Partisanship vs. the People

Michael Gerson, who’s too regularly full of wrong ideas, discusses child health insurance in today’s Washington Post.

The column is useful enough, since it discusses how to get children covered by health insurance, as well as a glossed-over failure within the existing government structure of providing insurance for children. There’s room for disagreement, despite his opening suggestion, but his conclusion is better than creating a new bureaucracy to do what the government already does. (The government shouldn’t be doing this, and his solution for adults is lacking.)

One sentence is worth excerpting. The story is lost a bit when reading this in isolation, but the context remains.

Fulfilling the most basic parental responsibilities can’t be legislated.

Why not? Politicians (and pundits) seem convinced that many such actions can and should be legislated. At least in Virginia, the laws for restraining children minors under the age of 16 while riding in motor vehicles suggests that basic parental responsibilities are legislated.

I happen to agree with his original statement. (We legislate feeding children sufficiently, for example, but that’s not what Mr. Gerson means by most basic.) As he mentions in his column, almost 6 million children eligible for Medicaid or State Children’s Health Insurance Program aren’t signed up because their parents haven’t filled out the paperwork. That makes no sense. I’m sure most of those 6 million children aren’t signed up because their parents don’t know they’re eligible, but I don’t see how a free society can force people to sign up for public insurance, just because they’re eligible. Providing health care to their children, yes. Accepting public assistance, no.

When we hear that 47 million Americans don’t have health insurance, that means 250 million do. We should learn from the majority more than we decipher problems from the minority. I’m left wondering why, with programs already available, we should create new programs for children and adults in the hopes that we’ll eventually get to everyone. Shouldn’t we investigate why parents aren’t signing up for something that already exists rather than create a new boondoggle that will fall short of politicians’ plans? Our current crop of presidential candidates don’t think so, so the real lesson is that big government conservatism and big government liberalism are more interested in big government than political philosophy. Surprise. Won’t single-payer health care be fun?!?


A little Michael Gerson bonus, extending from his statement. As he concluded in his Independence Day column:

In America we respect, defend and obey the Constitution — but we change it when it is inconsistent with our ideals. Those ideals are defined by the Declaration of Independence. We have not always lived up to them. But we would not change them for anything on Earth.

So what’s in the Declaration of Independence that Mr. Gerson cherishes?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

How is same-sex marriage, which Mr. Gerson opposes, not the pursuit of happiness? Is he going to get ignorantly stuck on the reference to the individual’s Creator, read that as a euphemism for his God, and call government intervention okay? He clearly believes he can legislate happiness. If he believes we can’t legislate the most basic parental responsibilities, why not? Legislating signing up for insurance is easier and likely to be more effective than legislating happiness.