OUR VIEW: Congress’ use of children as bargaining chips disgraceful

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It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets crowded with beggars followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms.

This prodigious number of children is a very great additional grievance. Therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the commonwealth would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

That, with a little editing for brevity, is the opening of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” In one of the finest examples of sustained, straight-faced irony, the scathing satire suggested the poor sell their children to the rich as food. Swift does elaborate calculations to present a favorable cost-benefit ratio, and gives logical reasons for using the poor to feed the rich.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Swift’s somewhat morbid masterpiece should be required reading for President Donald Trump and every U.S. senator and representative in Washington right now. Government shut down or no government shut down, this week the entire clan used children to feed their egos and fuel their partisan battles in a staggeringly egregious display.

Two programs were at issue: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Children’s Health Insurance Program. Of the two, DACA is the more controversial because it was implemented by presidential decree during Barack Obama’s administration rather than enacted as law, but both impact children who have little to say about their plights and nothing to say about who represents them in Washington.

The important point is that both programs were put in jeopardy in September — Trump announced he would end DACA in six months if legislators didn’t come up with a permanent fix, and the CHIP law expired without renewal. Yet legislators failed to take action on either. That is, at least they took no action until the risk of a government shutdown was hours away.

Suddenly Republicans — who control the White House and both chambers — offered a six-year renewal of CHIP. Democrats countered that a DACA fix must also be part of any budget deal to avoid the shutdown. Both issues could readily be set aside to strike a deal. Both deserve honest debate on their own merits. Both should have been settled by now.

Don’t let anyone fool you. Republicans deliberately put CHIP on the table so they could accuse Democrats of failing to protect uninsured children, even though Republicans could have renewed CHIP months ago. Democrats championed a permanent DACA fix only after they lost the support of the person in the White House.

Both parties engaged in transparent and disgraceful use of children as bargaining chips. There actions this week were shameless, their arguments indefensible.

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