As President Bush vows to veto a bill expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Marian Wright Edelman says Washington must do far more to help the nation’s children and to truly leave no child behind. [includes rush transcript]
The Senate is expected to vote this week on a bill that would extend health insurance to more than three million low-income children. Earlier this month senators reached a bipartisan agreement to add thirty-five billion dollars to the Children’s Health Insurance Program over the next five years by increasing federal taxes on cigarettes. The extra funding would help cover some of the nation’s nine million uninsured children as well as some adults with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but not high enough to afford private insurance.
A new poll released Monday from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families shows 91% of Americans support expanding SCHIP to cover more children. It even has bi-partisan support in Congress, and approval — if tepid — from major pharmaceutical and insurance groups.
It sounds like a no-brainer. But there’s one obstacle: President Bush has vowed to veto the bill. Speaking last week at a health care forum in Maryland, he explained why.
- President Bush: "I believe government cannot provide affordable health care. I believe it would cause — it would cause the quality of care to diminish. I believe there would be lines and rationing over time. If Congress continues to insist upon expanding health care through the S-CHIP program — which, by the way, would entail a huge tax increase for the American people — I’ll veto the bill."
President Bush wants to cut the proposed increase by $30 billion, keeping it to just $5 billion. Marian Wright Edelman is President and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. She is a veteran attorney long involved in civil rights causes. She joins me from Washington, DC.
- Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: The Senate’s expected to vote this week on a bill that would extend health insurance to more than three million low-income children. Earlier this month, senators reached a bipartisan agreement to add $35 billion to the Children’s Health Insurance Program over the next five years by increasing federal taxes on cigarettes. The extra funding would help cover some of the nation’s some nine million uninsured children, as well as some adults with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but not high enough to afford private insurance.
A new poll released Monday from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families shows 91% of Americans support expanding SCHIP to cover more children. It even has bipartisan support in Congress and approval, if tepid, from major drug insurance companies. It sounds like a no-brainer, but there’s an obstacle. President Bush has vowed to veto the bill. Speaking last week at a healthcare forum in Maryland, he explained why.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I believe government cannot provide affordable healthcare. I believe it would cause the quality of care to diminish. I believe there would be lines and rationing over time. If Congress continues to insist upon expanding healthcare through the SCHIP program, which, by the way, would entail a huge tax increase for the American people, I’ll veto the bill.
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush wants to cut the proposed increase by $30 billion, keeping it to just $5 billion. Marian Wright Edelman is president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, veteran attorney long involved in civil rights causes, leading child advocate in this country. She joins me from Washington, D.C. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Marian Wright Edelman.
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Thank you, Amy. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. Can you please explain what this SCHIP program is?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: It is a program to serve families with children above a very low income level who are not qualified for Medicaid. And many people are under 200%, the majority, of poverty and many states have — some states have gone beyond that, because — and we have been pushing this year to have families up to $62,000 covered, all of them, with comprehensive care, because the American people in our own focus group in polling understand that they cannot afford decent healthcare for their children, as more and more employers drop it. So it’s for — 90% of the people eligible for SCHIP work. And I have resented in the past Mr. Bush continuing to talk as if CHIP is a public assistance program. These are working people playing by the rules, cannot afford healthcare for their children and cannot get it from their employers.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, explain exactly how the SCHIP program would be funded. What is the deal that Republicans and Democrats have worked out in Congress?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, the Senate has proposed to fund SCHIP, $35 billion tobacco tax, that the tax was proposed in a budget resolution by Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith. It is a public health good in and of itself and will save lives to increase the tobacco tax. The other major proposal to fund SCHIP at least a $50 billion level, which is likely to come forth in the House, would take the excess profits from insurance industries, from the Medicare Advantage program, and apply that excess profits to fund children’s health. And maybe when we come to conference there will be some combination of the two.
What I want to say, though, is that there are nine million uninsured children, and we have been talking all year about the need to fund all of them. And while we are pleased with the first step of the Senate, that’s going to leave almost five million children in working families uninsured, at risk of death and continuing suffering and school failure, and three million isn’t enough. And the House, hopefully, will do better with its $50 billion, but why is this country at this time, the richest in the world, arguing about how few or how many children they can serve? We ought to — this is a no-brainer. The American people want all of its children served. All children deserve health coverage, and I don’t know why we’re having such a hard time getting our president and our political leaders to get it, that children should have health insurance.
AMY GOODMAN: Where do cigarettes come into this?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, cigarettes come into that because cigarettes kill and cigarettes provoke lung cancer, and every child and every human being we can, by increasing the cigarette tax, stop from smoking or slow down from smoking is going to have a public health benefit, save taxpayers money from the cost of the effects of smoking and tobacco. And so, the Senate has said that this is going to be a six — they are going to impose a sixty-one-cent increase on the tobacco tax, that would yield about $35 billion, far short of the $50 billion that they promised in their budget regulation resolution. But this is the first step, and it’s a good thing to have a cigarette tax. The more people we can stop smoking, the more lives we’ll save and the more taxpayer money we will save in hospital and other cost.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain why the President says he is going to veto this?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: I can’t explain the President. The President doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. These are hollow words. He talks about government-funded care. He doesn’t understand that the CHIP program and Medicaid program for children are already being delivered by a variety of private HMOs and others, and that choice will continue. When he talks about government-run healthcare, that’s not got anything to do with this bill. We know that the way in which CHIP and Medicaid have been run are far more efficient than the private industry system of healthcare. They don’t have these big middleman costs. And so, nothing is going to change in the delivery of health services for children under CHIP or Medicaid, so it’s a bogeyman. And either he’s just spouting hollow words, or he fundamentally does not understand about the cost and the efficiency of these programs, which have worked and saved money.
He made a comment a few weeks ago about — just everybody can get healthcare; just take them to the emergency room. Well, you can go to the emergency room, but that means you’re going to spend thousands and thousands more taxpayer dollars to have people go to an emergency room, when we could have prevented that through primary care. Asthma treated in his state of Texas in a doctor’s office will cost about, you know, $111. That same asthma, if it gets more serious and the parents have to take their children to the emergency room, is going to cost about $11,000. He is uninformed, and I don’t know why when the American people really do get it, overwhelmingly want all American children to be covered, you know, why he continues to misstate things, argue for tax credits, which are inefficient, won’t make healthcare affordable.
But we just have to remember that this is the man who told us that the mission was accomplished. He got us into a war on a false basis of weapons of mass destruction. He promised Katrina’s children that he would respond to them. He promised he was going to be the education president and then squandered taxpayer money on tax cuts for millionaires and to leave no child behind and then squandered taxpayer money on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and under-funded education. So I think, you know, he’s setting up these ideological bogeymen, and it’s just something that we should not find believable, and I hope the Congress will not pay attention, they will do what they should do for children and let the President do what they do and then override him if he continues to leave millions of children behind without healthcare on no basis at all.
AMY GOODMAN: Marian Wright Edelman, who is President Bush listening to? Who are the forces arrayed against children, poor children, getting health insurance and the increase on the cigarette tax?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, that’s a good question. I think it must be the insurance industry that wants to protect their profits, because he certainly is not listening to the American people, who — you know, 90% of whom want to have healthcare for all children and provide comprehensive healthcare.
He certainly isn’t listening to his own state, that has — when he was governor, was the last state to implement the CHIP program. And we have just gotten bipartisan support to restore over 200,000 children that Texas had cut. But with Republican leadership, we were able to restore 127,000 children and to simplify the access to care, after we lost a child to cancer who should have been treated by Medicaid and the barriers that we’re trying to correct in the new legislation for CHIP just kept that child from getting served. There are a million uninsured children in Texas, but he’s not even listening to his own home state that desperately needs healthcare for its children, the highest number of uninsured children of any state.
So — and he must be listening to himself or his close advisers who do not understand or have compassion for the children of this nation and do not understand the cost effectiveness of investing in children preventively and seeing that they get what they need before they drop out of school. A child who can’t see the blackboard, can’t hear the teacher is not going to learn. He doesn’t seem able to make the connection between good healthcare and doing well in school, though he says he favors education.
In our efforts over the past months to build support for what is an obvious no-brainer to make sure that every child gets preventive healthcare, we have been able to put together the support of over 1,200 national, state and local organizations, representing over 100 million people, the mayors, the educators of all kinds, child and family advocates. Mr. Bush does not seem to hear or to know what is going on, but somebody needs to teach him, and I hope that the Congress will hear and act to cover all children and at least keep their commitment to provide at least $50 billion from the excess profits of insurance companies and from tobacco, which kills.
AMY GOODMAN: Marian Wright Edelman, I’m looking at a piece from the Congressional Quarterly, "Kids’ Health Gets Political," written by Rebecca Adams. And it says, "On June 27, President Bush summoned six health care experts reflecting conservative and liberal views to the Oval Office to discuss a popular program that provides health coverage to children from poor families and to think out loud about how to cover more uninsured people.
"Conservatives have long been uncomfortable with the way the initiative called the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP puts the government on the hook for billions of dollars of health care spending, though they have been careful not to criticize its intent. The discomfort has become especially acute since Democrats took control of Congress and proposed an ambitious expansion calling for as much as $50 billion more spending to cover more kids."
Then it goes on to say, "For more than an hour, four think tank analysts who were among the visitors said, the president — flanked by his top political adviser, Karl Rove, Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt and other aides — quizzed them about how the program could be paired with efforts to provide tax breaks for Americans who buy private medical insurance coverage. The line of questioning reflected Bush’s belief that the market is better equipped than the government to address the needs of uninsured families. The experts and the president engaged in civil back-and-forth, gently parsing the merits of deductions, tax credits and mandates to buy coverage. One visitor, lobbyist and former Democratic Sen. John B. Breaux of Louisiana, offered tips on how to frame political arguments on health care.
“The gathering might have been the last high-level consultation on health care between the White House and Democrats for some time.
"Immediately afterward, Bush gave a previously scheduled health care speech during which he depicted the future of children’s health coverage in starkly partisan terms: as a choice between government-run health care and a market-driven system that empowers consumers."
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: You know, nonsense. And we should not and the President should not be playing politics or partisan politics with the lives of children who are dying from tooth abscesses, who are dying from things that they should never, never have to die for in the richest nation on earth. You know, if we had such a wonderful private-market health system, why in the world are there forty-six million uninsured Americans? Why are there nine million uninsured children? You know, the system is broken! And we’ve got to change it.
And the kinds of things that the bipartisan support for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program has in the Finance Committee, and I hope he will talk to the Republicans who have worked hard to work with the Democratic leadership of the Finance Committee to put together a very modest, sensible step forward. He should listen to them. But he’s simply playing an ideological game that has no relationship to the pressing needs of American families, the children who are dying and suffering all over this country, the Katrina children who have been left out there to dry without mental health and health coverage, without comprehensive benefits two years after the storm.
You know, shame on this president, who is talking slogans without going out and listening to the cries of children and parents and of members of his own party from his own state. I mean, he needs to get out of his bubble, and he needs to get out and reflect. What every American knows is that no child should be allowed to go without the basic human right of healthcare in the richest nation on earth.
And I hope that the Congress on both sides of the aisle will stand up and do what is right and sensible and cost-effective and what the American people want and let the President be left out there to be told, and then I hope he will override the veto, and we can continue to see how he continues to misserve the children of this country, to use our trademark slogan, "Leave no child behind," while leaving millions of Katrina’s children behind, while leaving millions of children without the mental healthcare that they need and leaving millions of children in this country without fundamental healthcare, which they would get if they lived in any other major industrialized nation. So I just hope that the President will not be allowed to prevail and that the Congress will stand up and do what is right and that the American people will really let their congressmen know that this is the time in the richest nation on earth to catch up with the rest of the decent industrialized world and cover all of its children.
This president is not believable, and he is out of touch. And children need healthcare, and every parent knows that. And this is the time, and this is the year, and this is the means to do it.
AMY GOODMAN: You, in 2000, the Children’s Defense Fund, your motto has always been "Leave no child behind." The Republicans adopted it for their convention. Explain what ensued. You were going to sue them?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: We were going to sue them. We couldn’t find the — this is our trademarked mission statement, and we believe it. And we believe that the richest nation on earth should not leave thirteen million children behind in poverty and nine million children behind without healthcare. 80% of our black and Latino children are unable to read and write in fourth grade; 60% of our white children are unable to read. And we believe that this is something that is going to be an Achilles’ heel of this nation. But the President of the United States simply appropriated — in our view, illegally — our trademarked slogan and then proceeded to use it as a fig leaf to hide policies that gave massive tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the poor, to widen the gap between rich and poor, to say he was going to do education while he put far more money into people who did not need it. And they refused to cease and desist.
We did try to get a lawyer for the first year to take this case against the President — it was a case of first impression — but we couldn’t get anybody who would touch this political hot ball, and eventually did, but decided that we didn’t want to spend all of our time on trial or sitting up in courts and being deposed and that we would simply turn our attention to trying to show the hypocrisy in this statement between what he said and his administration did. And those of us who are concerned now, after years, looking at the words on the war and the facts on the war, who looked at the words about helping the poor and the ways in which the rich have been helped overwhelmingly at the expense of the poor over the last six years, can see that this is not an administration that cares for its people, that is really going to go about providing a level playing field for its children. And with the poverty, I think that the Katrina with the poverty of Katrina’s children before and the absolutely scandalous neglect and abandonment of those Katrina children, all of this time after their storms, this president has not acted.
And so, I just hope that we will hold him accountable for, in fact, leaving no child behind, and I hope that the Congress will begin to get its ball bearings back again and respond to the American people and try to make sure that children do not suffer or are not the political fodder in an election year and that they will do what is right and sensible for all of its children and that we will get back as a nation to trying to give real meaning to "Leave no child behind," because that is about the future and that is about the very core of American democracy. Can we stand up for children? If we can’t stand up for children and for children’s health, we don’t stand for anything in this nation.
AMY GOODMAN: Marian Wright Edelman, we have to break, but I’d like to come back to you, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. We’ll be right back with her in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. We’re talking about children’s health insurance. We’re talking about children’s welfare, in general.
Marian Wright Edelman, when you talk about federal spending on healthcare, of course, we have to also talk about how much funding goes to the Iraq war. I wanted to get your reaction to last night’s Democratic debate that was hosted by CNN and the website YouTube. The war in Iraq was obviously a major topic with a number of viewers asking how and by when candidates would withdraw US troops from Iraq. This is what Senator Barack Obama had to say.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: The time for us to ask how we were going to get out of Iraq was before we went in, and that is something that too many of us failed to do. We failed to do it. And I do think that that is something that both Republicans and Democrats have to take responsibility for. When I am President of the United States, when I send our troops into battle, I’m going to make absolutely sure that it’s based on sound intelligence, and I’m going to tell the truth to the American people, as well as the families who are being asked to sacrifice.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Dennis Kucinich criticized some fellow Democrats for initially supporting the war and continuing to vote to fund it. Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden rejected a full withdrawal, saying thousands of troops will be needed to stay behind. Biden criticized New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s call for a full troop withdrawal within six months.
SEN. JOE BIDEN: There is not a single military man in this audience who will tell this senator he can get those troops out in six months if the order goes today. Let’s start telling the truth. Number one, you take all the troops out, you better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the Green Zone, where I’ve been seven times and shot at. You better make sure you have protection for them or let them die. Number one. So you can’t leave them there, and it’s going to take a minimum of 5,000 troops to 10,000 just to protect our civilians. So while you’re taking them out, Governor, take everybody out. That may be necessary.
Number three, the idea that we all voted, except for me, for that appropriation, that man’s son is dead. For all I know, it was an IED. 70% of all the deaths occurred have been those roadside bombs. We have money in that bill to begin to build and send immediately mine-resistant vehicles that increase by 80% the likelihood none of your cadets will die, General, and they all voted against it. How, in good conscience, can you vote not to send those vehicles over there, as long as there’s one single solitary troop there?
ANDERSON COOPER: Senator Clinton?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Until we get this president and the Pentagon to begin to at least tell us they are planning to withdraw, we are not going to be able to turn this around. And so, with all due respect to some of my friends here, yes, we want to begin moving the troops out, but we want to do so safely and orderly and carefully. We don’t want more loss of American life and Iraqi life as we attempt to withdraw, and it is time for us to admit that it’s going to be complicated, so let’s start it now.
AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Before that, Joe Biden. Marian Wright Edelman is our guest, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. Your response?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Oh, what an unbelievable squandering of life, American life and Iraqi life, for — on a false premise that war is a solution to anything, but then the false premise that there were weapons of mass destruction. What an unbelievable squandering of resources, over $500 billion that could have been used to eliminate poverty in this country, fund everybody with good health insurance, educate our children. What misguided priorities! You know, we sent thousands of young people from America and fathers and mothers into harm’s way without adequate armor — if we were going to be there, but we sent them in harm’s way to fight a war without the adequate armament at the same time that we have left our children here terrorized by gun violence and deprivation and abuse at home. You know, this is — this poses the most fundamental question about the values of this country, the hypocrisy of our leaders, the lack of accountability of our leaders by our citizens. We should get out of the war in Iraq as quickly as we can.
How in the world do we put back together the huge bad will and terrorism that this Pandora’s box of this war that was falsely alleged to be in response to terrorism and al-Qaeda? How do we put the Pandora’s box back together, and how do we begin to heal the incredible wounds and ill will that it’s conceived? But more importantly, how do we begin to live our democracy at home? In the time that we have been in Iraq, beginning in 2003 — I just was talking about gun violence and children yesterday — we have lost in the most recent year 2,845 children in one year. That’s more child gun deaths in the war zones of our own nation than we lost in American battle casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2006.
This war was wrong. I happen to believe that war is wrong. It has hurt countless civilians, mothers and children and others. It has lost families both here and in Iraq, but it has drained resources from our children, from our poor, from our workers, from our schools. And it’s time to stop.
AMY GOODMAN: Marian Wright Edelman, we just heard Hillary Rodham Clinton. She used to be the head of the board of the Children’s Defense Fund, of the organization that you founded. But you were extremely critical of the Clintons. I mean, when President Clinton signed off on the, well, so-called welfare reform bill, you said, "His signature on this pernicious bill makes a mockery of his pledge not to hurt children." So what are your hopes right now for these Democrats? And what are your thoughts about Hillary Rodham Clinton?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, you know, Hillary Clinton is an old friend, but they are not friends in politics. We have to build a constituency, and you don’t — and we profoundly disagreed with the forms of the welfare reform bill, and we said so. We were for welfare reform, I am for welfare reform, but we need good jobs, we need adequate work incentives, we need minimum wage to be decent wage and livable wage, we need healthcare, we need transportation, we need to invest preventively in all of our children to prevent them ever having to be on welfare.
And yet, you know, many years after that, when many people are pronouncing welfare reform a great success, you know, we’ve got growing child poverty, we have more children in poverty and in extreme poverty over the last six years than we had earlier in the year. When an economy is down, and the real test of welfare reform is what happens to the poor when the economy is not booming. Well, the poor are suffering, the gap between rich and poor widening. We have what I consider one of — a growing national catastrophe of what we call the cradle-to-prison pipeline. A black boy today has a one-in-three chance of going to prison in his lifetime, a black girl a one-in-seventeen chance. A Latino boy who’s born in 2001 has a one-in-six chance of going to prison. We are seeing more and more children go into our child welfare systems, go dropping out of school, going into juvenile justice detention facilities. Many children are sitting up — 15,000, according to a recent congressional GAO study — are sitting up in juvenile institutions solely because their parents could not get mental health and healthcare in their community. This is an abomination.
And so, the plight of our children is very, very tenuous, and what we’ve got to do is to put together — and every Democratic candidate and every Republican candidate, whatever their views on the political spectrum, have got to come to a consensus that we are not going to let children be neglected or abused every thirty-six seconds in this country, be born into poverty every thirty-six seconds in this rich nation. And we ought to make a commitment to ending child poverty. Every single candidate should do that. We have got to see that we stop the absolute scandal of a child being born without health insurance every forty-seven seconds, 90% of whose parents live — and working parents, the majority of those children. There are all kinds of children. They live in suburban and rural areas. They’re white, as well as Latino and black. They’re all of our children.
We’ve got to stop the scandal of children being killed by guns, almost eight every day. We have a chronic, silent Virginia Tech massacre every four days among our children. And the candidates need to be forced to address how they are going to deal with this extraordinary deprivation of basic needs from our children and how do we come up with very concrete commitments beginning this year, by saying we are going to get healthcare for every child.
AMY GOODMAN: Marian Wright Edelman, the Democrats are in charge of Congress, are in charge of the House, as well as the Senate. You’ve also spoken very forcefully about the lack of support for the people who suffered from Hurricane Katrina. The Democrats are in charge. What’s happening?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, the Democrats are in charge, but they think they’ve got to get sixty votes in the Senate and they’ve got to be able to override a veto in the House, but we have been pushing them absolutely to do what is right for children. We have been a broken record, saying "all children." God didn’t say "some" or "half." We have been pushing very hard for all nine million children to get health coverage.
Who’s going to decide which child is going to live or die? How are we going to stop this spectacle of children dying from toothaches and tooth abscesses because of lack of dental care? How are we going to stop children — Katrina’s — continuing to suffer and drop out of school and be depressed because of the lack of mental healthcare?
And we want the Democrats to stand up and say all children are entitled to healthcare. It’s cost-effective. We want them to say all children are able to get comprehensive benefits right now. We have two classes of benefits. The CHIP benefit package is not as strong as the Medicaid benefit package. And we have been pushing the Democrats to make sure that all children get the same. The American people support this, and we have been pushing the Democrats, as well as Republicans, to say that we’re going to make it simple.
AMY GOODMAN: But what would have to happen to do that? What would have to happen to do expand that?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, the Medicaid children’s program, EPSDT, has a comprehensive benefit package. What would happen to do that — have to happen is that when the House committee meets this week, and Energy and Commerce, if they insist that that package of comprehensive benefits for CHIP children be made the same, and they can do that. And we hope that the House bill will contain that, so that you don’t have two children in the same family, as we have now in many states, of different ages, one is eligible for comprehensive benefits, which include mental health, and the other child of a different age has got a very weak benefit without mental or dental health. They should assure mental health and dental healthcare and all medically necessary children services for all children. And that’s something we’re pushing for.
And the third thing that we feel is so important is that we automatically enroll children and get rid of all these bureaucratic barriers through which five to six million current children, who are currently eligible for Medicaid and CHIP, are not getting it, because they’ve got fifty different state rules and barriers. Mississippi has been throwing children off. Texas has been throwing children off. These are American children. They’re children who live in America. Their fate to live or die should not depend on the lottery of geography, and we’ve been talking about the importance of a national safety net that would automatically enroll children at the beginning of their lives or when they start preschool or if they’re in any means-tested program, like School Lunch or WIC or food stamps, automatically put them into healthcare.
The valley that ought to be fostered by a decent child health system is that we’re trying to make it easy for parents to come and get healthcare for their children, not as hard as we can get it. So these basic reforms are things that we have put in our All Healthy Children’s Act as the standard against which any CHIP reauthorization ought to be measured. We’ve costed it out. We can’t afford not to do it. We should treat children fairly.
We should have a level child health playing field, and we have laid this out in 1688, which is in the House, and in 1564, which is in the Senate. And it lays out what would make a terrific next incremental step in seeing that we have a decent, coherent, fair child health system. And we’re trying to get as many of those included in any CHIP reauthorization as we can, so we hope that the Democrats and the Republicans this week, as they mark up this CHIP bill, will say all children, or more of the children — I don’t want to see five million, four million, three million children left behind. None of them would leave their children behind for another two or three or five years. We want to see that every child gets all the benefits they need. And we want to make it simple and easy for parents.
And then we want to cover all pregnant women, because the infant mortality rate is twenty-fourth in the world, and low birth rate rates twenty-second in the world, are a disgrace. And this gets many children off to the wrong start. But these should be no-brainers. And so, we hope that the Democrats will stand up and do what is good policy for children. And then we’ll deal with the President when we have to deal with the President. And if he chooses to veto a bill to give children dental care and mental healthcare and treat their asthma in a cost-effective way, then I hope they will override that veto, because he’s not right and he’s not protecting the interests of the American people or our American children, and he’s going against their will.
So this is the time to lead. And we look to all the candidates on both sides, and we look to the Congress for moral leadership for children, because if we can’t lead for healthcare for children, what in the world can we lead on? And so, I think this is a wonderful opportunity.
AMY GOODMAN: Marian Wright Edelman, I want to thank you very much for being with us, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, speaking to us from Washington, D.C. Back in a minute.
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.