The differences between those who want to decide and those who want Washington to decide are deep and fundamental.
What has intensified the debate in the last 15 years is that the millions of dollars being spent on the Left are driving the candidates even further to the left. The proposals coming from the Democrat candidates for president are getting more expensive and more expansive.
The most recent fight was over whether President Bush was “hurting the children” by not agreeing to the recent Democrat proposal to expand another government entitlement program. The program is called the State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). It was passed in 1997 to help families who made too much money to be eligible for Medicaid, but too little to buy health coverage for their children.
The Democrat proposal included “children” up to age 25. They expanded it to include, in some cases, families with incomes three and one half times the poverty level. It included coverage for some illegal aliens and adults without children. (Minnesota currently spends 87% of its SCHIP funds on adults.)
Republicans wanted to limit the program to children and move it toward private sector competition to bring down costs. That proposal attracted no Democrat interest.
Why can’t Democrats pursue private solutions before they turn to an expansion of the federal bureaucracy and the federal entitlement programs? Liberals can’t loosen the federal grip on our choices because if they do, they lose the central organizing principle of liberalism, that bureaucrats and governments make more fair decisions than individuals. Again we have the question: Who decides?
The central organizing principle of conservatism is freedom, and every proposal conservatives pursued when they were in the majority was aimed at increasing personal freedom and individual and community responsibility. This was best outlined in the recently passed Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program for seniors. Conservatives believed that drug companies would compete for the millions of patients and that individuals making their own choices would bring down the costs.
In spite of all of the abuse and criticisms heaped on Bush administration, it was right about this. The administration estimated that the cost each senior would be forced to pay would decrease from retail costs to about $37 per month. The Democrats believed that bureaucrats should be hired to negotiate drug prices. Indeed, they proposed an amendment that would set the price at $35 per senior. Fortunately it was defeated. After the first year of the program, the average cost per senior had been driven down by competition, to $22.
The stunning thing was the level of invective from the Left. President Bush was accused of wanting poor seniors to die while he was lining the pockets of wealthy pharmaceutical companies. But nothing surprises me anymore when the Democrats take the microphone. They have a long tradition of negativism. The last time we heard anything positive from them was when Senator Kennedy, of all people, endorsed the “No Child Left Behind” initiative. Otherwise, there has been a constant drone of negative partisan comment and little or no effort to achieve bi-partisan solutions to America’s problems.