Sunday, October 21, 2007

The real war on children

Mark Steyn notices the rhetoric from the Democrats about how they're all about legislating on behalf of children. Nancy Pelosi is particularly fond of that meme. As Steyn notes, if they were truly concerned about the futures of children, they would get serious about not leaving them with unfunded entitlement programs that are demographically impossible to sustain.
So what? shrug the voters. Not my problem. I paid my taxes, I want my benefits. In France, President Sarkozy is proposing a very modest step — that those who retire before the age of 65 should not receive free health care — and the French are up in arms about it. He’s being angrily denounced by 53-year old retirees, a demographic hitherto unknown to functioning societies. You spend your first 25 years being educated, you work for two or three decades, and then you spend a third of a century living off a lavish pension with the state picking up every healthcare expense. No society can make that math add up. And so in a democratic system today’s electors vote to keep the government gravy coming and leave it to tomorrow for “the children” to worry about. That’s the real “war on children” — and every time you add a new entitlement to the budget you make it less and less likely they’ll win it.

A couple of weeks ago, the Democrats put up a 12-year old S-CHIP beneficiary from Baltimore called Graeme Frost to deliver their official response to the president’s Saturday-morning radio address. And immediately afterwards Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, and I jumped the sick kid in a dark alley and beat him to a pulp. Or so you’d have thought from the press coverage: The Washington Post called us “meanies.” Well, no doubt it’s true we hard-hearted conservatives can’t muster the civilized level of discourse of Pete Stark. But we were trying to make a point — not about the kid, but about the family, and their relevance as a poster child for expanded government health care. Mr. and Mrs. Frost say their income’s about $45,000 a year — she works “part-time” as a medical receptionist and he works “intermittently” as a self-employed woodworker. They have a 3,000 square foot home plus a second commercial property with a combined value of over $400,000, and three vehicles — a new Suburban, a Volvo SUV, and a Ford F250 pick-up.

How they make that arithmetic add up is between them and their accountant. But here’s the point: The Frosts are not emblematic of the health care needs of America so much as they are of the delusion of the broader western world. They expect to be able to work “part-time” and “intermittently” but own two properties and three premium vehicles and have the state pick up health-care costs. Who do you stick the bill to? Four-car owners? Much of France already lives that way: a healthy wealthy well-educated populace works a mandatory maximum 35-hour week with six weeks of paid vacation and retirement at 55 and with the government funding all the core responsibilities of adult life.
A lot of people missed that concern in the whole brouhaha of what the Frost family did and did not own. There were two points here. First, the Frost family was already covered by SCHIP and would have been covered by President Bush's proposed expansion. But the deeper question is, at what point do decisions that private individuals make about how to earn a living and live their lives obligate the government to pick up the tab for whatever is left over? And, is a government handout the best solution? Or are there some market-based solutions that would, for example, allow a Maryland family to purchase health insurance across state lines or to invest in Health Savings Accounts that would accomplish the goal of helping them to get health insurance without just committing the government to pay for it? No one was saying that poor families shouldn't have health insurance. The debate was over where the government aid stops. And in such a debate, there are always going to be heart-rending stories about who is being left out. And some would love to give everyone everything they need. But, at some point, that is not possible and lines will have to be drawn. Let that be the debate rather than the hateful rhetoric that implies that Republicans hate sick children.