From the Editors

If Congress can afford corporate tax cuts, it can afford children's health care

Both parties say they support the Children's Health Insurance Program. So why isn't it funded?

For 20 years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has helped states subsidize health coverage for children from low-income families. But this fall, Congress allowed CHIP’s funding to expire. On November 30, on the eve of the Senate’s approval of a massive corporate tax cut projected to cost the government a net $1 trillion over ten years, Senator Orrin Hatch addressed the issue on the Senate floor. “The reason CHIP’s having trouble,” said the Utah Republican, “is because we don’t have money anymore.”

Republicans have long argued that spending on social programs is irresponsible given the pressing need to reduce the deficit—a pressing need they tend to forget when what’s on the table instead is tax cuts for businesses and high-income earners. Veteran legislators can perform this script in their sleep. So it was startling to hear Hatch, a seven-term senator, flub a line so badly. For GOP lawmakers, “We don’t have the money” is a line you trot out when you’re fighting a Democratic majority and its spending proposals, not when you’re about to explode the deficit yourself with a tax cut that is essentially a lavish donor-appreciation gift. It’s hard enough to defend such a giveaway without the juxtaposition of turning your back on low-income kids who can’t see a doctor because the government allegedly can’t afford it.

Created in 1997, CHIP serves working families with incomes not quite low enough to qualify for Medicaid, covering only their children. The funding takes the form of a $14 billion annual block grant for states to manage—not a federal entitlement program that might grow more expensive on its own. Families pay a share of the premiums as well. Well designed and modest in scope, CHIP has long enjoyed bipartisan support.