Jim Hightower

Disposable Veterans
by Published on

The Bushites don’t much care that the number of Americans without health coverage has increased by 7 million since they’ve been in charge, including an increase of 600,000 children last year alone. After all, says George W, all Americans have access to health care if “you just go to an emergency room.”

One bit of Bushite health care callousness is not generally known, and it might surprise and appall you. The number of uninsured veterans has jumped dramatically on the Bush watch. Nearly 2 million vets now have no health coverage. The number of uncovered veterans has risen twice as fast as the number of uninsured in the general population, according to a report in the American Journal of Public Health.

Isn’t Bush the guy who’s always saying, “Support the troops”? He wouldn’t turn his back on them once they come home, especially not sick and wounded vets-would he?

Yes, he would. This is not an oversight. His administration has pushed policies to limit the number of vets eligible for coverage. In 2002, even as he was revving up the war machine to send troops into Iraq, Bush administrators at the Veterans Administration quietly stopped marketing health coverage to veterans, citing the need to constrain spending. A year later, they went further, cutting off access to future vets who earn more than about $30,000 a year. Most of today’s uninsured veterans are lower-middle income workers who are too poor to afford private policies, but not poor enough to qualify for free health care.

This is beyond shameful. No Bushite should be allowed ever again to mouth the words: Support our troops.

GUTLESS DEMOCRATS

Bush’s approval rating is down to a new low of 24 percent in the latest Zogby Poll. Before Democrats gloat, however, note that Congress’s approval rating is down to 11 percent.

If Democratic leaders wonder why they score so low, they might whisper the name Michael Mukasey. Bush’s attorney general appointee was supposed to restore the rule of law to the politically prostituted Justice Department, but he stumbled by refusing to say whether waterboarding is illegal torture, though it clearly is a war crime under both U.S. and international law. Mukasey also asserted that Bush has the autocratic authority to ignore or negate any particular law-a direct affront to Congress and the rule of law.

The Democratic Congress didn’t say no to Mukasey’s nomination. Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein led the way to approve him, allowing Bush to trump both the rule of law and the public will. The two Democrats meekly said that Mukasey assured them in private that if Congress passes a bill outlawing waterboarding, he will uphold it.

Waterboarding is already outlawed. If Congress passes another law to “re-outlaw” it, Bush will either veto it or ignore it. And if Mukasey won’t go public with his private pledge, why on Earth should we believe him?

Mukasey’s much more audacious assertion was that the president can subvert the laws of our land, making Congress subservient to the executive branch. Bad enough that congressional leaders wouldn’t take a firm stand on torture, but how pathetic that they so easily surrendered their own constitutional powers.

The Democratic Congress’ low approval rating is deserved because it so gutlessly betrayed us.

REGULATORS FOR SALE

Washington doesn’t need a new ethics law-it needs a good kindergarten teacher.

Even kindergartners know what “don’t cheat” means, so why are top government officials so slow to grasp the most basic concepts of integrity? The latest miscreants to embarrass the public trust come out of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

This watchdog agency is so toothless that it routinely allows dangerous toys, food, and other imported items onto American shelves. More shocking, however, has been the recent testimony by the commission’s chair that she and the White House don’t want new regulatory muscle and staff proposed by Congress. They prefer to continue asking industries to comply “voluntarily” with consumer protection laws.

Why is the agency so soft on corporate wrongdoing? Chairwoman Nancy Nord is a corporate product herself, having been a lawyer for Eastman Kodak Co.

She has never really left the corporate swirl. Nord and her predecessor, another Bush appointee, have taken dozens of junkets to China, Spain, San Francisco, and other pleasurable locales on the expense accounts of the industries they supposedly regulate. Last year, for example, Nord took a jaunt to a toy fair in New York City on the tab of the Toy Industry Association. An association executive explained that Nord’s attendance was “vital” to inform her about new toys. Even if that’s true, why are the expenses of our consumer protector not covered by her agency?

This is a blatant conflict of interest. Any kindergarten teacher could tell you that it’s hard to speak out for consumers when your mouth is full of industry’s paté and cabernet.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work-and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown-visit www.jimhightower.com