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Poverty: The Other Transfat

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Poverty is bad for your health. And if the Bush Administration has it’s way, it’ll stay that way.

A bipartisan coalition in Congress has agreed to raise the budget for S-CHIP, the joint federal/state program that provides health insurance for millions of American kids who are not poor enough to be on medicaid, but whose families cannot afford private healthcare. The program expires September 30, so Congress must take action before then. The proposed plan would allow 3.3 million kids who are not now ensured to be covered under the program (bringing the total to about 9 million). This still leaves about 40 million Americans uninsured, but it’s a start. The hike in funds to SCHIP would be financed by raising the tobacco tax. Makes sense to me — tax something bad for people to provide something good for people.

Democrats are behind it. Republicans are behind it. Not behind it? The Bush Administration, who , which has announced plans to veto the bill and has unloaded a load of BS about the plan being bad because it will move too many people onto government-funded healthcare, when they believe we should be privatizing (which has worked so well…). Because nothing’s scarier than socialized medicine, not even dying kids.

What makes this move doubly bad (a wholly unnecesary multiplication) is that poverty is proven to be strongly linked to poor health. Not – mind you – because of anything people living in poverty have control over (no finger pointing here, at least not at the nation’s poor). As Brydie Ragan noted on AlterNet yesterday, it is discrimination, high stress jobs, nutrient-free food that is made cheap by federal subsidies, and environmental hazards that are most common in poor neighborhoods that contribute to the overall poor health of the poor. This is especially true for young children. Among kids, poverty is strongly linked to high incidences of asthma and obesity. As Jill has protested, the pro-life camp ain’t so pro-life once the kid leaves the womb (or even before, for that matter).

I might be crazy, but I’m hitching this star to Bush’s eventual backing down under pressure from Republicans in Congress who fear backlash in their upcoming election cycles. Crazy? Maybe. But not one tenth as crazy as this move by the Bushies.

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