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Yes, Liberals Are Guilty Of Caring

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Just how intellectually flimsy are the arguments against expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP)? A new editorial from National Review offers a fine case study.

After bringing readers up to speed on the controversy -- the House and Senate have voted to expand the program, President Bush has threatened to veto it -- the editors get to their point: that "there are better ways of making health insurance affordable." As proof, they cite President Bush's proposal to create a new tax deduction for health insurance.

This, alas, is a poor choice of example. All of the authorities I've seen -- including the Congressional Budget Office, which the National Review editorial itself cites -- have concluded that expansions of public programs are, dollar for dollar, more efficient than expansions of tax credits and/or deductions. There's even reason to believe that equalizing the tax treatment of individual and group insurance, without creating new pooling arrangements, could result in more people without insurance.

But maybe that's not the editors' point. Elsewhere in the article, the editorial notes that

For liberal proponents of the expansion, all that matters is the net increase in insured children.

Exactly! Liberals (and plenty of non-liberals) want to expand S-CHIP because they are determined, first and foremost, to maximize the number of kids with health insurance. You see, kids with health insurance can get medical care without causing their families financial difficulty, which means they tend to get more preventative care, and so on and so on...

Apparently, the editors of National Review think other goals -- like pursuing their ideological devotion to smaller government -- are even more important.

Well, I'm glad we cleared that up.

--Jonathan Cohn

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