Star Parker

The Democrats' health care initiative reminds me of the joke about the Boy Scout fighting on a street corner with an old lady.

When a passerby asked what was going on, the scout said, "I'm trying to help her across the street but she refuses to go."

Health insurance, so far, is not mandatory by law, and we've got 16 percent of the population -- 47 million or so -- without it. Auto insurance is mandatory by law, and according to the Insurance Research Council, 14 percent of drivers nationwide still don't buy it.

Government can't make people do what they don't want to do. And it can't change human nature. Political freedom and capitalism work so well because they reflect the truth that human beings have free choice. But this means individuals take personal responsibility.

The left has always been in denial about this, which is why they're endlessly trying to expand government and reduce freedom. They see individuals as hapless victims the state must take care of.

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said "The reason people don't have health insurance isn't because they don't want it. It's because they can't afford it."

This is largely not true.

According to a new study from the Employment Policy Institute, authored by two economists from City University of New York (one, June O'Neill, spent four years as head of the Congressional Budget Office), 43 percent of the 47 million can afford insurance and choose not to purchase it.

According to 2007 census data, 20 percent of uninsured households earn over $75,000.

Regarding the remaining 57 percent, the authors call them "involuntarily" uninsured because they can't afford insurance. But "involuntarily" is also a misnomer, because it implies no connection in how they choose to live to the fact that they can't afford insurance.

The study provides the following portrait of this population: About a third are high school dropouts; they are disproportionately young; about a third are immigrants, mostly Hispanic non-citizens; about half are single without children; about 40 percent did not work during the year.

Pulling immigrants out of the equation, we're left with an uninsured population that can't afford insurance that is about a third the size of the widely quoted 47 million. It's a population that is generally poor, young, uneducated, and not working.

We're already set up to deal with these folks. Either through Medicaid or covering their emergency room visits. The operative question is do we want to further institutionalize this reality into a new national health care plan involving trillions in new taxes and programs.

I think the answer is clear: No.

What should we do?

A recent study by consulting firm McKinsey & Company on American education estimates our annual GDP would increase by $500 billion if the educational performance of black and Latino kids is raised to the national average. Otherwise stated, it is costing us $500 billion per year to not do this.

This dwarfs the excessive costs in health care that our president now calls our No. 1 economic problem.

It is simply not credible for Obama to propose taxing Americans trillions to subsidize health care when he refuses to come to grips with why so many are poor.

Open the door to millions of poor kids out of broken families, broken public schools, and the cycle of poverty through school choice. Give them the opportunity to go to church schools.

Rather than perpetuating poverty through further institutionalization of the welfare state, expose poor kids to the values and education necessary to enable them to make the right choices for their lives.

There is no future for a nation of victims, whether we're talking about health care or anything else. But there is a great future for a country of responsible, free people.


Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.