Pete Stark’s strident talk does ill-advised bill no favor at all

Step up to the front of the House, Pete Stark. Do your thing. Help show Americans just how fanatically ideological and stridently partisan at least one Democrat has become these days. It will help them evaluate how rational your views are, including the one that we should expand a children’s health insurance program.

Enlarging this program — known as SCHIP — has become the Democrats’ cause of the moment, their way to illustrate their compassion for kids; the only problem being that the plan is a political ploy posing as credible public policy.

SCHIP was originally established as a program assuring that children in needy families above the poverty line would have health insurance. Continuing the program had support from virtually everybody — certainly including the administration and most Republicans — but the Democrats wanted to go further than that, spending another $35 billion to extend the program so deep into the middle class as to make the word “needy” a joke. President Bush balked. He vetoed the measure.

There were solid reasons to do so. Not the least was that the plan would have given us an ultra-expensive, welfare state, health care entitlement taking money from many people with little to give to many people with much, and sometimes to people who already had private insurance. It would be unsustainable in the long run even if it did not expand more and more until it became universal with the same problems as socialist medicine in other lands: rationing, interminable waits to see doctors, an ever-more bloated government and economy-stifling taxes.

For a workable, practical alternative making insurance readily available to most people who don’t already have it, you need look no further than President Bush’s proposal to give tax credits and vouchers as deductions for insurance purchases outside of as well as for employer plans. It was fashioned so as to avoid a hit on revenue, to enable pooling outside the workplace and to make insurance portable.

So here comes Stark, for 36 years a Democratic representative from California, and here are some of his reported words during a House debate on overriding the Bush veto: “You don’t have money to fund the war or children, but you’re going to blow up innocent people if we can get kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.” There was more: “But President Bush’s statements about children’s health insurance shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than his lies about the war in Iraq. The truth is that Bush just likes to blow things up in Iraq, in the United States and in Congress.”

The chief lie is that this plan would do little more than buy middleclass votes by edging ever closer to a government model that, taken too far, has caused the collapse of whole societies. The talk about blowing things up could almost have been a reference to the man himself. What was blown to smithereens in this speech was decency of discourse or any sense of proportion that may ever have abided in the head of a politician who does not represent everyone on his side of the aisle, but who does convey an incoherent fervor signaling us to watch out for the policy being defended.

Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at

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