Up­hold­ing the dig­nity of work

The gov­ern­ment owes no able-bod­ied adult a liv­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Peter Morici

Don­ald Trump is off to the rock­i­est start of any pres­i­dent in mem­ory. His ex­ec­u­tive or­ders to limit im­mi­gra­tion from six Mid­dle East states, mid­night tweets and con­tro­ver­sial ap­pointees have surely eroded con­fi­dence in his abil­ity to gov­ern, but the fail­ure of the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in Congress to ad­here to con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples have added to his woes.

Most fun­da­men­tally, con­ser­va­tives should cham­pion the dig­nity of work — the gov­ern­ment owes no able-bod­ied adult a liv­ing — and the ef­fi­cacy of com­pe­ti­tion in com­merce and pol­i­tics — mar­kets are bet­ter than bu­reau­crats at guid­ing the econ­omy and the rules of the game should be made by ma­jori­ties of elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

These prin­ci­ples pro­pelled Amer­i­can pros­per­ity and se­cured our lib­erty in the 19th and 20th cen­turies, and their grad­ual

dis­re­gard in re­cent decades is at the core of wan­ing Amer­i­can af­flu­ence at home and in­flu­ence in the world.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s poli­cies on taxes, en­ti­tle­ments and many other is­sues and abuse of ex­ec­u­tive dis­cre­tion ex­hib­ited the hard-left hubris that these are an­ti­quated ideas. For ex­am­ple, on cli­mate change, he could not win a Con­gres­sional ma­jor­ity to limit CO2 emis­sions, so he im­posed those by ex­ec­u­tive or­der with the happy as­sis­tance of a ju­di­ciary that too of­ten prefers to leg­is­late rather than ap­ply laws as writ­ten by Congress and the plain lan­guage of the con­sti­tu­tion.

The Af­ford­able Care Act, also known as Oba­macare, usurped in­di­vid­ual choice and re­placed pri­vate mar­kets with a gov­ern­ment plan­ning ap­pa­ra­tus — all pri­vate in­sur­ance poli­cies must in­clude a gov­ern­ment pre­scribed set of ben­e­fits and in­di­vid­u­als must ob­tain in­sur­ance, ei­ther through di­rect pur­chase or an em­ployer, or pay a fine. Poli­cies not pro­vided by em­ploy­ers must be pur­chased through a gov­ern­ment run store — just like vodka and bologna in the old Soviet Union.

Oba­macare along with other changes im­ple­mented by Mr. Obama per­mit mil­lions of healthy work­ing age men and women — who are not em­ployed, seek­ing em­ploy­ment or car­ing for small chil­dren — to ob­tain vir­tu­ally free health care through Med­i­caid and Food Stamps. Lax en­force­ment of fed­eral guide­lines now award many un­de­served so­cial se­cu­rity dis­abil­ity pen­sions.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Office es­ti­mated Speaker Ryan’s pro­posed amend­ment to Oba­macare, the Amer­i­can Health Care Act (ACHA), would have added about 24 mil­lion to the ranks of the unin­sured.

Repub­li­can gov­er­nors in states that have adopted Oba­macare’s ex­tended Med­i­caid ben­e­fits were taken aghast that the ACHA would re­quire them to grad­u­ally wean in­do­lent adults from free health care. Sim­i­lar shock and hor­ror was ap­par­ent to the idea that some hard work­ing Amer­i­cans might ex­er­cise the free­dom to choose to self-in­sure rather pur­chase a pol­icy with a gov­ern­ment man­dated list of ben­e­fits.

Con­se­quently, sev­eral mod­er­ate Repub­li­can sen­a­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives were pre­pared to with­hold sup­port for the ACHA. That po­si­tion had as much to do with Speaker Ryan’s fail­ure to craft a com­pro­mise that could pass Congress as the un­yield­ing op­po­si­tion of the House Free­dom Cau­cus and its al­lies in the Se­nate to con­tin­u­ing some gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance to pur­chase in­sur­ance for low and mod­er­ate in­come Amer­i­cans.

The hard re­al­ity is no one fac­tion — the Democrats, mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans or the Free­dom Cau­cus and con­ser­va­tives in the Se­nate — pos­sess a work­able ma­jor­ity in ei­ther cham­ber. The Democrats’ op­po­si­tion to what­ever Repub­li­cans pro­pose, de­spite the fact the Oba­macare ex­changes will col­lapse as early as 2018, may be re­pug­nant but the Repub­li­cans have the nom­i­nal ma­jori­ties and hence the re­spon­si­bil­ity to com­pro­mise among them­selves. The ef­fi­cacy of democ­racy re­quires it and by re­fus­ing, Repub­li­can law­mak­ers make them­selves un­fit to gov­ern.

Next up on Mr. Trump’s agenda is tax re­form, and that is likely to re­veal equally pro­found fis­sures in the GOP. A good num­ber of mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans like us­ing the tax code to re­dis­tribute in­come and un­der­mine mar­kets by pro­vid­ing spe­cial ben­e­fits through ex­emp­tions and de­duc­tions, and many con­ser­va­tive cling to the pe­cu­liar no­tion that cut­ting tax rates will mirac­u­lously boost growth enough to ac­tu­ally in­crease rev­enues and re­duce the fed­eral deficit.

Mr. Trump got elected by speak­ing to voter frus­tra­tions that Washington could not get much that is use­ful done, but so far he has not proven him­self a great deal maker with Congress or par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive over­all.

If the great com­pro­miser and leg­endary tac­ti­cian of the early repub­lic, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, could be res­ur­rected and in­stalled as pres­i­dent and House speaker, they would not be able to forge con­sen­sus and gov­ern ef­fec­tively with this un­ruly Congress.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY MARC WE­BER

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