Monday, November 12, 2007

Doctor-Lawyer Opposes McConnell

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has an actual opponent, undoubtedly the first of several. Dr. Michael G. Cassaro, Esq. of Prospect, announced that he will run for McConnell's seat. (If elected, would we call him the Honorable Senator Dr. Cassaro, Esq.? Good thing we colonists renounced titles.)

Cassaro, according to WHAS 11 Mark Hebert, practices medicine with a specialty in pain management, but was also educated as an engineer and an attorney (though he is not listed in the Louisville Bar Association 2007 Directory).

Perhaps, given that he is a physician, Cassaro can discuss the issue of healthcare with a little more thoughtfulness than the left has shown in the senate race thus far.

Take the issue of the State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Republicans, including McConnell, agreed to renew the program to give free health insurance for poor children who don't qualify for Medicaid.

The Democrats insisted that the program be increased to cover more children -- those whose family income is well above the poverty line. Under the Democrats' proposed expansion, for example, a family of four with an $84,000 income in New York would qualify for SCHIP. The president correctly vetoed the program as expanded, and McConnell supported the president when the Democrats tried to override the veto.

In response, the Democrats ran ads against McConnell, asserting, in essence, that he hates children (even though he is the father of three girls).

It's the same logic that we saw with the proposed Louisville Library Tax: if you oppose the tax, that means you hate books. But the voters didn't fall for it.

Republicans don't hate small children (or books). To the contrary, as Susan Estrich complained, while promoting her book on the Laura Ingraham show, conservatives buy more books than liberals. And one of the unintended consequences of the Democrats' assault on families and fetuses is that Republicans bear more children than Democrats.

No, McConnell and Republicans agree that poor children need access to affordable healthcare. The issue, however, is how best to accomplish that goal. That's why the Republican leader has urged the Democrats to renew the coverage for those children previously covered -- for whom there is bipartisan support. Instead, the Democrats risk coverage for the neediest children while trying to expand the program.

Legislators draw lines to allocate scarce resources. So the real issue in the SCHIP debate is how far up from the poverty line we draw the line -- three hundred percent, or as the Democrats have demanded, four hundred percent above the poverty line -- or further?

Truthfully, many Democrats don't want to draw a line, any line, because that necessarily means leaving children out, thereby forcing their parents to hold down jobs and buy health insurance. That's why the SCHIP debate, at its core, is about universal health insurance.

Oregon voters recently confronted a ballot initiative that would have imposed universal health care for children, to be funded by cigarette taxes -- virtually the identical plan that Democrats have pushed in Congress. Though more liberal than the average Kentuckian, Oregon voters rejected the plan by a margin of three to two. Notwithstanding the negative advertising funded by out of state interest groups, McConnell 's approach of renewing SCHIP but holding the line on its expansion comports with the values of Kentucky voters.

Why would the Democrats expand SCHIP when we have not yet solved how to fund Social Security? Like building an addition when you can't pay your mortgage, it's just profligate. But Democrats know that the surest way to guarantee an entitlement's permanency is to give the middle class a piece of it. And that is exactly what the SCHIP expansion would do, at least incrementally.

So the question for Dr. Cassaro, Esq., to address when he formally announces his candidacy today, is whether he is ready to practice medicine for the government, if the senate gig doesn't work out. Maybe that's why he hedged his bets and went to law school.

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