Again, this happened like a week ago, but I just heard about it and it kinda pisses me off. Rep. Steve King of Iowa has a cute new name for the SCHIP program: according to him, it stands for “Socialized Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents.” Well, haw haw, Steve. Haw haw haw.
There are, if you hadn’t guessed, several things wrong with this. The first thing is that the SCHIP program is very different from the so-called “Hillary-Care” program of the early 90s. Also, it doesn’t cover illegal immigrants. Also, it doesn’t cover anyone’s parents. So, in other words, the distinguished gentleman from Iowa is more full of crap than a Porta-John at Bonnaroo.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so naive as to expect better from a member of Congress. These are, after all, the hallowed halls where a guy beat another guy with a cane during an argument about slavery 150 years ago. However, this still feels…. ooh… low. Oddly enough, it’s easier for me to wrap my brain around the violent argument over slavery between Senators Preston Brooks of South Carolina (pro-slavery) and my homeboy Charles Sumner of Massachusetts (anti-slavery). A ban on slavery would seriously screw up the nation’s economy. It’s very easy to say, nowadays, that “yes, but it would also free people from slavery, you idiot,” but that’s because your livelihood doesn’t depend on the enslavement of others. Let’s say you lived in Massachusetts in the mid 1800s. You know what fueled the economy of our great liberal commonwealth? Textile factories. And what, pray tell, do they make textiles out of? Cotton. And where do we get the cotton? Yeah.
Ayn Rand once said that if everyone looked out for their own best interests, and that’s it, the world would be a better place. She was dead wrong, of course, but that doesn’t mean people haven’t been trying to prove her right ever since. The thing that really separated pro-slavery folks and anti-slavery folks was that the pro-slavery folks steadfastly refused to see the forest for the trees, the trees in this case being, um, enslaved black people. Racism, in that case, was used to justify their greed. Usually, it’s the other way around.
I bring this up, too, because the SCHIP program would expand health care to millions more working class kids – you know, the ones whose parents actually work for a living, but whose bosses can’t afford/refuse to offer health benefits to families. The conservative argument against this has been “it’s socialism! it’s anti-capitalist! it’s not what we do!” whereas the liberal argument for this has been “yes, but it would also insure lots of kids who can’t afford health insurance, you idiot.” Considering that health insurance is stupidly expensive in this country (you have Reagan’s deregulation to thank for that), and that the idea that good health care should only be enjoyed by rich people seems to be even more anti-American than anything, and that these are kids for heaven’s sake, and that it could be easily paid for via a cigarette tax or by not throwing money down the sinkhole that is Iraq…. this should be a no-brainer.
And yet, the President vetoed it, because for some reason he only decided to be a fiscal conservative right this minute, after spending huge amounts of money bailing out his corporate buddies and on paying off private contractors in Iraq. The most mundane reading of this is that he’s got some sort of disorder where he can only spend money on dumb things that won’t work. The more frightening reading suggests that he has no problem spending tons of money so long as it hurts or maims someone else, but the second the money is used to help somebody, he’s a “fiscal conservative.” This fits in with Bush On The Couch by Justin Frank and The Bush Dyslexicon by Marc Crispin Miller, both of which take the stance that the current President is at his most engaged when he’s hurting someone.
But back to Rep. King’s little sight gag. The reason this jars with me is because it sounds less like something a congressman should say and more like something a conservative shock jock would say. And not even a good conservative shock jock. Even Limbaugh would be above that nonsense. Saying SCHIP stands for “Socialized Clinton-ized Hillary-care for Illegals and their Parents”, when it doesn’t even do any of that stuff, is straight outta Howie Carr World or Jay Severin Land (to name two local yakkers, but you’ve probably got ’em where you’re from too.) You wanna mark something as bad? Just say “Hillary” and “Illegals”. I’m surprised they didn’t throw “Hollywood” or “Gay Marriage” in there, just for good measure. “Yes, folks – SCHIP stands for ‘Sodomy Clinton Hollywood Illegals kicking Puppies.'”
Then again, my homeslice Chuck Sumner did pull something similar back in the day. Most people remember how he got the snot beat out of him on the floor of the Senate, but no one remembers why. Seems he made a speech attacking certain Senators who were in favor of the pro-slavery violence in Kansas (i.e. “Bleeding Kansas”) and, in the speech, he lambasted a Senator named Butler who wasn’t even there to defend himself. He made a point to mock Butler’s physical deformities as well. Sumner was always sort of a jerk. Anyway, Brooks and Butler were cousins, and Brooks didn’t take too kindly to that, so out came the cane and you know the rest.
Still, I can’t help but think that the Steve King incident was an even greater break-down of discourse. Brooks and Sumner, no matter how inappropriately they acted, did so on the basis of very serious and deeply held convictions. King, however, sounds like he’s trying out for drive time on AM 760, Where Des Moines Comes To Talk. I don’t know if he knows the details of the expansion of the SCHIP program or not. It frightens me to think he may not. It saddens me to think that he does know, but is feigning ignorance. The ignorance he may or may not be feigning is a troubling and particularly destructive kind – a kind that allows itself to be swayed by repeated memes and catch phrases. If you help working class kids get health care, the next thing you know we’ll be saluting pictures of Chairman Mao and celebrating May Day, and somehow Hillary Clinton is involved. That’s the language of pundits who make their living off of thinking you’re stupid, and now it has finally found its way to the floor of the United States Congress.
(oh, and: SOX WIN! SOX WIN! SOX WIN!)