Sunday, February 20, 2011

Can You Say "Rickets"? - with updates

Rickets. I am wondering how many know the definition of that word. You can be forgiven if you don't know it. After all, it's a disease that has been nearly eliminated in the United States because of government and educational programs, and better nutrition.

But get ready to learn what it means now - that is, if Republicans get their way.

Rickets is the softening of bones due to a lack of vitamin D and calcium. It is mainly a childhood illness, as it is in childhood that our bones are formed. It is the primary disease of children in developing countries. Here, read this article on it:

We've come a long way since rickets was a likely condition of young children in this country whose families couldn't afford proper milk, cheese, etc. for them. In recent years, our progress on eliminating rickets actually has gotten a banner acronym associated with it. That acronym is WIC. It stands for Women, Infants and Children. This is a federal program. In 1974, the year it was established, it served 88,000 people. In 2009 alone, it reached 9.3 million people. Here's the website on it.

WIC ensures that families whose income falls at or below 185 percent of U.S. poverty levels can supplement diets with coupons that buy formula (for babies), milk, cheese, eggs and the like. Pregnant women participate, so that there is sufficient nutrition in the womb for fetus bone development.

The Republicans propose to cut the WIC program by ten percent.


Yes indeed, this is the party that advocates no abortions at any time - yet they'd like to get rid of the program that stands between our children and bone disease. So much for protecting the life of children. (The Repubs also have proposed about a 15% cut to Head Start, which already is underfunded - so, they'd like to cut into the two federal programs most highly lauded as having direct positive and traceable impact on the youngest, and least, among us.)

There are more than enough places we can cut federal monies. Just don't take milk from the mouths of babes.

For astounding of a headline that this makes, there is virtually no news coverage on this very symbolic and miserly cut proposal. The best I could find was this article out of Florida. Comments show people's concerns (other than the ones that call the program "socialism"). Most commenters get the point - these are resources for our children, who make no decisions on how family funds are spent. We are setting up our children for bone disease if we cut WIC in a way that affects their access to formula, milk, cheese, etc.

Sure there are ways to cut government spending. Put me in the "for" column on that. But make these cuts wisely. Don't - literally - cut our children off at the knees in order to make your point.

UPDATE: Okay, I did find this article out of The Economist - which cites to this column by Paul Krugman (great column) - both of which bring up the WIC cuts. The Economist's article also talks about how the House Dems "failed to restore $131 million for the Securities and Exchange Commission, facing new responsibilities under Wall Street reforms enacted in the last Congress." Yes indeed - the SEC, which was too overworked to watch over Bernie Madoff, will continue to be anemic. Great. Oh, and I saw that, when asked whether the Repubs' proposed cuts would result in the loss of federal employee jobs, Rep. Boehner answered, "So be it." This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, "compassionate Conservative." I guess it really means to say that we should be conservative with our compassion? Is that it?

UPDATE: One of my sisters just forwarded this link to a column by David Brooks on how politicians are cutting off children at their knees because that is the easiest target these days. He doesn't really discuss WIC - which is a program that just works, and doesn't have a lot of layers to tweak - but does discuss Head Start, and ways to improve programs if cuts do need to occur. It's worth the read:

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