Bush Gets It Right XII: President Saves Consumers, Taxpayers on SCHIP

Author: Norman Kjono
Article Published: 13 December 2007

From MSNBC News, December 12, 2007 Bush Vetoes Second Children’s Health Plan, by the Associated Press:


WASHINGTON - President Bush vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have expanded government-provided health insurance for children, his second slap-down of a bipartisan effort in Congress to dramatically increase funding for the popular program. . . . Wednesday was the deadline for Bush to act or let the bill become law. The president also vetoed an earlier, similar bill expanding the health insurance program. . . . In a statement notifying Congress of his decision, Bush said the bill was unacceptable because — like the first one — it allows adults into the program, would cover people in families with incomes above the U.S. median and raises taxes. "This bill does not put poor children first, and it moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction," Bush's statement said. . . . Bush urged Congress to extend the program at its current funding level before lawmakers leave Washington for their holiday break. In fact, congressional leaders had already said earlier Wednesday that they now will try only to extend the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, well into 2008 in basically its current form. Their comments signaled that they have given up efforts to substantially expand the program. . . . The bill Bush vetoed would have increased federal funding for SCHIP by $35 billion over five years, to add an estimated 4 million people to the program that provides insurance coverage for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance. The joint federal-state program currently provides benefits to roughly 6 million people, mostly children. . . . The president also has opposed using an increased tobacco tax to fund the program expansion. The bill includes a 61-cent rise on a package of cigarettes.” (Underline added.)


A correction of the above Associated Press report is in order. The second final SCHIP bill that President Bush vetoed yesterday reportedly included a cigarette tax of 45 cents per pack, versus H.R. 976 that was previously vetoed and included 61 cents per pack new cigarette taxes. Oh well, what’s a mere 16 cents per pack difference in accurate reporting among old stream journalists, other than a trivial detail? To 46 million cigarette consumers 16 cents per pack equals $7.36 million per day, or $2.7 billion per year. That correction demonstrates how callous and indifferent old stream media reporters are about accurate facts concerning tobacco.


Tobacco control advocacy – notably the Robert Wood Johnson foundation and its $84 million cigarette tax advocate grantee, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids – have suffered a stinging defeat. The SCHIP defeat bodes an ill wind for the foundation’s namesake and major stock position, NicoDerm CQ manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, too. Coming on the heels of defeat for a $2.1 billion per year cigarette tax initiative in California and a $350 million tobacco initiative in Missouri during the November 2006 elections, the failure of Congress to achieve a veto-proof vote in the House to fund a massive expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) with higher cigarette taxes is a mortal wound for anti-tobacco activists and their political supporters. The severity of that special-interest advocacy wound is emphasized by the failure of Oregon’s cigarette tax Measure 50 last month.


Voters already get it about SCHIP: with “Smoke Free” pharmaceutical nicotine delivery devices being charged ZERO federal or state excise taxes increased cigarette taxes ultimately equal increased taxes for all citizens. That can occur should Congress pass regulation of tobacco by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nicotine in tobacco products can be reduced to any value but zero. So who would pay the $35 billion cost for a massive expansion of SCHIP when consumers switch nicotine brands to “smoke Free” patches, gums and inhalers? Considering that many political supporters of the failed SCHIP bill are also sponsors of FDA tobacco regulation bills, that phenomenon transparently illustrates the repugnant behavior of some politicians to bait nonsmokers with an intolerance tax and then switch the tax base to include nonsmokers, too. See Bush Gets it Right VII: The People Get It About SCHIP for an overview of recent polls and voter responses rejecting higher cigarette taxes and FDA regulation of tobacco.


Nobody ever said the intolerant, zealot Agenda-Afflicted among us were an intelligent species. This SCHIP/FDA “Bait and Switch” scheme merely proves once again, and still, that those who can be baited with an intolerance hook to tax their neighbor can be readily switched by opportunistic politicians to pay through their pointy blue nose for the privilege of doing so. Fortunately, both recent polls and voter responses clearly show that normal folks are far greater group – in fact, a clear majority – compared to the loud but shrinking minority of such Core Intolerants.


Politicians increasingly get it about SCHIP: one cannot declare more than 20 percent of constituents to be a “Target Group” of choice and be successful in a business that depends on good will of the people. Adding a bait and switch to nail the majority merely pours gasoline of the intolerance-stoked political bonfire. Which, of course, provides ample opportunity for the regressives in Congress and state legislatures who still believe a shred of tobacco control dogma to self-immolate (much to the benefit of consumers, taxpayers and small business owners.)


Finally, I ask how many readers who smoke cigarettes have sent President Bush, or their elected representatives who stood firm to deny tobacco control a veto-proof vote in the house, a well-deserved note of thanks? I respectfully recommend that readers who smoke send a brief “Thank you” E-Mail to the President for standing up and objecting to higher cigarette taxes. The E-Mail address comments@whitehouse.gov is a good place to start. I’ve included a copy of my E-Mail to President Bush at the end of this commentary. Regardless of how one feels about other Bush Administration policies, the man deserves honest recognition for his position on behalf of tobacco consumers. Yes, it’s perhaps gratifying to whine when things go wrong and turn against one. On the other hand, when a politician stands up for something one believes in they merit recognition for that, too. Common sense says that if one wants policy to change in the direction desired positive support for those who begin that trends is in order and well-deserved.


We’ll be following this story to its final outcome over the holidays. Since today is the final posting for Forces until January 7, 2008 I wanted to post what is known as of today for readers. In the coming three week my best for the holidays to all, and a special word of thanks to readers who have written to comment on what I have written during the year. I appreciate hearing from folks out there in World Wide Web land.


Best for the Holidays,


Norman E. Kjono


The other commentaries in this series are:


September 23, 2007, Bush Gets it Right: Vows to Do the Right Thing

October 10, 2007, Bush Gets It Right II: A Look at Reconciled SCHIP Bill

October 19, 2007, Bush Gets It Right III: SCHIP Veto Upheld

October 22, 2007, Bush Gets It Right IV: Democrats Push For Pharmaceutical Subsidies

October 26, 2007, Bush Gets It Right V: Seeking Republican SCHIP Converts

November 5, 2007, Bush Gets It Right VI: Dick Morris Promotes Hillary Health Care
November 10, 2007, Bush Gets it Right VII: The People Get It About SCHIP
November 15, 2007, Bush Gets It Right VIII: Correspondence with Congress About SCHIP
November 16, 2007, Bush Gets It Right IX: More Congressional Correspondence About SCHIP 

November 28, 2007, Bush Gets It Right X: Dialog With a Member of Congress

December 7, 2007, Bush Gets it Right XI: Two Members of Congress Speak about SCHIP


-----Original Message-----
From: Norm Kjono [mailto:normkarl@earthlink.net]
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 10:09 AM
To: 'comments@whitehouse.gov'
Subject: Thank you for vetoing SCHIP


President Bush,


I write to thank you for vetoing yesterday the latest SCHIP legislation. I also respect the fact that you were willing to sign legislation that included $5 billion in increased funding for that program, but no new cigarette taxes. And I appreciate that you explicitly stated you objected to the current SCHIP legislative approach because it included higher cigarette taxes.


You have saved tobacco consumers from discriminatory taxation and all taxpayers from ultimately funding a vast expansion of government payment obligations.


A job well done!




Norman E. Kjono

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