Monday, April 21, 2003

Tax Cuts--the GOP Cure for Everything (even birth defects)

President Bush comes out for universal health care and adequately funded public schools -- in Iraq! Which is funnier, real life or the cartoon version?

This week's column notes yet another imagination-boggling cut in the GOP leadership budget, based on a column by Dr. Allen Erenberg of the University of Arizona School of Medicine. If Saddam Hussein had eliminated funding for health care for prenatal pregnancy and premature babies to fund tax cuts for his cronies, that would have justified invading Iraq. The Arizona Legislature does it, and claims fiscal responsibility. Guess we could use a little regime change around here, too.

Want proof that these pro-lifers really do only care about kids from the moment of conception until the instant of birth? Here it is.

The Budget Battle

East Valley Tribune, Apr. 20, 2003

The GOP legislative leadership must avoid tons of stress by having no memory. Why else would what they said yesterday have no bearing on what they’ll say tomorrow?

“Fast Eddie” Farnsworth (who with each passing day seems more like Jeff Groscost with half the brains and none of the charm) and his legislative pals have a problem. GOP ideology requires them to balance the state budget on the backs of kids, families, and the elderly.

The GOP simply can’t make their numbers work without cutting help for parents with autistic kids, assistance for keeping the elderly in their homes, and vaccinations for children. Each day reveals yet another hard-hearted and fiscally stupid budget decision.

The latest is the leadership’s proposal to eliminate funding for neonatal medical programs. Dr. Allen Erenberg, a professor at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, wrote last week in the Arizona Daily Star about the Legislature’s proposal to eliminate funding for women at risk of pre-term labor or delivering high-risk babies. Last year, the program served 10,000 women. Next year, if the GOP leadership gets its way, the program won’t exist.

The cut also will eliminate aid for maternal/neonatal transport. If a woman in a rural area goes into early labor, or her premature baby may be critically ill, doctors now fly her to a Level III neonatal intensive care unit in Phoenix or Tucson. Rural hospitals simply can’t afford those facilities. Without transport funding, many premature babies simply won’t make it.

These so-called “pro-life” legislators constantly proclaim their deep and sincere commitment to helping children from the instant of conception to the moment of birth -- but not one minute more.

Might they make a teensy exception for premature babies who didn’t get nine full months in the womb? No way, baby. Once you’re born, you get a budget cut.

Good luck dealing with all those premature birth and low birth weight problems. Instead, the GOP will cut taxes on the rich. I’d joke that the Legislature thinks they’d be giving premature infants economic incentives to avoid birth defects -- but in the Arizona Legislature, that’s how they actually think.

Let me remind everyone yet again that there’s a competing budget plan from Gov. Napolitano that does none of these things. The governor’s budget doesn’t eliminate neonatal funding, childhood immunizations, and developmentally disabled services. And you ‘wingers can huff and puff and tell your usual lies about Democrats and liberals, but her budget doesn’t raise taxes.

But the Republicans still profess horror, claiming that the Governor’s budget involves too much borrowing, which is a terrible, terrible thing and which the GOP cannot countenance. Well, couldn’t countenance ten days ago. This past week, however, borrowing became cool again.

The GOP leadership now supports borrowing $400 million to build research facilities at the three state universities. What’s more, the GOP-approved borrowing plan also requires setting aside the Legislature’s rules to hear a late bill.

So now that it’s just peachy to bend the rules to borrow money, and if the Governor’s budget doesn’t raise taxes, what exactly are the GOP’s core principles? That people elected them to stop caring for premature babies? To increase childhood diseases by slashing funds for vaccinations? To “incentivize” kids not to become autistic by eliminating their services?

How do you complain about borrowing for months, then suddenly agree to borrow $400 million? Maybe the same way some people can go to church on Sunday, hear sermons about helping the least among us, then on Monday make the elderly, children, and the disabled pay the price of their ideological obstinacy.

Maybe it’s not a lack of memory. Maybe it’s something more fundamental -- like a lack of morality.

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