"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, October 22, 2007

LIHEAP Exposes Part of the Lie Underpinning SCHIP Veto

Dan Brown exposes Bush's new effort to help the poor: cut off their heat this winter:

George W. Bush explained his recent veto of the bipartisan-supported Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, because he says he wants to put "poor kids first."

The president's (and his supporters') logic here is that expanding funding for the popular State Child Health Insurance Plan would mean that more people than those living in rock-bottom poverty might get access to government-subsidized healthcare, and that would be a grievous wrong. He contends that only kids born into the most desperate poverty should get help outside of private, market-priced insurance--whether they can afford it or not.

And now he wants to cut government-subsidized heat to low-income households.

Bush took less than a week to prove through his actions that he could not care less about poor kids at any level of poverty, and is in fact, actively working to keep them sick, freezing, and unable to elevate themselves. "Poor kids first" is hogwash.

Using the pathetic trick of releasing the mean-spirited announcement on a Friday evening, the week's lowest-buzzing moment of news coverage, the Bush Administration wants to cut the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a move which will literally leave 30 million low-income households in the cold this winter.

Oil costs are rising, and the Bush Administration's response is to pull the plug on homes that can't afford the market-priced heat.

Reuters reports, "LIHEAP has an interim annual budget of $2.16 billion, but the White House wants to cut the program to $1.78 billion for the 2008 spending year that began on October 1."

LIHEAP was founded in 1981, but its funding has not kept up with inflation or energy costs. If it did, its budget would be $4.2 billion. Rather than expanding the program to meet the needs of struggling Americans, Bush wants to contract it.

The president's fears of middle-class freeloaders getting government help do not apply here. The households using LIHEAP are poor by any American standard. About two-thirds of the households that receive LIHEAP assistance have annual incomes of less than $20,000. One day Bush says "poor kids first," and then the next, moves to shut off their heaters. And you can be sure that no one who supports Bush's cutback has ever himself spent an icy winter without access to heat.

In a stirring Boston Globe editorial, Deborah A. Frank and Joseph P. Kennedy II point out a devastating statistic:

"Young children in poor families who receive energy assistance through the federal LIHEAP are 32 percent less likely to require admission to the hospital on the day of their visit to the emergency room than eligible families who do not receive LIHEAP."

This program lets people live. How can the Bush Administration propose to cut it by 44% from its 2005 funding level? Don't they have money for this vital program? . . . .

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