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'Tis The Season...

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As the festive old song goes, “‘Tis the season to be jolly.” So, let’s dream for a while, because that’s the only way a lot of people are going to be jolly in this season or the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the fact that it happened during this season in which we are supposed to be jolly is what makes President Bush’s second veto of bipartisan legislation expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program so bewildering, not to mention so unseasonal.

Rep. Pete Stark, California’s own version of an avenging angel when it comes to the health insurance business, didn’t take long to pick up on the seasonal theme. “It’s not yet Christmas, but President Bush is already behaving like the Grinch,” Stark said after the president’s veto.

I almost wish he hadn’t said it because it’s a great line and I would have liked to be the one who created it instead of merely quoting. But in the spirit of the season, why not just accept it as a gift?

Continuing in the seasonal mode, Stark then said: “All I want for Christmas is a few more brave Republicans in Congress. With their help and the support of a united Democratic Caucus, we’ll overturn the President’s veto and take American health care in a new direction. Extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program is an important and substantial first step toward health care for all our children.”

Not to be outdone, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., had this to say: “Once again President Bush has slammed the door on our nation’s most vulnerable citizens–our children. As we get ready to celebrate the holidays, we should remember how many of them have been left out in the cold by this administration. This should be a season of good will not a season of bad vetoes.”

But why, in this season, should we focus on Grinches and talk of children being left out in the cold? Why not snuggle up with another old favorite: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring…”

Wait a minute. You don’t suppose that Clement Clark Moore way back when was envisioning all the now-empty houses that have already gone into foreclosure and the hundreds of thousands more that will almost certainly follow suit due to the subprime mess and the dramatic bursting of the real estate bubble?

Probably not.

Nevertheless, you don’t need the Farmer’s Almanac to know it’s going to be a cold holiday for a lot of these people who are caught under an avalanche of debt that has crushed the accustomed roof over their heads.

But help is on the way, is it not? Well, not quite. It looks like a Grinch clone might have gotten involved here too and so the vaunted rescue plan turns out to help only a sliver of those who were mired in the quicksand of subprime mortgages with rate escalation clauses they didn’t understand and which seem almost impossible to believe.

Can there be any justification for an instance where, as I read recently, someone’s monthly mortgage payment went from $1300 to $3900? And this, apparently, is not atypical.

I say it’s time to help Santa to recapture Christmas from the Grinches who are spoiling the season. What are you waiting for?

So just close your eyes, think back to when you were a kid and pretty soon you’ll be hearing that hearty “Ho, ho, ho” getting closer and closer as the jingling of the bells proclaims “‘Tis the season.”

Steve Piontek



“Perhaps the fact that it happened during this season in which we are supposed to be jolly is what makes President Bush’s second veto of bipartisan legislation expanding SCHIP so bewildering, not to mention so unseasonal.”