Take a look at their reaction to President Bush’s State of the Union health care proposal, and the first thing you note about Democrats is that they’ve done a flip-flop on their complaint about giving tax cuts to the most fortunate while doing too little for the less fortunate.
The president wants to give American families a $15,000 tax deduction for their health insurance — $7,500 for individuals — instead of sticking with a system that now gives a tax break on insurance only to those receiving the insurance from their employers.
The system is a virtual definition of political unfairness: Those getting insurance as an untaxed employee benefit are on average much better off than people who have to shop on their own for packages they often can’t afford while receiving no helping hand from the government.
The Bush plan would set things right while also diminishing the number of Americans without health insurance, an estimated 46 million, and yet we have the Democrats pronouncing themselves aghast, frightened, bewildered.
They make it sound as if employer-provided insurance would suddenly get more expensive or disappear. They note quite correctly that not every health issue is solved with this plan, or every economic issue, either, and meanwhile some keep muttering by way of euphemism that socialized medical care is the real solution.
The worst of all worlds would be to abandon free markets and travel the government-pays-all route. The perils along that road include enduring unconquerable deficits and taxes up to our eyebrows while waiting for weeks or months for health care as they do in Canada and England.
You would also wreck the best medical-care system in the world. Some say that superlative is undue and cite statistics showing better health in some other industrial nations. But medical care is just part of what makes us healthy — exercise, folks; eat properly; don’t smoke; cut down on the drinking.
A further truth: The Democrats don’t want a Republican solution that would rob them of one of their favorite issues, and are in a position at least for the time being to satisfy their own ambitions by defeating the president’s ideas and thereby cheating the public. They control Congress, after all, and the president’s political capital is down to something close to zilch.
Before the dust has settled, however, the White House and its allies on this issue ought to spell out in detail how almost everyone will be better off with a plan of this kind, even including most of those now receiving employer health insurance. This group will have tax obligations that did not previously exist, but the amount of the deduction returns for the vast majority will be higher than the taxes they pay. And millions are going to have a chance to get health insurance they could not otherwise obtain.
The White House and those who concur with this splendid suggestion might also have a quick response the next time one of these congressional Democrats starts yakking about tax breaks for the "rich." They might ask if these politicians are familiar with a word that starts with "h" and means "a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc. that he or she does not actually possess."
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com
Decades ago, I was a reporter in Albany, N.Y., working for a newspaper at the foot of a hill that could be ascended only with huffing, puffing, knee endangerment and sweat unless you employed a trick.