Alleged "economics" columnist Paul Krugman took some more dictation from the left-wing netroots for his Friday op-ed on the now-infamous case of 12-year-old Graeme Frost, who delivered the Democratic response to Bush's radio address last week campaigning for expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). As is his usual, Krugman's commentary was just a slightly more polished but no less partisan version of what's been perking for days on left-blogs.
"First, some background. The Frosts and their four children are exactly the kind of people S-chip was intended to help: working Americans who can't afford private health insurance.
"The parents have a combined income of about $45,000, and don't receive health insurance from employers. When they looked into buying insurance on their own before the accident, they found that it would cost $1,200 a month - a prohibitive sum given their income. After the accident, when their children needed expensive care, they couldn't get insurance at any price."
Notice Krugman doesn't say "their employers," because Graeme's father Halsey Frost opened his own woodworking business in 1999 but failed to purchase health insurance.
"Fortunately, they received help from Maryland's S-chip program. The state has relatively restrictive rules for eligibility: children must come from a family with an income under 200 percent of the poverty line. For families with four children that's $55,220, so the Frosts clearly qualified.
"Graeme Frost, then, is exactly the kind of child the program is intended to help. But that didn't stop the right from mounting an all-out smear campaign against him and his family.
"Soon after the radio address, right-wing bloggers began insisting that the Frosts must be affluent because Graeme and his sister attend private schools (they're on scholarship), because they have a house in a neighborhood where some houses are now expensive (the Frosts bought their house for $55,000 in 1990 when the neighborhood was rundown and considered dangerous) and because Mr. Frost owns a business (it was dissolved in 1999).
"You might be tempted to say that bloggers make unfounded accusations all the time. But we're not talking about some obscure fringe. The charge was led by Michelle Malkin, who according to Technorati has the most-trafficked right-wing blog on the Internet, and in addition to blogging has a nationally syndicated column, writes for National Review and is a frequent guest on Fox News.
"The attack on Graeme's family was also quickly picked up by Rush Limbaugh, who is so important a player in the right-wing universe that he has had multiple exclusive interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney.
"All in all, the Graeme Frost case is a perfect illustration of the modern right-wing political machine at work, and in particular its routine reliance on character assassination in place of honest debate. If service members oppose a Republican war, they're 'phony soldiers'; if Michael J. Fox opposes Bush policy on stem cells, he's faking his Parkinson's symptoms; if an injured 12-year-old child makes the case for a government health insurance program, he's a fraud."
Who called the kid a "fraud" (And incidentally, what does it say about a political party that has to hide behind a 12-year-old to make its political arguments)? For good measure, Krugman parroted Media Matters' dishonest smears of Rush Limbaugh.
Krugman concluded that "only a truly vicious political movement would respond by punishing their injured children."
There you have it. Opposing an expansion of socialized medicine into the middle class is now "punishing injured children."
Friday's op-ed page provides a good example of the imbalanced playing field for the GOP in the paper. Times columnist David Brooks , theTimes' idea of a conservative, gave Hillary Clinton credit for appealing to middle-class voters with 401-k style accounts. Don't wait around for Paul Krugman to tip a hat to a Republican candidate for president - he's much too pleased with his heroic status among the netroots.