Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Why the President Wants Children To Sicken and Die

I've been more or less sputtering incoherently at the president's veto of the bill to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. It's one thing to send criminals to the death house by the carload, but I would've thought, despite his veto threats, that even this craven, heartless man couldn't really look the country in the eye and condemn large numbers of innocent children to sickness and death.

Even large numbers of Republicans (though, sadly, apparently not quite enough to override the veto) saw the human necessity of this measure, and in any case, I wouldn't have thought the lives of our children (actual children, that is, as opposed to the just-barely-not-children we're sending to die in Iraq) would be beyond political posturing. But Eric Alterman saw the issue more clearly than I did. He understands that "Bush's argument is explicitly ideological. He wants children to get sick and die in order to prevent what he believes will be a slide toward what he calls 'socialized medicine.'" At some level, I know the right is all about ideology, but it's hard for me to hold in my head just how important ideological purity is to them. It's because I'm a liberal, I suppose, and somewhere in my heart is the ineradicable notion that my counterparts on the other side are more or less like me, and have merely somehow (innocently, no doubt) ended up believing differently than I about public policy. I think I fall into this trap &mdash and other liberals and progressives do, too &mdash because, as Alterman points out, liberalism itself is not "self-consciously ideological" in the way conservatism is:

Liberals are often understood to be "pro-government" or even "pro-taxation" but this reflects a fundamental confusion between ends and means. Liberals believe in "government" only insofar as it is necessary to achieve necessary goals, including public welfare, investment, redistribution, defense etc. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue against government as a matter of principle: the less government involved, the better, period.

Even, it seems, when less government translates directly into less health care for children who need it.

Of course, even a cursory look at the Bush (or Reagan or Bush 41) budgets will instantly reveals that the right doesn't really want less government; they just want less of the parts of government that actually help people. That stuff is socialism, don't you know? But when government spends untold billions in support of policies that kill people or rape the environment, that's just good old-fashioned American capitalism.

Please, if you're reading this and you're represented by a Republican member of the House, call them and ask them to vote to override the president's veto. Surely some of them still have some shame.

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