I used to think -- in fact I used to know -- that most everyone in public service was there due to credentials and experience. From a young age I had convinced myself that the person elected to public office knew things -- important things -- that either I didn’t know due to my own lack of intelligence or lack of experience. Now, based on the past 8 years and most recently the last couple of days, I know that I was wrong. Just because someone has been elected to something doesn’t mean that they are in possession of more knowledge, experience or common sense than I have and that is a disappointing realization with which to grapple.
Since the November election, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the last eight years and what I find to be a rough and uncomfortable era. I’m happy it is passing. I am glad to know that I won’t have to await the broadcast of national news with trepidation. I spent the last many years ready for the squirm that would come when I would hear the latest dreadful gaffe by an elected official who’d obviously forgotten how to speak English. Was it inability or just blatant disregarded for our language’s rules, much like the rules of fair play and help for the common man that were also disregarded? I am not so foolish as to think that the president-elect’s language won’t be picked apart for “-isms” but I look forward to an era of eloquence in speech that I have sorely missed.
A recent experience did snap me out of my dreamy stupor of what is to be when the Oath of Office is administered. The vote on the SCHIP legislation came to the House of Representatives and the Wyoming representative, who certainly did not go into office with any mandate, voted against it. She replaces a painfully ineffectual representative who barely hung onto her seat in the last election go-round and the freshman representative is now at odds with the majority. She took the opportunity to vote against legislation that would help thousands of children receive state-funded health coverage as well as reauthorizing the program for the many that are currently covered. She referred to it, on our neighboring state’s 10 o’clock news as “another entitlement program hijacked by the Democrats”. Nice. Not only is this newbie representative slamming the existing program that has proved so beneficial to so many, including my children, but she is equating other elected officials with... terrorists? Nice, again. Great entrance into the circles of power and a beautiful effort on her part to propagate the climate of fear that has been the hallmark of the departing administration. I guess she is remembering that the expansion was vetoed twice by Bush and is continuing the policies of the departing power that is willing to send billions of dollars to failing industry, not require culpability in the lavishly compensated executives, but say that expanding the health insurance of children provided by the states is too much of a financial burden. The conservative Representative of the state to our north voted in FAVOR of SCHIP. Do his constituents know that he’s now being equated with hijackers? Maybe there was a need to wrestle this to the forefront of the session and not give the lame duck Chief Executive an opportunity to jackhammer the bill again. In the Representative from Wyoming’s depiction, insuring children against illness and injury, so that they can become productive, tax-paying citizens is another "entitlement" ripe for derision, but looking out for the interests of mineral producers and privatizing Social Security is of far more importance than our children's well-being. I know what drives the economy of Wyoming, I know what her priorities appear to be, but there comes a time and an opportunity to take care and help one’s own state and those most in need of the benefits of coverage. Could there be better way to do this than reauthorize and expand a program that will help the young of Wyoming become the productive workforce that will continue to benefit this state? If the Representative has a better solution, she is not shouting it loud enough to advocate for the young of this state.
I could proceed to quote studies about the benefits of early wellness intervention and the ability for a family to know they can have medical access before a small problem or illness snowballs into an expensive, uninsured visit to the emergency room that might leave them bankrupt or worse, uninsurable. I would think that a candidate and, now Representative, who counted on the support of the pro-life voters would understand that health care and support of the young doesn’t end with the avoidance of abortion and a live birth. I’ll spare you the quotation of studies and statistics, but I will mention the logic of a good friend, a priest in this community, who called the Wyoming Representative in DC to recommend her vote in support of the bill by saying she had seen, in the schools, in the lives of her neighbors and friends, the benefit of health coverage for those young children that are most in need; those healthy children will become healthy and productive members of society. I would think that all are deserving of that opportunity to thrive and should not be scolded for being too much of a burden.
The good news is that SCHIP was reauthorized and expanded. With broad bipartisan support, the House of Representatives approved the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), H.R. 2, by a vote of 289 to 139. This is an exciting first step toward ensuring that states have the resources and authority they need to enroll millions of low income pregnant women and children in comprehensive, affordable health coverage. If there is ever a worthy “entitlement” it is certainly the health of this state's children. With the reauthorization and expansion of the program, I do hope that our new administration will see clear of those that come to the halls of power bearing grudges and looking narrowly at the future. And I certainly hope that those in Wyoming will make their hopes and requirements for the future known to the new Representative in Wyoming so that we don’t have two more years of special interest focus without a bat of the eye to those most in need. I would encourage you, no matter where you may live, to call your Senators and insist that they vote an enthusiastic YES to reauthorize the SCHIP program.