Another SCHIP family smeared

How dare Bethany Wilkerson's mom take a job that doesn't provide health insurance! Plus: Ann Coulter hacked?

Published October 16, 2007 10:11PM (EDT)

Think Progress breaks it down: Now the right-wing is going after 2-year-old Bethany Wilkerson, another child whose family relies on the State Child Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, whose expansion was vetoed by President Bush. Stalkin' Michelle Malkin is calling Bethany, born with a heart defect, a "human shield," while National Review's Mark Hemingway is attacking her parents' for "bad behavior" and "irresponsible decisions" because mom Dara Wilkerson gave up a job with health benefits at a country club -- more than six years ago, before Bethany was born -- and then had a baby anyway! (Dara has worked at Snapper's Sea Grill, a local restaurant that doesn't offer health insurance, since she gave up her country club job.)

The smear job is disgusting, but it's serving a purpose. The right-wing blogosphere is showing how far out of the political mainstream it is. Remember: A bipartisan majority of Congress, following the lead of a bipartisan majority of fed-up Americans, supports the expansion of SCHIP. But President Bush, and the health insurance barons whose interests he represents, has decided this is a next step on the way to socialized medicine. There are enough Republicans in the Senate to override Bush's veto, but the partisan GOP lapdogs in the House probably won't budge.

The particular way the wingnuts have come at the SCHIP debate -- demonizing the families of kids who are using it -- shows how little they understand the way the ground has shifted beneath them. No one is saying the parents of Graeme Frost or Bethany Wilkerson are poor; SCHIP isn't for the poor. It's for working families having a hard time finding affordable health insurance. Defining which families, at what income level, are eligible is up to the states. (Remember when conservatives used to like leaving things up to the states?) I don't want to stigmatize people on welfare, or set up a category of people who are "more deserving" of government help, but since right-wingers tend to think that way, let me spell it out: SCHIP is overwhelmingly used by the children of working parents whose jobs don't offer health insurance. The children of people on welfare are eligible for Medicaid. Reasonable people can disagree about the income level at which SCHIP eligibility should be phased out, but Bush and his supporters are lying when they say they oppose the expansion bill because it neglects low-income families; in fact it prioritizes enrolling low-income families, and would eliminate support for less-disadvantaged families in states that don't target the lowest income.

So this shock that families like the Wilkersons or the Frosts are eligible for SCHIP reflects either stupidity about whom the program was designed for, or contempt for working people struggling to raise kids, or both. You see both in Hemingway's story: How dare that Wilkerson trollop give up her job (serving the rich at a country club; you can't make this stuff up) to take a job without benefits at a restaurant? And how dare she have kids! The goal of the wingnuts is keeping workers in a kind of serfdom, unable to leave miserable jobs. By Hemingway's reasoning, you should only have a baby if you have a trust fund and you know you'll never need any kind of government help. Meanwhile, the government won't help people losing their homes in the subprime mortgage crisis, but is encouraging banks to bail out investors in shady mortgages schemes with the creation of the amazingly named Master Liquidity Enhancement Conduit, or M-LEC, which according to the New York Times would raise $200 billion to buy securities that "otherwise might be dumped on the market." (I wonder how much some genius got paid to come up with the name M-LEC. Probably more than Dara Wilkerson makes in a year at Snapper's Sea Grill.)

What a week. Ann Coulter's attacking Jews, Rush Limbaugh's threatening journalists, Malkin's quitting her job subbing for Bill O'Reilly on his show because of her feud with Geraldo Rivera, while O'Reilly's still mad that people didn't understand his idiotic comments about black people at Sylvia's in Harlem. And just as I was wrapping up this post, a friend sent along this story via Digg, showing a screen grab of Coulter's site, allegedly hacked, displaying a contrite letter to readers apologizing for her 11-year "charade," trying to see how long the country would tolerate "twisted logic and poorly masked bigotry." Alas, when I went to Coulter's site, there was no such apology, but the wingnuts are in such meltdown mode, I can be forgiven for dreaming. Instead she's got a nasty attack on Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee, right-wingers who aren't hateful enough.

By Joan Walsh

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