Friday, December 11, 2009

Gov. David A. Paterson, New York Democrat, has declared that his state is out of money. This is a proclamation that would also have been made by the federal government long ago if it did not have the seemingly unlimited ability to run up debt.

As government bodies find revenues falling far short of projections and are increasingly unable to satisfy the rising demand for services and benefits, why do we continue to expand the breadth of entitlements?

A prominent version of health care reform currently being debated in Congress features a provision that would add millions of beneficiaries to the Medicare and Medicaid rolls.

How can states that are unable to provide benefits that have already been promised be expected to absorb a new influx of Medicaid recipients, and how can the federal government expand its borrowing to accommodate more beneficiaries in both programs?

It is naive for anyone to believe that the American health care system is alive and well and full of promise for the future. It is similarly naive to think that employer-provided health care insurance is “free.”

I fully recognize that our health care system is broken. The practice of medicine has been taken out of the hands of physicians and placed in the grimy hands of insurance companies whose mission is to make its executives fabulously rich and to deny or restrict care.

Why are we not able to find the means to reform the system so that it adopts the best practices of other countries and does not bust federal and state budgets? Rather than adopt a plan that is certain to cost trillions of dollars over the next decade, why are those in Congress not able to come up with something that is truly revenue neutral?

Does personal responsibility ever enter into the equation? Instead of promising to be all things to all people, would any 21st century government ever adopt a modern version of President John F. Kennedy’s stirring 1961 inauguration speech in which he implored Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you”?

Would any public official dare suggest that individuals not expand their families until they are reasonably certain that they will be able to provide for the needs of their children rather than calling upon their neighbors to pay for their health care, food, and housing?

We have strayed far from the era of Kennedy’s plea. That was a time in which there was still a stigma attached to out-of-wedlock births and electing to become dependent on government.

As President Obama pays lip service to reducing massive government deficits, his actions take the nation in the opposite direction. Even if he is sincere about pursuing fiscal prudence, how would he ever begin to take away all of the new benefits and spending that he has helped to create?


Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

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