There is no evolutionary instinct more powerful than the care we show for our children. Making sure our kids are safe, happy, and healthy is pretty much the whole reason human societies formed in the first place, and should be the very first priority of government. So it’s absolutely mind-boggling to see the well-being of children being used a political weapon in the state of Arizona’s vicious budget battles.
On January 1st, 2014, 14,000 Arizonan children lost their healthcare coverage when their version of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), KidsCare II program expired. The KidsCare program extended health insurance to the thousands of kids whose parents made too much for Medicare but too little to get enrolled under the Affordable Care Act. Arizona was the only state in the country to phase out the CHIP program and then not replace it with anything, leaving thousands of kids without access to health care.
Efforts to reinstate the program have gone nowhere so far, thanks to budget-busting Republicans in the statehouse whose tax cuts have sliced a staggering $4 billion out of the state budget – but can’t find the money to pay for children’s healthcare or education. Governor Doug Ducey has signaled that he will be bowing to Tea Party extremists and abandoning the effort to reinstate the CHIP program, keeping 31,000 kids from getting healthcare once again, as State Senator Steve Farley (D-District 9) lamented in a recent Facebook post.
What’s even more infuriating about this capitulation is that it is the less profitable thing to do. For all their appeals to “fiscal responsibility,” it is absolutely clear that our Republican legislators haven’t the slightest clue how economics actually work – or else they are purposefully ignoring the truth to advance their own agendas, like they do when it comes to climate science, or reproductive science, or anything else that involves facts.
The Grand Canyon Institute did a study that found that in the long term, the benefits far outweighed the cost to the state:
“Reinstating the program would yield approximately $40 million in direct economic benefits in FY2017 and total economic benefits of approximately $75 million, as the initial $40 million recirculates in the economy. This added economic activity should bring in nearly $3 million in added state and local revenue, while the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of a program estimated to reach more than 30,000 children…Consequently, no reason exists to continue the freeze on KidsCare in Arizona. “
There is literally no reason why they shouldn’t reinstate this program. It has broad bipartisan support – the bill to reinstate the program, HB 2309, passed 47-12 last week – but Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) is refusing to pass it, over concerns that the federal government will “go back on its word” and snatch the funding away, which is of course a ridiculous notion. Governor Doug Ducey capitulated to this legislative terrorist, dropping his support in favor of a Kochian anti-social program agenda.
That suspicion was confirmed this morning when the Arizona legislature passed a budget that did not reinstate the KidsCare program, but somehow found the money to include $8 million in tax cuts for businesses and $5 million “earmarked for ‘freedom schools’ at Arizona State University and University of Arizona. These essentially are propaganda centers for the right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch, who provided the seed money for the centers.”
It’s pretty clear who’s running the show in the Arizona and where their priorities lie.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.