Infant Morality

Cuba's not a dead issue in the nutty debate over health care for poor kids.

Americans owe thanks this morning to Wyoming senator Mike Enzi for clarifying how different our health-care system is from Cuba's.

During heated debate in the Senate yesterday, Enzi zoomed in on a crucial point of George W. Bush's threatened veto of funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a federal-state partnership that provides coverage to about 6 million poor children.

The Senate passed a pretty good compromise to help out those kids. Bush, while asking for an increase of more than $40 billion for the Iraq war, has said he won't spend more than $30 billion on this children's health program. The Senate disagreed — even some of its rock-hard conservatives, such as Orrin Hatch and Pat Roberts — and passed a bill. Roberts, a hardline Kansas conservative, pointed out that Bush is misinformed. You think?

But Mike Enzi is tagging right along with Bush, telling his fellow senators:

"We shouldn't create a new federal entitlement and we shouldn't be laying the foundation for Castro-style healthcare, which Americans don't want."

Our kids should be so lucky — rather, our babies should live so long. Enzi and the other senators didn't bring this up, so I will:

Cuba's infant-mortality rate is lower than the U.S.'s, according to widely accepted stats from the UN's World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision.

The number of infant deaths per thousand live births in the period 2000 to 2005 was 6.1 in Cuba. It was 6.8 in the U.S. In deaths under the age of 5, Cuba's rate is 7.7, and the U.S.'s rate is 8.4

When it comes to overall death rates, Americans have it even worse.

The CIA's World Factbook reveals that the estimated overall death rate in the U.S. in 2007, per thousand people, is 8.26. Cuba's death rate is 7.14.

African kids have it worse than anyone else on the planet. But the U.S. is an anomaly among other developed nations. It has a higher overall death rate than the rates of most of those countries, like France, Sweden, and Japan. In addition, the U.S. overall death rate is higher than the rates in the following countries (this is a partial list):

Cambodia, Bangladesh, Kiribati, Yemen, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Uzbekistan, Bolivia, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tuvalu, Mauritius, Maldives, Paulu, Nauru, Grenada, Jamaica, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Peru, Brazil, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Columbia, Syria, Egypt, Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq, and Iran.

Yes, according to the CIA, the U.S. death rate is higher than the death rates in Iran, Iraq, the West Bank, and Gaza.

If you really want to understand this current problem of health care for poor kids in the U.S., go to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where you can read a readable analysis of the bill and a breakdown of Bush's wrong analysis of the issue.

As for Enzi, a 63-year-old former Eagle Scout, shoe salesman and accountant, let's just say that his personal financial disclosure for 2006 shows that he ranks only 82nd in the Senate in net worth: His is $190,039 to $853,000. But 94 percent of his investments are in oil and gas, plus he does have at least $50,000 in his Senate credit union account — and the time to spend that cash: His tardiness rate is twice as high as the average senator's.

More to the point, he got no campaign money from Cuba, but the health-care industry poured $259,591 into Enzi's campaign coffers last year, second only to the support he got from big finance. And the health-care industry hates federal health care programs unless the money goes directly to the industry.

Enzi's PAC, Making Business Excel — get it? Michael B. Enzi, Making Business Excel? MBE, MBE? — raked in an additional $646,567 last year.

And no surprise here: Enzi gets more campaign money from D.C.-area operatives than he gets from the home folks in Wyoming.

Who cares about death rates when our political system is running so smoothly?

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