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Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Republican Party: Dauntless Champion of Family Values!™

Except where it's not, of course.

Rod Dreher points out the...incongruity...of this pose of Texas Republicans who at the same time gutted a program that provides assistance to poor families. Among which, he discovered, included a family at his parish:

Last week, the front page of The Dallas Morning News told the story of the Kimbers, a working family that lost benefits under the radically scaled-back Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. Result: They have to decide between filling their children's teeth or their stomachs. The Kimber children are doing without dental care so they can eat.

Wait a minute, I thought, I know those people. They're part of our Catholic parish. My wife is in a home-schooling group with Joan Kimber. When our second child was born earlier this year, she brought food to our house, including bread her eldest daughter made for us. And this is what they're dealing with?

These devoutly Christian folks work hard for a living. Until very recently, Joan was a home-schooling, stay-at-home mom, who helped out in the family moving business and at church. These are the kind of good family people who hold society together. And when they have their ox in a ditch, society is willing to walk on by.

One way or another, my family is going to help the Kimbers, who are also making draconian adjustments. But what about the Texans who aren't in a position to draw on the assistance of church and friends, and who have no more room to maneuver?

Then there was the reaction to the story, which I was privileged to witness over at Amy Welborn's blog:

I posted the Kimber story and my commentary to a conservative Catholic blog I frequent, and was startled to read the feedback. Some of my fellow Christian conservatives were appalled by the idea that children in a working family had any claim on society's compassion or resources, even for basic health care.
"They shouldn't have had five kids they couldn't support," many said. But they were able to support them, until business reversals of the sort that could happen, and have happened, to many North Texans in the recent economic downturn. It may trouble some of our more robust Republican state legislators to learn that the working poor cannot sell or eat their children when they have trouble making payments. What then?
Look, I'm a conservative, and I know money doesn't come from a pot of gold under the Alamo. The state had a massive budget shortfall, and something had to give. Of all the programs to face hacking though, why this one? Is the principle of "no new taxes" so sacrosanct that my fellow Republicans have to grind the face of the poor to be faithful to it?

Listen, I'd hate to re-ignite the Electrolux-economic-gutting-of-Greenville firestorm again (OK, not really "hate to"...), but being the lifelong Republican voter/"gulpily emotional New Dealer" (it's one of those Jungian-duality-of-man-things) that I am, I have to.

It's precisely stuff like this that keeps the Democratic Party in business, and lends credibility to the charge that Republicans basically stop caring about life once you safely exit the womb.

No--stop right there--don't start. No, I'm not a fan of a welfare state that creates dependents, one that births an underclass that knows nothing else. Much less am I a fan of the bureaucracy such programs often create, with its own self-sustaining, empire-building motives.

[Insert favorite qualifier here.]

Is it really essential to cut health care for kids whose parents are in tough financial straits? Really?

This is the other half of building a culture of life--making sure people can take care of their own when hard times hit. Essentially telling folks to suck it up...should ring a few unpleasant bells in the heads of those who profess to follow Christ. We have a panoply of saints who say otherwise, including those who held the reins of power and funded charitable works from the public treasury. State-funded health insurance for struggling working families accords well with that tradition.

This is something that really hits home for us--Michigan has a similar program, and people I know very well are or were on it. Young people who work for a living--including one whose employer closed the factory and shipped the job off to Mexico. By the way. People with young children--all under the age of five. People who would have been in serious trouble if the program hadn't existed.

And, again--before you start: yes, we pitched in financially--and it wasn't chump change, either. So pucker up, buttercup, before you peddle your warmed-over Rand in Christ's clothing here. There's only so much family and friends can do with unpaid medical bills running in the thousands, bankruptcy in the offing (and eventually filed) or losing half your income because your employer decides to make more cash with cheaper labor.

One of the families had their second child while on MIChild. Caesarian. I can't imagine the medical bills if they hadn't had the coverage. Actually, I can--the tab for my son was about $11,000 in 2003. Thanks to our insurance, we didn't pay a dime. Thanks to MIChild, the family we know was spared all but minor bills. If not, they'd have been bankrupted, too.

Can we at least agree that people teetering on the financial precipice are less likely to be "open to life"? Just maybe?

I'm left to ponder this: Michigan is undergoing a budget crunch of epic proportions. But I'm reassured that MIChild is safe from the axe largely because our frequently-dead wrong and morally-obtuse Democratic governor stands in the way. That, and our Republicans seem to have a little more mental candlepower than is often seen in the Stupid Party. If nothing else, it's bad politics to make families suffer in an election year.

It's even worse Christianity.

[Link via Amy Welborn.]

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