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Throw Momma Under The Bus

For all its other sins, I will always be grateful to NPR for introducing me to two things that I still value and cherish today. The first was George Martin's album, "In My Life." (I might do a full posting on that album someday.) The second was the political wit and wisdom of P. J. O'Rourke, when they interviewed him for his book "Parliament Of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts To Explain The Entire U. S. Government."

Written as only P.J. can write, he goes beyond the dry facts and spells out in clear (and memorable) language just how government operates, and how he thinks it ought to operate -- and it influenced my own political beliefs tremendously. His explanation of how God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat does a pretty darned good job of summing up the differences between the two parties, and that explanation has only strengthened over time.

But what affected me the most, I think, would be his discussion of the federal budget.

In the chapter on the budget (entitled "Would You Kill Your Mother To Pave I-95?"), P.J. explains how to balance the federal budget. I'm going to reprint one entire paragraph here:

The other secret to balancing the budget is to remember that all tax revenue is the result of holding a gun to someone's head. Not paying taxes is against the law. If you don't pay your taxes, you'll be fined. If you don't pay the fine, you'll be jailed. If you try to escape from jail, you'll be shot. Thus, I -- in my role as citizen and voter -- am going to shoot you -- in your role as taxpayer and ripe suck -- if you don't pay your share of the national tab. Therefore, every time the government spends money on anything, you have to you ask yourself, "would I kill my kindly, gray-haired mother for this?" In the case of defense spending, the argument is simple: "Come on, Ma, everybody's in this together. If those Canadian hordes come down over the border, we'll all be dead meat. Pay up." In the case of helping cripples, orphans, and blind people, the argument is almost as persuasive: "Mother, I know you don't know these people from Adam, but we've got five thousand years of Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Buddhist-Hindu-Confucian-animist-jungle-God morality going here. Fork over the dough." But day care doesn't fly. "You're paying for the next-door neighbor's baby-sitter, or it's curtains for you, Mom."

That has been my touchstone for deciding on government spending for a very, very long time. I never forget that the government has no money of its own. Every single penny it has, it has because it takes from us. Well, it might be better to say that "we give it," because we are ultimately responsible for our government, and it is responsible to us. Tax cuts are NOT about "giving money to the rich," or simply giving money to people, they are about taking less of what is ours to begin with. People who rejoice in their tax refunds are fools for thinking that "the government gave me money" instead of "the government borrowed all this money from me, then returned it with no interest." (And I'm one of them.)

So, how does this suddenly become timely? With the discussion of the S-CHIP program.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program is the subject of a rather fierce argument these days. Democrats in Congress want to expand it drastically, while President Bush wants to keep it roughly as it is. It looks like a no-lose deal for the Democrats, as they get to use one of their favorite dodges ("it's for the children!") with some degree of justification. And those who oppose it can expect to have it hung around their necks like a millstone.

But as always, the devil is in the details. I haven't made a thorough study of the measure, but one of those details that has stuck in my head is that the proposed expansion will have the government paying for the health insurance of children from families making up to three times the official poverty level.

Think about that.

Then run it through P.J.'s "Mom" filter.

"Come on, Ma, break out the checkbook. We all gotta take care of the poor kids. And while we're at it, we're gonna also pay for the not-so-poor kids, too. We can't trust their parents to make the right choices for their lives, so we're gonna cover families making up to 62 grand a year."

That also rankles the libertarian in me. Parents are ultimately responsible for their children. The parents should be the first resort for making decisions for their children. And if the parents are not taking care of their children as they should, then the state should consider simply taking those children away.

Should parents provide for their children's health care? Absolutely -- that's a point we reinforce through child-neglect laws. Should they do so by making certain the child is covered by some form of insurance? Not necessarily.

The parents might be wealthy enough to not need it. They might have odd religious beliefs that restrict dependence on medicine and put more weight in their God. (That one is best settled on a case-by-case basis, with full respect for the First Amendment protections.) Or they might have an innate distrust of insurance companies. Their reasons are, by and large, irrelevant; they have a right to raise and care for their children as they see fit, and that right carries with it the presumption that they are doing things properly right up until it is proven otherwise.

The expansion of S-CHIP is the ultimate, literal expression of the "nanny state." We don't trust each other (and, by extension and definition, ourselves) to take care of our children, so we want the government (also, by extension and definition) everyone else to do it for us.

And how well will that work out? Next time you're standing in line at the DMV, the next time you're waiting to pay a parking ticket, the next time you hear about another lawmaker caught playing toe-tapping in the men's room or getting caught with a freezer full of cash or collecting money from fugitive fundraisers or molesting interns and underage pages, tell yourself "these are the people who can make better decisions about my children than I can. And if you disagree, Mom, then I gotta bust a cap in your head."


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Comments (16)

There are a couple other th... (Below threshold)
meep:

There are a couple other things too: I believe Bush wanted to tie allowing expansion to making sure all the poor kids are covered before extending it to groups beyond the original mandate. The problem to extending it to middle class kids is their parents are likely to jump on govt subsidies right away, and the focus will be off making sure the poor kids get care. This kind of thing happens in education all the time, too - you start out with a program that's tailored for communities with less resources, some Democrat decides to make it universal, then the bulk of the money gets fed to the (politically powerful) middle class.

The other problem is, of course, that for these non-poor kids, most of the ones that would be coming over to the program would be ones that are already covered by private insurance, but since having Uncle Sam pay for it is cheaper, it will draw off many of those kids. Those already paying for their insurance will be the primary beneficiaries here. I don't see the burning need for my money to pay for my own family's insurance and some other non-poor family's insurance.

If the point is to reduce coverage costs, they should do something like remove the expensive mandates on private insurance (such as wigs for cancer patients -- required coverage in NY state for private medical insurance. and fertility treatments.) Yes, health care does get expensive, but we don't need to be foisting the first class expenses on everybody which makes insurance prohibitively expensive. Also, make sure S-CHIP is funded on a per capita basis, not like Medicaid with "matching" funds. That creates all sorts of bad incentives for state govts.

That just made me trot on o... (Below threshold)

That just made me trot on over to Barnes/Noble to buy the book.

The democrats: The people a... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

The democrats: The people are too stupid to take care of themselves so the government must.

Republicans: People who rely on the government for their lives is stupid. ww

I just woke up. I hope that... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

I just woke up. I hope that last comment makes sense? ww

Bush, with congress's help,... (Below threshold)
Mark:

Bush, with congress's help, has been the biggest spender in our history.....

He outspent them all even leaving out Iraq.

A better test than killing your Grandma might be the Constitution of the United States...or

God only requires 10% ....That should be good enough for the Government...

People who rejoice in th... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

People who rejoice in their tax refunds are fools for thinking that "the government gave me money" instead of "the government borrowed all this money from me, then returned it with no interest."

Frank J. of IMAO summed this up best:

"A lot of people get excited when they get some of the money back that the government had been taking from his or her paycheck all year; this is a bit like if there was a robber who kept breaking in and stealing your stuff each week, and you got all excited when, after a year, he brings back your T.V."

"That also rankles the libe... (Below threshold)
Malibu Stacy:

"That also rankles the libertarian in me."

You need to let him out, then. He's turning you into Emily Litella.

The original S-CHIP did muc... (Below threshold)
epador:

The original S-CHIP did much good, but missed more than a few kids who could have used it. The new one is way too broad.

If we abandon the kids of those who can't support themselves, we increase the chance they'll get their limited care from the local ER, sucking dry the medical system, and follow directly in their parents footsteps as Democratic voters.

"People who rejoice in t... (Below threshold)

"People who rejoice in their tax refunds are fools..."

There's a sort of sniglet for that:

Intaxication; That euphoric feeling one gets when they receive a tax refund - until they realize it was their money to begin with.

I,ve read ALL THE TROUBLES ... (Below threshold)
Spurwing Plover:

I,ve read ALL THE TROUBLES OF THE WORLD it gets pretty funny when he explains about how in SOUTH AMERICA that the toucans get high on caffeen and get realy rieled up

But how are parents going t... (Below threshold)

But how are parents going to afford i-Phones and digital camcorders for themselves and the bambinos if we don't pay for their kids' health care coverage?

"And if you disagree, Mom, ... (Below threshold)
brainy435:

"And if you disagree, Mom, then I gotta bust a cap in your head."

What a geek. The term is "bust a cap in your ASS."

LOL.

If we abandon the kids o... (Below threshold)
mantis:

If we abandon the kids of those who can't support themselves, we increase the chance they'll get their limited care from the local ER, sucking dry the medical system, and follow directly in their parents footsteps as Democratic voters.

Then I guess we should just stop giving them treatment in the ER, shouldn't we? That will surely solve the problem.

one of those details tha... (Below threshold)
Brian:

one of those details that has stuck in my head is that the proposed expansion will have the government paying for the health insurance of children from families making up to three times the official poverty level.

And instead, that same amount of money is being spent every 41 days in Iraq.

Think about that.

So if parents prove themsel... (Below threshold)
JasonM:

So if parents prove themselves to be negligent by not being able to afford health care for their children, the government should take them away. The government, which is made up of toe-tappers and intern molesters? I guess corrupt deviants know more about child rearing than people who simply can't afford health insurance.

Greetings,I notice a... (Below threshold)
richard:

Greetings,
I notice a poster is upset over our spending in Iraq and yet we question the billions in expenditures of s-chip! First, Iraq is National Security a constitutionally authorized expenditure. S-Chip is unconstitutional. If you doubt then please cite for me the article in the constution that provides for that authority to the congress to extort that money for others benefit. Second, I agree with Bush, let's make sure all the poor are covered first, before we move on to the middle class and upper middle class.




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