Several people have mentioned the new numbers released from the Census Bureau. And, yes, the number of uninsured has increased from 44.8 million in 2005 to 47 million people in 2006. This increase is not a surprise or a change in trend. The rising uninsured rate is not new news. Here is new news. Since 1999 the number of uninsured children had been steadily dropping. However, this year marked the first year in which the number of uninsured children has increased – by 600,000 children to 8.6 million.
What? We are leaving 8.6 million children without health coverage! So let’s cut the program that is responsible for insuring over 4 million children. That makes sense. That is what the administration is threatening. Let’s dismantle welfare policies. It is only making people dependent on the government and undermining their self-reliance. If the government got out of the business of providing, people would stand up, take care of themselves, and be responsible and productive members of society. Right? But doesn’t that rationale demand that all people start at a fair starting line. That society evens the playing field somewhat – at least at the beginning – so that all people have a fighting chance. Is not that the idea behind a universal, free and public education? All children should have the tools that come with a basic education so that they can compete. I would argue that health care is crucial to providing that fair starting line. All children need a basic level of health in order to attend that free and universal education. All children need that basic level of health care to prevent more serious issues as adults. All children need a basic level of health care so that they are all starting at the same starting line.
I will tackle the larger issue of the 40 or so million uninsured adults in the future. But at this point I want to point out the hypocrisy of the administration’s rhetoric. The administration is asking that certain children – mainly the working poor – start the race many steps behind their peers. I don’t see how that provides fair competition.
Please take a look at Paul Krugman’s Op-ed from 8/27, “Socialist Plot,” as he makes this argument pretty forcefully. Again, you need that pesky Times Select membership.