October 05, 2009

Wonky but important (with a Homeric digression)

"The Rage of Achilles" by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

Aristeia is a great Greek work that I'd like to see enter the English lexicon. It's usually associated with the Homeric tradition and refers to a hero's best moment.

In the Iliad, an aristeia scene might begin with the hero putting on his armor and speaking words of encouragement to his men before going out to open a major can of whoop-ass on his opponents. He might not always prevail in the end, but people knew he was there. If the Gentle Reader has ever been involved in major struggles, metaphorical or otherwise, he or she will know that sometimes you're on and sometimes you're not. An aristeia is one of those rare times when you're really on a roll.

I'd say that the current struggle over health care is WV Senator Jay Rockefeller's aristeia. He's been a champion of health care issues all along, but I'd say this has been his best fight. Lately, he made national headlines for his (so far unsuccessful) fight to include a public option in the Senate bill.

His latest effort was more successful and deserves recognition. In most versions of health care reform proposed so far by Congress, the Childrens Health Insurance Program would have been phased out. The idea was that the need for it would diminish as more families gain access to other health care plans.

Plenty of people, including me, were not happy about this and wanted the program extended. After all, it was only this year that the program was reauthorized by Congress and the bill that passed included several improvements to the program. We wanted to make sure the program survived intact long enough for states to improve their plans and to make sure that all the bugs had been worked out of whatever reform bill finally passed.

Also, it would have been hard to persuade state leaders to make improvements in CHIP if they thought it wasn't going to be around much longer. Among the changes now possible under the reauthorized program are extending benefits to families earning up to 300 percent of the poverty level; reducing waiting periods for enrollment; expanding oral health benefits; and eliminating the five year waiting period for children of legal immigrants.

Late last week, the Senate Finance Committee voted in favor of one of Rockefeller's amendments which would extend CHIP until at least 2019. As the Charleston Gazette points out, CHIP covers around 14 million children nationwide and at least 25,000 in West Virginia. The issue isn't resolved yet, since this version of the bill will have to be reconciled with others, but my guess is that this amendment has a good chance of surviving.

CHIP is a popular program that benefits working families and it needs to be around as long as there's a need for it.

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS. This editorial from the Sunday NY Times about the job situation speaks my mind. No doubt the stimulus has kept things from getting worse, but more action is needed to address the still deteriorating employment situation. As the Times puts it,

Congress and the administration also have not done enough to directly create jobs. That could be done with more stimulus to spur job creation, or a large federal jobs program, or tax credits for hiring, or all three. Or surprise us. Just don’t pretend that the deteriorating jobs picture will self-correct, or act as if it is tolerable.

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN on religion.


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