It all began when the Democrats tapped a 12 year old kid, Graeme Frost, to speak on the Democrat weekly address. Bush had just vetoed SCHIP, the bi-partisan bill designed to deliver funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Graeme was a beneficiary of SCHIP, having suffered severe injuries (along with his sister) in a car accident several years ago.
In the radio address, the young Graeme said:
If it weren’t for CHIP, I might not be here today. … We got the help we needed because we had health insurance for us through the CHIP program. But there are millions of kids out there who don’t have CHIP, and they wouldn’t get the care that my sister and I did if they got hurt. … I just hope the President will listen to my story and help other kids to be as lucky as me.
Conservatives turned their targets on young Graeme Frost and his family. A poster at the fringe site Free Republic alleged that Frost was actually a rich kid being pampered by the government. For example, it was said, Graeme and his sister Gemma attend wealthy schools that cost “nearly $40,000 per year for tuition” and live in a well-off home valued at $400,000. Furthermore, the father, Halsey Frost, has owned his own company “Frostworks" (a woodworking business) and owns the business property. He employs his wife, but neither of them "chose" to get health insurance.
Smelling a scandal ("Hey! These people are rich!"), A-list conservative bloggers (including National Review, Wizbang, Powerline, and the Weekly Standard blog) — not to mention conservative radio blowhards have all launched assaults on the Frost family started piling on. The reprehensible Michelle Malkin, purporting to be a "citizen journalist", actually visited the business property. (Even though she was told by an employee that the Frosts were "struggling", she dismissed the account, because it didn’t fit in with her narrative). Later, Malkin did a drive-by of the Frost home and reported her observations on her blog.
Right wing bloggers have been harassing the Frosts, calling their home numerous times to get information about their private lives.
The notion that this is "journalism" is silly, since the people investigating and harrassing the Frosts aren’t interested in the truth. They’re interested in the smear.
Among the things they didn’t bother to consider (or find out) before they engaged in reckless speculatation and privacy invasion:
- The Frost family makes $45,000 per year. A family of six; $45,000 per year.
- While two of the children go to private schools, this does not mean that the family is forking over "nearly $40,000" every year. Graeme (the kid who did the Democratic radio address) attends a private school with a tuition of $15,000. But he won a scholarship, and the family only pays $500 per year. His sister Gemma attends another private school to help her with the brain injuries that occurred due to her accident. With a tuition of $23,000, the state pays for that.
- While there house has a value of over $400,000, it was bought 16 years ago for $55,000.
So even though that have some property (home and business) does this make them well off? Hardly.
The Frost family seems to have around half a million dollars in assets! And yet their children are getting government-sponsored health care! This certainly sounds bad, unless you happen to be familiar with an arcane financial instrument called a mortgage, which allows a person to purchase a home or commercial property even if she cannot come up with the full price, and to pay off the balance over time. During the term of the mortgage, the buyer owns the house, but also owes money, often quite a lot of it, to the bank that lent her the money to buy it with. This means that the assessed value of the Frosts’ properties tells us very little about their actual net worth. Since charity forces me to assume that right-wing bloggers are unfamiliar with mortgages, I probably should not fault them for not knowing this. However, even a shred of journalistic integrity would have required that they familiarize themselves with the terms on which most Americans buy property before leaping to conclusions.
Except they totally ignore the fact that the father is a woodworker. Isn’t it possible that he did the cabinets himself (and or obtained the materials at a discount???)
While the wingnuts are attacking the Frost family, trying to show that they are rich fatcats trying to get free health insurance when they could afford it themselves, the Frosts themselves are, indeed, the ideal family for the Democratic position on SCHIP. They are a hard-working family, just getting by. Should they have to sell their home and business if, as actually happened, some family members get hit with an accident or catastrophic illness? Not at all.
As for the smear campaign, Christy Hardin Smith gets it right:
Compassionate conservatism and family values, my ass. Let me get this straight: this family has tried to better themselves at every turn, they love their children, they are getting these kids the best education possible through some amazing scholarships and intervention service help to try and help them improve and perhaps have some semblance of a childhood to progress as much as possible past their injuries, they are facing catastrophic medical bills, they want to save their kids — whatever it takes…and the right wing has a problem with that. Telling, isn’t it?
And ,as always, what Digby says:
This is so loathesome I am literally sick to my stomach. These kids were hurt in a car accident. Their parents could not afford health insurance — and sure as hell couldn’t get it now with a severely handicapped daughter. And these shrieking wingnut jackasses are harassing their family for publicly supporting the program that allowed the kids to get health care. A program, by the way, which a large number of these Republicans support as well.
They went after Michael J. Fox. They went after a wounded Iraq war veteran. Now they are going after handicapped kids. There is obviously no limit to how low these people will go.
They’d better pray that they stay rich and healthy and live forever because if there is a hell these people are going to be on the express train to the 9th circle the minute they shuffle off their useless mortal coils.
UPDATE: ABC News gets into the fray and sets the story straight, something the "citizen journalists" didn’t bother to do.
UPDATE: Conservative John Cole has had it with his conservatice brethren:
In short, they are a white, lower-middle-class, committed family, who is doing EVERYTHING the GOP Kultur Kops would have you believe people should be doing. They aren’t gay. They aren’t divorced. They didn’t abort their children. They aren’t drug addicts or welfare queens. They are property owners, entrepeneurs, taxpayers, and hard-working Americans. I bet nine times out of ten in past elections, if you handed this resume to a pollster, they would think you were discussing the prototypical Republican voter. Hell, the only thing missing from this equation is membership to a church and an irrational fear of Muslims and you HAVE the prototypical Bush voter.
They are, however, not without fault. They are unable to afford insurance through normal means (and now that they have pre-existing conditions, probably couldn’t get traditional insurance anyway), and managed to get several of their family members injured in a traumatic accident. And, it appears, those are the big blind spots for compassionate conservatism. That, and the real big sin- allowing themselves to advocate for a policy that the Decider was going to veto. Here it is, so you can see their grievous sin that requires they be destroyed:
“Hi, my name is Graeme Frost. I’m 12 years old and I live in Baltimore, Maryland. Most kids my age probably haven’t heard of CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But I know all about it, because if it weren’t for CHIP, I might not be here today.
“CHIP is a law the government made to help families like mine afford healthcare for their kids. Three years ago, my family was in a really bad car accident. My younger sister Gemma and I were both hurt. I was in a coma for a week and couldn’t eat or stand up or even talk at first. My sister was even worse. I was in the hospital for five-and-a-half months and I needed a big surgery. For a long time after that, I had to go to physical therapy after school to get stronger. But even though I was hurt badly, I was really lucky. My sister and I both were.
“My parents work really hard and always make sure my sister and I have everything we need, but the hospital bills were huge. We got the help we needed because we had health insurance for us through the CHIP program.
“But there are millions of kids out there who don’t have CHIP, and they wouldn’t get the care that my sister and I did if they got hurt. Their parents might have to sell their cars or their houses, or they might not be able to pay for hospital bills at all.
“Now I’m back to school. One of my vocal chords is paralyzed so I don’t talk the same way I used to. And I can’t walk or run as fast as I did. The doctors say I can’t play football any more, but I might still be able to be a coach. I’m just happy to be back with my friends.
“I don’t know why President Bush wants to stop kids who really need help from getting CHIP. All I know is I have some really good doctors. They took great care of me when I was sick, and I’m glad I could see them because of the Children’s Health Program.
“I just hope the President will listen to my story and help other kids to be as lucky as me. This is Graeme Frost, and this has been the Weekly Democratic Radio address. Thanks for listening.”
Pretty strong stuff. I can see why this rabid dog needs to be put down with the full force of the wingnutosphere. And it just goes downhill from there. We learn from our intrepid “reporters” on the right that $45,000 is now rich, which is news to me and everyone else who remember mocking Democrats when they tried to claim $100k combined income was considered rich. You righties do remember that, don’t you?
I simply can not believe this is what the Republican party has become. I just can’t. It just makes me sick to think all those years of supporting this party, and this is what it has become. Even if you don’t like the S-Chip expansion, it is hard to deny what Republicans are- a bunch of bitter, nasty, petty, snarling, sneering, vicious thugs, peering through people’s windows so they can make fun of their misfortune.
I’m registering Independent tomorrow.