As passed by the House, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP, will create a major new middle-class entitlement even as we face looming national bankruptcy from our $50.5 trillion (yes, you read that number right) in planned spending under Social Security and Medicare.
Today, some 6.6 million kids are covered under SCHIP, at a cost of about $25 billion over five years. The new bill raises that to 9 million kids covered, at a cost of $60 billion. It pays for it with a 61-cent hike in the tobacco tax.
Sounds good, except that tax will hit the poor hardest. And those it helps are not poor. Under the new bill, families earning $83,000 a year could be eligible. If this bill were targeted at the poor, President Bush and the Republicans wouldn't oppose it. But it isn't. It's a new, radically expanded middle-class entitlement.
That, by the way, includes families like the Siravos of New Jersey, profiled recently by Bloomberg News. The Siravos earn $56,000 a year, own their own home and drive two used cars. They also pay $9,000 a year to send their only child to a private school.
Yes, things are a bit tight for the Siravos, as with many American families. But should the working poor subsidize health care for the Siravos and other middle-class families?