- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007


In her latest plan to transform the American health-care system, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton invokes a word she usually reserves for abortion: choice. It sounds good, but like all things Clinton, you have to look behind the facade to discover reality.

There are some elements of Mrs. Clinton’s health care proposal worth considering, especially the idea that if you like your current health insurance, you can keep it. And the New York senator says this isn’t about another big government bureaucracy. Really? Then why does she acknowledge it will cost $110 billion annually and require tax increases for those making more than $250,000? She doesn’t need a “new” bureaucracy but can use the present dysfunctional one.

In assessing any presidential candidate, one must first learn who that person is to determine whether the individual is trustworthy, a high bar for every politician, regardless of party. The Washington Post’s columnist Richard Cohen, a liberal, wrote this about Mrs. Clinton: “The issue with Hillary Clinton is not whether she’s smart or experienced but whether she has — how do we say this? — the character to be president.” He then lists the various “-gates” and other scandals with which she was either associated or which she enabled during her husband’s administration.

Can Hillary Clinton be trusted to do what she says? Yes, when it comes to the tax increases she will impose on “the wealthy,” as one way to fund this nonbureaucratic bureaucracy. As U.S. News & World Report’s James Pethokoukis wrote, “raising income taxes on Americans making $200,000 will bring in only $50 billion or so, which is already being spent several times over by Democratic presidential candidates.”

What is it about the free market system liberals detest? It allowed Mrs. Clinton and her husband to rake in $20 million in combined book advances. It provides Bill opportunities to make six figures on the lecture circuit. If the free market works for them, why shouldn’t it work for others? The answer is that liberals want you to feel good so you will vote for them. Their policies are based on emotion, not fact, which often leads to disaster. Ask anyone who put emotion ahead of sound judgment in picking a marriage partner and you get the idea.

On ABC’s “20/20” last week, reporter John Stossel devoted one hour to health care. Anyone who didn’t see it should go to ABC.com and read the summation. Mr. Stossel showed what happens when prices for goods and services are forced lower or offered for free. Demand increases, adding to wait times and lower quality in order to control costs. When government pays for health care (as it will under the Clinton plan for the estimated 47 million Americans who don’t have it), people wait.

“In the United Kingdom, 1 in 8 patients waits more than a year for hospital treatment,” noted Mr. Stossel, ” and the British government recently set its goal to keep wait times to less than 18 weeks. … In Canada, almost a million citizens are waiting for necessary surgery and more than a million Canadians can’t find a regular doctor.” That’s America’s future once government has a firm foothold in health care.

Karl Rove, the former top adviser to President Bush and a bette noir to liberals, penned an essay in the Wall Street Journal on how Republicans can “win” on health care. Among other things, Mr. Rove proposes using the principles of free enterprise, personal accountability, tax incentives (not tax increases), portability of health plans and more competition. It is ridiculous, he says, for medical procedures to cost one amount in one town and much more in another. Pooling risks will lower costs, he argues, along with greater cost transparency and stopping junk lawsuits that drive some doctors out of business.

Do we want the federal government to have more control over our health? When the costs get too large and the taxes too high (even for liberals) the only “choice” will be who gets care and who doesn’t. One proposal accompanying Mrs. Clinton’s ill-fated 1994 plan was creation of a board to determine who gets a lifesaving operation and who does not. Do we want to go down that road toward practical eugenics?

Some of this might make people feel good for the moment, but in the end, they or their children and grandchildren, will feel very, very bad. By then it will be too late, because once a government program is established even failure is not a reason for its elimination.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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