“It’s a sideshow of a sideshow,” complained the British general in Cairo at the beginning of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, describing the campaign against the Turks and Germans in the Mideast during World War I. As history notes, the resolution of that sideshow by Western powers spawned greater problems for them in later decades, with the British and French creating the artificial regimes of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
Kuwait had been a British protectorate since 1899, while Saudi Arabia is a consequence of Wahhabist campaigns of conquest since the 18th century. The seven members of the United Arab Emirates were also sired by Western political expediency.
Of course, these are all Islamic countries, and some have gone beyond looking the gift horse in the mouth by either demanding submission of the West or calling for its defeat and eradication. Others, such as the UAE are too busy fleecing the West in enormous and extortionate wealth transfers via petrodollars to bother with a jihadist campaign of conquest, though there is plenty of evidence they are passive enablers of it.
The “sideshow” discussed here is an action of Congress that would greatly expand the welfare state. According to a Los Angeles Times article of October 7, “President says he’d compromise on insurance,” the congressional bill “would spend $60 billion over five years to expand health coverage for children of the working poor and middle-class, and it would pay for it with higher tobacco taxes.”
The article reports that President Bush’s “long-promised veto Wednesday set off an ideological battle about who holds responsibility for extending health-care benefits to uninsured children: the government or the private sector.
“Bush has offered $30 billion, a 20 percent increase over current levels but not enough to maintain the existing enrollment in what is known as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program [SCHIP], budget analysts say.
“The program is managed by states within federal guidelines and serves about 6 million children. An estimated 9 million children remain uninsured in the U.S., and the number has been rising as employers cut back coverages.”
Let’s subject this reporting to some rational analysis.
The “ideological battle” is a phony one. Both Republicans and Democrats subscribe to the idea that the government has a “responsibility” to ensure that all children and adults have health care. The Republicans are for only a “little bit” of coercion as a moral imperative; the Democrats are more consistent, wanting to enact a coercive program that would entrap everyone, with no spending limits at all. Most Democrats and Republicans never learn that, in politics, an innocuous amount of force is always an overture to wholesale force. The shrewder ones do know.
The “private sector” mentioned in the article is already heavily regulated and subsidized. One would have thought that it was the “responsibility” of children’s parents – the unnamed portion of that “private sector” – to take care of their children, and not a federal or state Nurse Ratched. But rarely do parents enter the picture of national health proposals (except as tax cows).
As evidence of the Republicans’ ignorance of what a “little bit” of coercion logically entails, consider the nature of Bush’s “ideological” opposition to the congressional bill, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:
“He continued to describe the measure that he vetoed as ‘deeply flawed,’ contending that the plan was ‘an incremental step toward their [the Democrats’] goal of government-run health care for every American,’ which he believes is ‘the wrong direction for our country.’”
Which direction is that? Bush did not say. He dared not say.
What he meant was socialized medicine, a term rarely employed by most politicians today. I can recall Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani using it once, perhaps twice. Bush, however, did not want to accuse the Democrats of advocating it. After all, if he is willing to compromise with the bill’s proponents and supporters, calling them closet socialists wouldn’t make negotiations easy, and he doesn’t want to appear to be against health care for children, not the advocate of “No Child Left Behind. ”
And the Democrats do not want to alert Americans that this is exactly what they have in mind. So the term has been swept under the thick rug of populist rhetoric. How childish of these adults to believe that if one doesn’t name a thing, it can’t exist, that it isn’t what one means, that it can’t be or won’t ever be.
One of the bill’s interesting provisions is that it would discourage states from “enrolling children in families that earn more than $60,000 a year.” Do the bill’s authors believe that a household income of $60,000 a year puts the earner in the same income bracket with Bill Gates or George Soros? Do they mean $60,000 before or after taxes, not including all the hidden and direct sales and excise taxes that the average household pays day in and day out? In 1910, $60,000 might have been a small fortune (and it would have been in genuine, non-inflatable gold and silver, no less); to consider $60,000 in fiat, paper money a fortune is too laughable an idea to even dwell on.
It is especially laughable when one knows that every Congressman and Senator pulls in far, far more than $60,000 a year, without performing a single day of productive, wealth-producing labor. Who came up with the arbitrary $60,000 figure? Ted Kennedy, living off his family’s ill-gotten fortune and who has voted for and supported every piece of anti-American welfare legislation in his long and disreputable career? John Edwards, the glorified ambulance chaser who made his millions in medical malpractice suits? Multi-millionaire Hillary Clinton, whose transparent duplicity and power-lust are driving her political campaign?
Another interesting provision of the bill is that it would “boost tobacco taxes, raising the levy on cigarettes by 61 cents to $1 a pack.”
Remember the big tobacco industry “master agreement” of yore? It was supposed to fill state coffers so states could combat alleged tobacco-related illnesses and browbeat children and adults about the dangers of smoking. The tobacco industry is still coughing up billions, but all that money shortly was consumed by other state priorities and is still going to programs and pork barrels of the legislators’ eclectic choosings. Practically the only anti-tobacco ads one sees on television now are produced and paid for by Philip Morris.
On October 2, the Ayn Rand Institute published an Op-Ed by Don Watkins, “Anti-Smoking Paternalism: A Cancer on American Liberty.” It is worth quoting its opening paragraph:
“Across the country, state and local governments are banning smoking on private property, including bars, restaurants, and office buildings. This is just the latest step in the government’s war on smoking – a coercive campaign that includes massive taxes on cigarettes, advertising bans, and endless multi-billion lawsuits against tobacco companies. This war is infecting America with a political disease far worse than any health risk caused by smoking; it is destroying our freedom to make our own judgments and choices.”
Mr. Watkins can be forgiven for overlooking recent smoking bans in cars with kids as passengers and even outside one’s own home. Also worth mentioning are the fines and/or jail time some localities impose on adults for buying cigarettes for teens working “undercover” for cops. It’s hard to keep up with the avalanche of controls at every level of government.
The subject of raising the tobacco tax merits more examination. About 70% of the price of any pack of cigarettes represents a combined levy of federal, state and local taxes, just as about 60% of the price of a gallon of gas represents mostly federal tax. But one of the alleged purposes of the “sin tax” on especially cigarettes is to discourage smokers from smoking, and coerce them into living “healthier” lives. This is presumably to enable them to better and more efficiently fund the welfare state; which means: living for the state. The contradictory conflict in ends should be obvious here – call it statist schizophrenia – that a dramatic rise in the cigarette tax is supposed to both fund either the Democrats’ $60 billion expansion of the welfare state or Bush’s $30 billion version, and also help stamp out smoking.
Hypothetically speaking, if the anti-smoking campaign is successful in stamping out smoking, with the consequence that the tax generates little or no tobacco revenue to the government, what do the health care bill’s supporters think will fund this five-year program? Where will the money come from?
One errs when one thinks that legislators think beyond a certain effect. But behind such pernicious, liberty-destroying legislation is their knowledge that there are plenty of other “sins” being committed by the population that can be taxed. Foods loaded with trans-fats. Gas. The Internet. Telephone usage. The possibilities are endless.
The welfare of children has often served as a Trojan horse for legislation that eventually is extended to cover adults, from child labor laws to minimum wage laws to medical care for the elderly. Children are viewed by most politicians and advocates of paternalistic and collectivist legislation as helpless in an adult world. But, as Don Watkins points out in his Op-Ed, it is only a matter of time before the government views adults as unprotected, helpless and ignorant, as well, needing the velvet-lined mailed fist of government to oversee their welfare.
“To the extent the anti-smoking movement succeeds in wielding the power of government coercion to impose on Americans its blanket opposition to smoking, it is entrenching paternalism: the view that individuals are incompetent to run their own lives, and thus require a nanny-state to control every aspect of those lives.”
Sideshows such as the proposed expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program have a tendency to become three-ring circuses, featuring the looted in one ring, the loot’s recipients in another, and in the middle a master of ceremonies wielding a whip, barking platitudes about sacrifice and the public good.