Opinion: Congress’ priority should be to protect health care for poor children
Congress allowed funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s (CHIP) to lapse on Sept. 30, 2017. That fiscal cut left 9 million low-income children in health-care limbo.
After the recent three-day government shutdown, Congress has floated an interim budget that funds CHIP for 6 years. The GOP uses distressed poor children as a bargaining chip. President Trump must get $25 billion to expand U.S.-Mexico barriers for CHIP’s funding to kick in.
The president has flip-flopped on CHIP. Prior to the government shutdown, he sabotaged the House spending bill by tweeting that CHIP funding should not be tied to any short-term spending measure. Then he joined Republicans in using CHIP as a ploy, saying he was for funding if their spending bill didn’t legalize so-called Dreamers, children of illegal immigrants who are citizens by their U.S. births. Now he’s for funding CHIP and the Dreamers, but only if Congress approves paying for the president’s wall.
Is such flip-flopping Christ-like? Jesus taught that a Christian’s heart is broken by hurts that break God’s heart.
He told a story about humanity standing before God’s court of judgement. Some feigned innocence of showing hard-heartedness. They blurted out, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?”
“As you did it not to the least of these (vulnerable children),” declared Jesus, “you did it not to me” (Matthew 25:44-45).
The GOP-controlled Congress broke God’s heart by passing a large tax cut, which favored their wealthy benefactors and corporate interests. Then they let lapse long-term funding for CHIP before re-instating it in the latest spending bill.
During the Nov. 30, 2017 evening before Congress passed the tax cut, which raises the national debt $1 trillion over the next decade, GOP Senator Orrin Hatch sounded as if he were concerned about CHIP.
“The reason CHIP’s having trouble,” Hatch whined, “is because we don’t have money any more.” The GOP didn’t have money for a massive tax cut, either, but that didn’t stop the Republican-controlled Congress from hiking the national debt.
Kids count, don’t they? Why did Hatch and his former deficit hawk colleagues let children suffer? Jesus condemned such heartless hypocrisy.
The GOP’s crying poor over CHIP funding shows the difficulty of teaching a person compassion, which — like imagination — you either possess or lack. Shelved imagination withers. Untapped compassion dries up, like unpicked fruit rotting on vines.
Jesus poses this alternative: Either there is prosperity for all, or prosperity benefits Senator Hatch’s crony capitalists.
Of course, the GOP assures us tax cuts will benefit everyone, not just the rich. Did anyone inform Senator Hatch and his colleagues that CHIP parents fall below the tax line in income? They join 44 percent of Americans who don’t pay any federal income tax because of low income. How, then, do CHIP families benefit from the tax cut?
We hear the tired argument that tax cuts benefiting corporations will lower their costs, which will lower consumer prices, which will generate more sales, which will create more jobs with higher wages.
The Wall Street Journal’s analyst Gerald F. Seib contradicts GOP’s malarkey that Trump’s tax cuts bring prosperity to all, including CHIP kids. “Most [Republicans] simply say,” writes Seib, “the tax cuts over time will produce enough economic growth to pay for themselves, although few economic models or historical precedents, including the effects of big tax cuts in 1981 (Reagan) and 2001 (George W. Bush) indicate that will be the case” (“Both Parties Deft at Ignoring Rising Deficit,” December 26, 2017, p. A4).
Jesus taught us clothe naked children, not feed naked greed.
The Reverend Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt CREATIVE GROWTH Ministries, (http://www.thelivinghistory.com) which enhance Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations that make God’s history come alive.