Some time ago a congress of honest men refused an appropriation of several hundreds of millions of dollars to feed our people. They said, and meant it, that the economic structure of the country would collapse under the pressure of such expenditure. And now the same men, just as honestly, are devoting many billions to the manufacture, transportation and detonation of explosives to protect the people they would not feed.
–John Steinbeck, from The Sea of Cortez, 1941
Last month, after a lifetime of riding a bicycle and after more than five years of cycling seriously for pleasure and fitness, I experienced my first real accident. I was riding down a mountain road, going maybe thirty miles an hour, coming out of a blind curve, when I saw a pickup truck pulling into a driveway, across oncoming traffic. The truck was too close and I was going too fast. My brakes locked and I hit the pavement.
I often hear stories about folks in such situations and usually their stories involve visions of God beckoning beyond a blissful light, or perhaps autobiographical images flashing through the mind. My own reaction was more terrestrial. As I slid down the road toward the rolling tires, I was asking myself “how am I going to pay for this?”
I am gainfully employed as a clergyman, and while I’ll never get rich doing what I do, my congregation provides me with respectable compensation, including excellent health insurance for my family. However, even with a good health plan, our family budget cannot really accommodate more than one big ticket medical event at a time, and my crash came just three weeks after my wife had had her gall bladder removed.
I mention this because President Bush recently vetoed a bill that would have expanded the Federal Government’s role in providing health care for children. His reason for preventing the expansion was that he did not want to create an entitlement program for the American middle class, whose medical insurance needs, according to the President, are better served by private industry.
I suspect I may never have felt the disconnect between the White House and my house more acutely than when President Bush vetoed the bill that would have expanded government funded health care for America’s children. Many people are not as fortunate as I am. If I, with a good job and excellent insurance, have a hard time paying for my family’s medical care, then I know it must be nearly impossible for a huge number of Americans who, like me, take home an average paycheck at the end of the month but don’t have the kind of benefits my job provides.
Thankfully, my crash didn’t result in injuries requiring medical attention. I missed the pickup and treated my road rash with Hydrogen Peroxide and a serious slug of tequila. Evidently, the President has confidence that American middle class children will be similarly lucky, and I pray he is right, but I don’t share his optimism.