Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pocket Book Politics

Back when I was kid I remember seeing this poster everywhere:

The poster I remember was different, though. It was rainbow colored (but then, wasn’t everything when we were kids?) and the font looked like handwriting. In other words, it was a little more hippy-dippy, but the message was the same:
”It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

I have been thinking about this poster a lot lately, what with all the talk about escalating the war in Afghanistan and calls by some Democrats for a war tax. So imagine my surprise when I heard Bill Frist fearmonger about the healthcare bill thusly:

Frist expects the bill will bring a lot more uninsured Tennesseans into TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program. He says TennCare’s roles could swell by 30 percent over the next decade. The extra money for that will have to come from somewhere, and Frist says one likely cut is education.

“And it’s going to fall back in the laps of the governors – Governor Bredesen, but even more importantly the next governor, who is going to have to cut education, who is going to have to cut the police force, in order to pay for these increased expenses.”

Really? You know, I don’t remember Frist or any of his Bush Administration cronies--or, for that matter, any of the tea baggers--worrying about expenses when they crammed the Iraq War down our throats with their lies and deceptions about mushroom clouds and yellow cake uranium.

Nor do I remember any sudden jones for "fiscal responsibility" when we decided to go after the Taliban in Afghanistan. It’s fair to say one reason our government is in its current fiscal mess is due to trillion-dollar wars that were never put on the books but simply passed on to the next generation, while this generation helped themselves to some tax cuts.

Someone decided to throw a little par-tay and have the grandkids pay for it. Sorry kids, no healthcare for you! We're spending your inheritance on war instead. Take it up with Bill Frist, he's one of the former Senate leaders who thought this idea was just peachy.

Now, I’m going to dispute the whole “there will be cuts in education to pay for healthcare” premise anyway, since education is one of those things for which there are federal grants (including Recovery Funds), though I imagine as soon as the Recovery money stops Frist and his cohorts will shout “See! Told ya so!”

Anyway, the idea that we must choose between educating our kids and keeping them healthy is just so much bullshit. How about both? Why do we have to choose? Only a Republican would think it’s one or the other.

Again I ask: how come there is always money for war, never money for things like education and healthcare? One of the things that kills me about our discourse is how the media always couches the debate on healthcare and education as a fiscal argument. They bought the Republican talking point hook, line and sinker.

Our media asks, Can we afford this? I reply: My God, can we afford not to? But on issues of war, "can we afford this" is rarely asked. It's, ohmygawdwe'reallgonnadie. News flash: people are already dying from lack of healthcare in this country. Crazy, ain't it?

Does Bill Frist know how many kids in Tennessee don’t have health insurance? According to FamiliesUSA, it’s one out of every 13 kids (or was--before the economic downturn. It could be worse now). What good is education if kids are too sick to get to school?

How often do we hear war spending presented in fiscal terms like this? Rarely. Yet an additional 40,000 troops in Afghanistan is estimated to cost $40 billion a year. That’s in addition to what we are already spending on the war.

Another $40 billion. That’s $40 billion on top of the hundreds and hundreds of billions we’ve already spent there. We’ve already sank more money into blowing up two countries than we needed to fund healthcare reform and education.

Why is it when it comes to things like healthcare we quibble about the pennies and go to great lengths to make sure a bill is “budget neutral.” Why don’t our wars have to be “budget neutral”?

Why is a war of choice always viewed as a necessity, but necessities like healthcare and education are luxuries?

I’m tired of people like Bill Frist telling us we need to choose between educating our kids and keeping them healthy. That’s just wrong. We just need to shift our priorities.

It will be a great day when the country realizes we can’t afford these little, decades-long military adventures any more. Sorry but we’ve got kids to educate, and a populace to keep healthy, and senior citizens to care for. We have levees to shore up and an energy grid to repair.

If you want your little war, go have a bake sale.