Hillary doesn’t like it:

“With the stroke of a pen, President Bush has robbed nearly four million uninsured children of the chance for a healthy start in life and the health coverage they need but can’t afford.”

According to the California Nurses Association,

“it sounds like it’s the president, not Congress, who is playing politics with our children’s health.”

Most of the results on Google News highlighted criticisms of the president’s veto. The Christian Science Monitor gave the other side some coverage. The Taxpayer’s Union says that “the sincerity of this effort will be judged by the number of vetoes,” referring to Bush’s pledge to control spending. Apparently, he may veto a number of bills this year.

One point that I would like to see his critics address is where the income cutoff should be for social programs. From what I’ve read, their claim is basically that he doesn’t care about children, but they do. However, it seems to me that Bush is raising a substantive issue. Suppose we all agree that the poor “need” help. Is the same true for the middle class? For the well-off? For the very rich? I can’t imagine many people supporting social programs for the wealthy, but I suppose as a matter of ideological simplicity one might flatly state that all people should be guaranteed health insurance. One might claim that there is a right to healtcare. Getting more specific, though, isn’t it hard to justify subsidies to a household with an income of $83,000 (here)? Maybe that figure is wrong, but if the children of a family with a comfortable income don’t have coverage, where is the compelling moral tale in that?

Of course, my view is that any discussion of a program like this should not start from alleged “needs” but rather from the presence of a market failure. I have heard that such a failure may be present in the health insurance market. Tim Hartford mentioned it in his book. I remain suspicious of the claim that anyone needs anything, in the sense used in political rhetoric.