"Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote."
-George Jean Nathan
The definition of what makes a "bad" official, is of course, in the eye of the beholder. And elections are held in the U.S. every few years to let the American public collectively make up its mind.
But you can't have a say in the process if you don't vote, and an uneducated voter is arguably as bad as one who does not vote. The following information is part of a continuing effort on our part to educate our voters about what's coming up on the Nov. 7 ballot. At the top of the ticket are presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Patients Bill of Rights
Bush - Supports a Patients Bill of Rights proposed by Senate Republicans that excludes 100 million people in "self-funded" health plans. His version gives the health care plans the final say on medical treatment decisions. It also gives health care providers the final say on patient protections like access to medical specialists. As Texas governor, Bush vetoed a patient protection bill because he said it placed too much regulation on managed care organizations. (N.Y. Times, March 20, 2000)
Gore - Backs a stronger Patients Bill of Rights such as the one passed by the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support. It allows patients to hold health plans accountable and ensures access to emergency rooms and prescription drugs.
Bush - "Keeping the promise of Medicare, and expanding it to include prescription drug coverage, will be a priority of my administration," Bush said. (Bush web site)
Under Gov. Bush, Texas has had the highest percentage of children in the U.S. without health insurance, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet Bush tried to restrict kids' eligibility for Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a $24 billion federal program. Under Bush, Texas was one of the last states to take part in CHIP. (Sacramento Bee, Aug. 29, 1999).
"Since George W. Bush became Texas governor in 1995, his aides admit he has not made health care a priority." - (N.Y. Times, April 11, 2000).In Texas, 200,000 children are uninsured and fewer women than any other state have health insurance.
Wrote the Wall Street Journal (March 16, 2000): "Even some Bush supporters wince at these numbers: In 1998…24.5 percent of Texans had no health insurance….Per capita spending for prenatal care and public health is among the lowest nationwide."
Gore - Wants to insure every child in America. He is seeking to expand the CHIP to include children in families earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four - or $41,750 - and to enable all other families to buy into the program voluntarily. (National Association of Children's Hospitals survey, Jan. 8, 2000).
"Al Gore consistently has proven that he is committed to providing a universal, high-quality, affordable health care to every single American." (World News Now, Nov. 11, 1999).
As vice president, Gore fought for the 1996 Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act, that helps people keep their health insurance even if they change jobs. He has been a strong advocate of the Family Medical Leave Act, signed into law in 1993.
Bush - Would privatize Social Security by diverting between 16 percent and 24 percent of Social Security's payroll tax revenue into privatized, individual accounts. Diverting the funds would require cuts in guaranteed Social Security benefits - 29 percent for older workers and 54 percent for workers 30 and younger. (June 1999, study by the nonpartisan Century Foundation).
The study notes that even under the best market conditions, returns on individual accounts would fall far short of making up the reduction in individual benefits. "Reductions in the benefits for future retirees are so substantial that there are questions about the viability of protecting benefits for current retirees, older workers, disabled workers and survivors," the study said.
Gore - Working families could contribute a certain portion of their income to 401k-like accounts and the government would match the contribution on a sliding scale; the lower the income, the larger the match.
He would increase benefits for elderly widows and provide family service credits for parents who take time out of the workforce to care for children. Gore's plan would extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund until 2054 and would completely pay off the public debt by 2012. He supports setting aside two-thirds of the project budget surplus to ensure strong Social Security and Medicare systems. (Source: AFL-CIO).
Bush - "Schools must have clear, measurable goals focused on basic skills and essential knowledge. There must be regular testing to ensure that the goals are being met. Tests should be developed by the states themselves." (Official Bush web site).
With Bush as governor, Texas ranked 48th among the states in SAT scores. (Fort Worth Star Telegram, Dec. 13, 1998). In 1998, Bush acknowledged, "higher education is not my priority."
He opposes federal legislation to hire 100,000 more teachers and repair school buildings. (The Columbian, June 6, 2000).
Gore - His plan will make sure there is a qualified teacher in every classroom, and hold teachers to high professional standards. He would require states to ensure that all teachers are fully qualified and certified and that new teachers have passed a rigorous test of their subject knowledge and teaching skills.
His Higher Standards/Higher Pay Initiative would also require periodic peer reviews of licensed teachers and faster, fair ways to identify, improve and, where necessary, remove failing teachers.
Gore's plan would require states and school districts to identify failing schools using state standards and put in place an aggressive plan to turn those schools around, including research-based curricula and a rigorous peer evaluation of every teacher. (Source: Official Gore web site).