December 21, 2017

Gifts for Christ or Herod?

By Glenn

Christmas time teaches a lot about our priorities. In my house growing up it was all about the kids. Our families would all gather at my grandmother’s house, later my dad’s, to celebrate. The highlight was the kid’s opening presents. Giving to the “least of these” was the reason for the season. It brought out the best in all of us.

This Christmas, President Trump and the conservative controlled Congress decided to give presents. The American people received a $1.5 trillion deficit increase while wealthiest among us received tax cut. Instead of joy, 9 million children and their families found a lump of coal under the tree as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) died.

CHIP serves uninsured children under age 19 and pregnant women. Until this year it was a bi-partisan program. CHIP had all the features conservatives demand: state run, state flexibility and participant co-pays. It also had some pretty liberal features. The cut off for eligibility was 200% of poverty or $ 48,600 (family of four), opening it to thousands of North Texas families.

In other words, the vast majority of CHIP eligible families have jobs, pay taxes and play by the rules. They simply do not earn enough to afford private insurance. Insurance means the difference between seeking medical care and suffering without.

Suffering is not a Christmas virtue. Suffering keeps kids out of schools and creates a whole host of problems. The ripple effects include more than academic and social losses. Mothers and fathers lose money or jobs when they stay at home to care for a sick child. Healthy children mean low income parents can work and take care of their own families. CHIP is money well spent.

The money doesn’t actually go to the families, however. The money is a job creator. Doctors, dentists, nurses and lab technicians earn a living off these federal and state tax dollars. When small towns lose this money, how many well-paying jobs will also leave? We’ve already seen rural hospitals close in states that refused to expand Medicaid.

Letting CHIP die also seems awfully strange for conservatives who claim to be “Pro-Life.” Texas already has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Cutting CHIP will make it worse. Prenatal care is an essential part of a healthy life. Early childhood care is an essential feature of a healthy life. Every pregnant woman should have access to health care before and after her child is born. CHIP is Pro-Life.

Cutting funding for CHIP, Medicare, Social Security and public schools is the real “War on Christmas.” Christ came as a child. The Wise men brought gifts, not for Herod, but a babe lying in a manger. Are we a people who bring gifts to Herod or the children? What are your priorities this Christmas?

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