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EDITORIAL The CHIPs Are Down IN e’ll say this for the governor’s race: At least this time there is no lack of choices. Five candidates are running to become governor of Texasa Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, and two independentsenough to field a basketball team. Yet quantity, as the saying goes, doesn’t guarantee quality, and looking at the selection, it’s easy to feel uninspired. Each of the four major candidates seems like a walking caricature: Democrat Chris Bell, the earnest bore; independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the grating grandma; independent Kinky Friedman, the jester; and incumbent Republican Rick Perry, the blow-dried slickster. Each may be flawed, but after November 7, one will earn the right to govern the state for four years. You may ask, as Kinky does, “How hard can it be?” It’s true that Texas’ governorship is weak. The winner will have to work with the Legislature to pass anything. And yes, Texas politics often borders on the farcical. But the winner of this election will help determine everything from the health of our children to the health of the Texas economy. A quarter of Texans lack health insuranceby far the highest percentage in the nation. And it’s getting worse. Since September 2003, enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides government coverage for the kids of working families that can’t afford private plans, has declined 40 percent, from a high of 529,000 to 300,000. The decimation of CHIP was intentional. In 2003, Gov. Perry and the GOP legislative leadership, hewing to a hard-right ideology, enacted tough bureaucratic procedures designed to siphon kids from the program. \(Another 75,000 kids lost Medicaid coverage due more kids were kicked off CHIP than state officials had anticipated. The result is an excess of $400 million the Legislature had budgeted for CHIP, but has gone unused because there aren’t enough kids in the program now to absorb the money. The uninsured kids haven’t gone away, of course; they’re just not eligible for the program anymore. They can’t get through the bureaucratic wall that Perry and GOP leaders erected. If those policies were removed, the $400 million surplus would be enough to restore all the CHIP cuts since 2003. CHIP has belatedly become an issue in the governor’s race. Perry spokesman Robert Black recently told the Dallas Morning News “CHIP is fully funded. No child has ever been turned away. We don’t have a waiting list.” Technically that’s true. Every kid who qualifies for CHIP is covered. But as state Rep. repeatedly pointed out, Perry helped make a whole lot of kids ineligible. The governor’s argument is analogous to an airline ripping out the empty seats on a plane and then claiming that the flight is full. Kids without health insurance grow into unhealthy adults. Parents take them to a doctors less frequently; they are less likely to be immunized and vaccinated, or treated early for infections and illness. Our current policy could result in a quarter of Texas’ future work force growing into sickly adults. Demographic changes in Texas heighten the stakes. We are quickly becoming a majority Latino state. If we continue to deny our fastestgrowingand poorestcommunities access to quality education and health care, Texas will be saddled with a Third World economy. The results of this election will translate directly into the public policy decisionson education, toll roads, stem cell research, taxes, and many more that will affect not only all of us, but future generations as well. The incumbent has a clear record. If you want to change the direction of your state, this is your chance. THE TEXAS OBSERVER I VOLUME 98, NO. 21 I A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger Executive Editor Jake Bernstein Editor Barbara Belejack Associate Editor Dave Mann Publisher Charlotte McCann Associate Publisher Julia Austin Circulation Manager Lara George Art Director/Webmaster Matt Omohundro Investigative Reporter Eileen Welsome Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editors Rusty Todd, Laurie Baker Staff Writer Forrest Wilder Administrative Assistant Stephanie Holmes Editorial Interns Jennifer Lee, Kelly Sharp Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross, Andrew Wheat Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum, Steve Satterwhite Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid Texas Democracy Foundation Board Lou Dubose, Molly Ivins, Susan Hays, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Gilberto Win, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Sharron Rush, Kelly White, Ronnie In Memoriam Bob Eckhardt,1913-2001, Cliff Olofson,1931-1995 The Texas Observer \(ISSN 0040-4519/ righted 2006, is published biweekly except during January and August when there is a 4 week break between non-profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone E-mail World Wide Web DownHome page . Periodicals Postage paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13 per year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 pre paid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Books & the Culture is funded in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts. NOVEMBER 3, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3