How appropriate that on the same day the Treasury Department reported the greatest budget imbalance for the month of November – $138.8 billion in revenue last month versus $221.9 billion in spending – Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich went to Washington for another federal handout. And he urged Congress to expand his multimillion-dollar All Kids health insurance plan nationwide.
Let's hope the Republican Congress, which hasn't been financially prudent enough in recent years, casts a more skeptical eye at the expected cost of All Kids than the Illinois Legislature did. Lawmakers in Springfield passed All Kids in a matter of days, simply accepting the Blagojevich administration's bogus financials about the cost of a program that would give government-subsidized health care to hundreds of thousands of Illinois children, even those who may already have it.
First the bad news: because of rapid increases in federal spending, much related to the war in Iraq, the recovery from Hurricane Katrina and homeland security costs, the federal budget deficit is projected at $359 billion in the current fiscal year, up from $318.5 billion last year.
Now the really bad news: Blagojevich, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Chicago, want to make All Kids a national program at a cost they estimate at $21 billion.
They propose that states that expand their coverage under the State Children's Health Insurance Program would get additional federal subsidies to cover the cost of the program. The money, they say, would come from the repeal of two tax cuts passed by Congress that are to take effect next year.
That, fortunately, isn't going to happen, especially in an election year. But Blagojevich won't let go that easily. He'll push All Kids all over the country – in part because he needs the additional federal money to try to make the program work in Illinois – and also because it's an issue he can use as a vehicle for his presidential ambitions. As noble as the intention may be, the government – state and national – simply can't afford it.