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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Political Lesson To Be Learned From Oregon Voters Rejecting SCHIP

Our Politicians in Congress and the Senate have a problem, which the Oregon voters have managed to point out, and that problem is that voters are smarter than the politicians were hoping for.

Oregon voters understood what the politicians in Washington were hoping they wouldn't and that is the SCHIP program, as written is unworkable, allows adults and higher income families to join in a program designed and named as a program for lower income CHILDREN.

From the Wall Street Journal's, Opinion Journal, we see the lesson that I highly doubt our politicians will learn, but just because they are incapable of learning, doesn't make the lesson go away it only shows that the politicians themselves are incompetent and deaf to the American public.

Schip Wreck
Oregon voters send a message on HillaryCare.

Oregon voters passed judgment Tuesday on a plan that would have made their state children's health insurance program "universal." Sound familiar?

It should, because Oregon reproduced the current Schip fracas in D.C. on the state level--and the referendum took a major shellacking, with voters siding three to two against. Oregon's expansion was almost identical to the one backed by Congressional Democrats, so let's conduct a post-mortem, which may also be a portent.

Like Beltway Democrats, Governor Ted Kulongoski and his legislature wanted to broaden eligibility for Oregon's "Healthy Kids" Schip program to 300% of the federal poverty level. They would also allow all families to opt in, regardless of income, though higher earners wouldn't get subsidies. Again like Congress, Salem intended to pay for the expansion with cigarette taxes, which would increase to $2.02 from $1.18 a pack. That would be one of the highest state tobacco levies in the nation.

Democrats couldn't dredge up the three-fifths approval required for a tax increase in the legislature, so they kicked the expansion over to the ballot. And already, Measure 50's defeat is being blamed on $12 million in advertising by Big Tobacco. "What happened was, the tobacco industry bought the election," Governor Kulongoski declared yesterday.

We're surprised the Governor thinks voters in his left-leaning state are so easily gulled--especially in a contest between "healthy kids" and cigarettes. More persuasive is the notion that voters didn't want to pass a state tax increase to finance a health-care expansion that Congress might soon pass, along with buckets of federal dollars. But most likely, voters understood that a tax increase on cigarettes is still a tax increase, and a highly regressive one at that. Only about 20% of Oregonians smoke, and most of those are lower income.


There are political lessons here, in case anyone in Washington is paying attention. Voters are rightly concerned about health care and would like everyone to have insurance, but they realize that government programs are very expensive. Americans also don't seem to want to pay for health-care reforms directly through higher taxes. That accounts for the reliance by politicians on the easier sell of tobacco taxes, and it also explains why Congress has disguised the real cost of its Schip contraption with a $30 billion budget gimmick. (No thanks to GOP Senators Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley.)

As for state-level reforms beyond Schip, California may be the next overhyped reform to fail. The last, best hope for Arnold Schwarzenegger's foundering "universal" plan is to imitate Oregon by passing a legislative blueprint and then dumping funding responsibility onto the voters via a referendum. Tuesday's vote doesn't bode well for that prospect.

The President will once again veto the poorly written, unworkable SCHIP bill that Congress and the senate has passed and he will do so for the very reasons that the Oregon voters rejected it.

Once again, it is not too early to start making your calls and letting your representatives know that they need to fix this bill and cover the low income children that the bill is supposed to cover.

Not adults. Not higher income families. Language allowing state law to override the bills enrollment eligibility must be removed.

Here are the facts of the bill, the problems that need to be fixEd and the people you need to call to tell them to sustain the President's upcoming veto and get to work on a workable bill instead of wasting our time and our tax dollars on a bill that has no chance of actually working and hiding behind the false assertion that "it is for the kids" and start making it FOR THE KIDS.


[Update] Another lesson to the politicians came in NJ on stem cell research.