A nation of Peter Pans
By Michael M. Bates
Author J. M. Barrie gave literature Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up. Government, by encouraging people to not assume the responsibilities of adulthood, is fashioning a nation of Peter Pans.
Many health insurance policies allow parents to carry their children as covered dependents until they turn 19 or, if a full-time student, around 23. That's changing. Two years ago, New Jersey required health insurance companies to extend coverage to qualifying children up to age 30.
Tony Rezko's favorite Democratic governor, Illinois' Milorad Blagojevich, used his amendatory veto authority this year to do the same. The covered "children" need not be students nor even live with their parents.
Other states controlled by Democrats are considering similar legislative proposals. One aspect you can be sure they're not considering is the cost of carrying people as dependents until a mere 20 years before they're eligible for AARP. That additional cost won't be borne by the tooth fairy or even Rezko, Obama's personal real estate fairy. It will be passed on to the consumer.
Obama's chief of staff, the loathsome Rahm Emanuel, recently told the Wall Street Journal what legislation The One expects his Democratic Congress to send to him for signature:
"Bucket one would have children's health care, SCHIP. It has bipartisan agreement in the House and Senate. It's something President-elect Obama expects to see."
Versions of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, were vetoed by President Bush when Congress tried to expand eligibility requirements. The "children" covered by SCHIP include people up to age 21. (At one point, the proposed legislation set that at 25, but it eventually was amended). Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ) last year pointed out that at least two states spent a majority of their SCHIP funding on adults, not children.
During the campaign, Obama marketed his plan for a new college program. As he told an Ohio audience:
"We are going provide a $4,000 tuition credit, every student, every year. That'll pay for up to two-thirds of a college, a public college or a community college education. But, young people, you're going to have to give something back in return. You're going to have to participate in community service or national service, spend some time in a homeless shelter, spend some time in a veterans' home, join the Peace Corps."
The notion that everyone belongs in college is mistaken. As Obama has detailed that his service requirement is only 100 hours, the result will be equivalent to giving people – regardless of ability or experience – an $80,000 a year job. We've gained familiarity with Washington's idea of service with absurd rip-offs like AmeriCorps, which has paid "volunteers" to sign up new welfare recipients, gotten businesses to apply for government-guaranteed loans, and given a $5 bounty for each toy gun turned in by a kid.
Obama's $4,000 credit will no doubt subsidize similar inanities. Even worse, it will delay individuals who could have advantageously entered the workforce from attaining adult status. More professional students funded by taxpayers - just what we need.
Not that the young are the only ones seeking coddling from the government. In a matter of weeks, we've seen Washington radically depart from free enterprise to pamper 60-year old insurance managers, bankers, financial services providers, government sponsored enterprises executives, homeowners with loans they shouldn't have taken, and the list goes on. Now a major bailout of the auto industry is proposed. This would be over and above the $25 billion in low-interest loans for Detroit approved just two months ago.
Car companies wouldn't be the only beneficiary of Washington's infusion of cash. The United Auto Workers, which for years has stubbornly demanded extraordinarily generous contracts even as manufacturers lost money, will also benefit.
Obama received colossal donations of cash and campaign work from unions. It's payback time. For Obama, who's so pro-organized labor that he refuses to shop at Wal-Mart, that won't be a problem.
He can just add unions to all the other groups and individuals who believe they need to be taken care of. They want to linger as dependent, helpless children, requiring government paternalism to make it through life's adversities.
Ben Franklin expressed a truth Americans understood for most of our history: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." The current crop in government couldn't carry Ben's bifocals. But they sure know how to appeal to the kid in all of us.
This Mike Bates column appeared in the November 13, 2008 Reporter Newspapers.