Dick Gephardt, Wannabe deadbeat son
7/2/2002 12:00:00 AM - Joel Mowbray
With tears welling up in his robotic eyes, Minority Leader Dick Gephardt
(D-MO) showed a rare flash of emotion as he recounted how his 94-year-old
mother worried about the cost of her prescription drugs. Makes you want to
cry—-cry about how far our society has degenerated that the only family more
and more seniors rely on is Uncle Sam.
Time was, families relied on each other, with dependencies inverting over
time. Parents raised children when the youngsters could not provide for
themselves, and then those children, as grown adults, would care for their
aged parents. It’s a process was that repeated in generation after
This was far from an unhealthy cycle—-it promoted family unity, and
instilled in the youngest family members the true meaning of family
The old and infirm were not shipped off to nursing homes to die. They were
not the government’s responsibility; they were the family’s. But all that
has gradually—-and substantially—-changed over the past 40 years.
Nursing homes serve a purpose in health care for some
it should be the exception, not the rule. But most seniors are not entering
nursing homes after staying with family members. According to the Centers
for Disease Control, only 18 percent of seniors admitted to nursing homes
each year come directly from a family member’s home, down slightly from
twelve years earlier.
Seniors should have dignity and independence, but that’s a whole different
ball of wax than the government forcibly disintegrating the social contract
that has existed within families for most of time. This is the logical
consequence, however, of baby boomer politics.
The hippie culture at the core of boomer political beliefs advocated a
utopia free of pain and suffering-—and sacrifice. Hippies wanted to divorce
freedom from responsibility, and now as middle-aged voters, they want their
parents to be cared for-—just not by them
. Dick Gephardt apparently
is no exception. Surely, he must have one constituent out of 600,000 in his
district with difficulty affording prescription drugs, yet he chose to whine
about his own mother—-whose Congressman son earns a cushy six-figure salary.
Rather than assume the sometimes-messy job of caring for aging seniors,
boomers have tapped the same source they have turned to for fixing a whole
host of other problems: government. No doubt they also want to be spared
the onerous task of actually socking away cash for their own health care
during retirement. But as big brother always does, it has mucked things
up-—and will do much worse if politicians have their way.
Government has already incentivized the erosion of family responsibility,
supplanting boomer children with government-funded strangers, i.e. – health
care “professionals”. Massive bureaucracies have been built up around this
analgesic for boomers’ guilty consciences. How about a simpler idea:
Lowering taxes to make it financially feasible to directly care for one’s
Obviously there are many boomers who want to do right by their ailing
parents, but simply don’t have the resources to do so. Government programs,
however, are geared to help them be less
involved in their parents’
lives, not more. After all, imagine a politician making the following pitch
to voters: “I created an environment where people could care for their
parents in the way they used to before government got in the way in the
In their zeal to “save” seniors, politicians are overlooking the obvious:
the free market has largely worked very well
. Seniors are living
longer, healthier lives, and they are doing so at prices that would have
been unthinkable even 15 years ago. Two-thirds of seniors have some private
health insurance for prescription drugs, and those medications have
dramatically altered the health care landscape.
Prescription drugs are the remedy of choice precisely because the free
market has been allowed to operate. Pharmaceuticals made a boatload of cash
producing drugs that lowered the cost of health care and reduced the
incidence of invasive surgeries. Not surprisingly, they're still at it-—but
only so long as they can continue to profit from making us healthier.
Dick Gephardt looks at a glass that is more than half-full, and he
declares the water intolerable. The situation that caused the Democrat
demagogue to quiver with emotion? His mother has to pay $200 a month for
glaucoma medication. $200 for her eyesight—-less than 2% of her son’s
monthly paycheck-—would seem a small price to pay, yet Gephardt’s
entitlement mindset has led him to believe that he should not be responsible
for shouldering such a light burden.
Dick Gephardt may not want to care for his own mother, but the rest of us
should want to care for our own families. Government has far better things
to do than get in our way.