Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Hollow Victory

President Bush's veto of SCHIP is far from the tough stand against the incremental advance toward socialized medicine that Bush himself warned about. In fact, he and the GOP leadership are doing more to advance the Democrats' agenda than the Dems could hope to do on their own.

In vetoing this bill, Bush simultaneously declared his support for the original SCHIP program, while throwing up the white flag of surrender by signaling his intention to compromise with congress on an SCHIP expansion bill which would cost less. Bush has proposed a $30 billion dollar 5-year SCHIP bill. The vetoed bill was for $60 billion.

Thus, the war is over, declared Bush. The Left has won. The only fight left will be over where between $30 and $60 billion the final cost will be.

The Dems' response was swift and brutal. "Heartless veto", cried Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, "Bush is denying health care to millions of low-income kids in America." This is said about a man whose disagreement over the program is only a matter of degree, not on principled opposition.

"We're not going to compromise",declared Reid.

Thus the Democrats appear confidant, consistent, and morally certain; while the Republicans look cowardly and unprincipled (which most of them are, today). Worse still, the GOP will now have to endure the vicious attacks of the left-wing smear merchants for opposing SCHIP, without even having opposed it!

Had the GOP put up a united and principled fight to not only kill SCHIP, but to offer instead a plan of their own to correct the major flaws in government policies that are driving up the cost of health care and health care insurance, they at least would have accomplished something in return for having to withstand the assault from the Left. They would have at least offered America a strong alternative while laying the foundation for a principled election strategy on health care for 2008.

Instead, they are withering and handing the Dems a gift by not forcing them to acknowledge and defend their blatantly socialist agenda.

What is sickenly frustrating to me is that the Republicans do have the makings of a comprehensive health care reform plan. Ideas such as restoring competition to the insurance market by ending the ban on inter-state sales of insurance products; rolling back and ending government mandates on what must be included in insurance policies, thus allowing individuals to tailor their policies to their own interests (age, income, marital status, chosing deductables, etc.); and attacking the ridiculous government-imposed third-party-payer system of health care financing, through HSAs and individual tax write-offs as generous as those offered to employers, have all been floating around Congress in GOP-sponsored bills.

Our health care financing system is in deep trouble, becoming steadily less affordable even to middle class families. The cause is massive government intrusion into almost every facet of health care. Most segments of our economy, being comparatively free from state regulation, are marked by falling prices relative to income, thus bringing the benefits of industrial production of goods and services to lower and lower income levels. Look around and you will see that nearly everything we take for granted, from cars to telephones to appliances to indoor plumbing to television to jet travel to cable to all manner of electronics etc., etc., etc. started out as luxury items for the rich but steadily became affordable to even those classified as "poor" as producers sought to expand their markets through relentless cost-cutting. The same degree of freedom, with Americans paying directly for the medical products amd services they need and desire, would do the same for health care.

The above-described ideas are a start toward what could be a comprehensive plan for radical reform along free market lines that would offer Americans "A choice, not an echo" (to borrow a phrase from the 1964 Goldwater campaign). Such a plan, centered around the concept of individual rights, would require a degree of political courage that is not now evident among the GOP leadership, with the possible exception of Rudy Guiliani (stay tuned).

First, the Republican party must unite behind a single comprehensive proposal, rejecting the Mitt Romney approach (which served as a model for the Hillary Clinton scheme).

Second, the party must break with President Bush and his neo-conservative backers, who suckered the Reagan/Goldwater conservatives (including me) and thus destroyed that coalition. Bush on 9/25 told the U.N. that "everyone 'has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food and clothing and housing and medical care' and that the American government has a duty to privide for those needs" (David Holcberg letter in the New York Sun 10/1/07). As N.J. Star-Ledger conservative columnist Paul Mulshine recently pointed out, the neo-cons' roots stem from the liberal-left and their stripes have never changed.

Third, the GOP must declare explicitly that it is not the government's job to guarantee health insurance to everyone. It is, however, the government's job to establish the conditions necessary for health insurance that is affordable to all income levels (i.e., a fully functioning free market where individuals, doctors, and providers are free to make their own health care decisions).

As of this writing, the GOP is in big trouble for the 2008 election. What better time to boldly go where the current leadership fears to tread?

See Post Reference 11

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