soon took a turn for the worse, and he was back at the hospital being rushed to surgery where it was discovered that the bacteria from his abscessed tooth had spread to his brain. Heroic efforts were made to save him, including two operations and eight weeks of additional care and therapy, totaling about $250,000. Unfortunately, it was all too late. He died on February 25….

This child died due to a missed $80 tooth extraction. It was not his fault that his family could not afford it, nor was it is fault that the emergency room visit was inadequate — you get the best care they can give you in the moment, but medical professionals will tell you that is no substitute for an ongoing preventive care relationship with a medical doctor who has up-to-date family history and who can do follow-up care.

Preventive medicine for families with no health insurance is spotty at best, and it is the children in these families who suffer the most for it, because they have an entire lifetime to live out the consequences of this medical neglect.  Hard-working low-income parents have difficulties with this often because of costs that exceed the parents’ ability to pay, but it is the children who must suffer the consequences for this in the end.

Rep. Steve Kagan (D-WI) sees this every day in his medical practice: (via Balt.Sun)

Dr. Kagen knows. Give him a few minutes and the allergy specialist will tell you one story after another about patients who were not following his prescriptions simply because they could not afford the medication. He ran for Congress, he says, so Americans would no longer have to choose between buying their next pill or their next meal.

Republicans are trying to block SCHIP, and President Bush has threatened to veto it, not because it isn’t desperately needed — because it is for a whole lot of families — but because they want to make political use of it in the next election cycle by couching it in terms of “us versus them,” trying to make a bogeyman out of all sorts of “brown folks” who are not supposed to be covered by SCHIP anyway if they come to this country illegally. 

As LatinaLista recently noted, 96 percent of America’s children are legal residents in this country.  So, where’s the scary bogeyman now?

Using class and color bait under the guise of the rule of law that the Republican party otherwise could care less about is unconscionable and extremely dishonest.  The fact is that immigration issues are immensely complicated, and that a lot of families are entertwined with both legal and illegal issues — so does that mean to the GOP that legal immigrant children should suffer simply because they might look like others who might be undocumented?  I don’t even know where to start with something that asinine and narrow minded, including the deliberate and willful feigned “ignorance” on the issue of accountability:

The House provision makes the documentation requirement optional for states, which, after all, have an interest in seeing that their Medicaid dollars are spent properly. Adults on Medicaid would still have to prove citizenship, swear that their children are citizens and provide their children’s Social Security numbers. And states would have to conduct annual audits to ensure that no illegal immigrants are being covered.

Opponents point to Congressional Budget Office estimates that lifting the documentation requirement would raise costs $2 billion over 10 years. But, CBO Director Peter Orszag told me, that’s almost entirely because it would increase enrollment of eligible children.

The Republican party is lying. Again.  And they are using divisive, inaccurate rhetoric to advance their corporate welfare agenda.  Again.

Which is why calling their bluff and voting SCHIP through Congress was so important.  And why understanding that the vast majority of Americans value politicians taking a stand on issues that are important to progressives, rather than running away from them due to electoral worries.  As Chris and Simon’s number crunching shows, Democratic victories hinge on one important thing: acting like Democrats.

The whole “bipartisanship above all else” conventional Beltway wisdom is just so much crap.  What people want is leadership — and what can be better than leadership which lifts children in poverty up so that they can actually have a future, instead of losing it like Deamonte Driver did over an $80 tooth extraction that came too late for him to survive. 

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com