I tremble to return to the subject of the Frost family, if only because so many e-mailers in the last 72 hours seem to confuse a debate on health care with an analysis of my sexual inadequacy and the accommodational capacity of my posterior. But here’s my, er, bottom line: I am opposed in general to government entitlements; and, insofar as we have to have them, I prefer them to be at state level, which at least injects an element of competition and choice into the system; and, insofar as we have to have state entitlements, they should be finely targeted and properly means-tested.
The Frosts will be out of the news in a day or two but the government program they’re demanding will be forever. So, given that Nancy Pelosi held them up as emblematic of “the type of working-poor Americans that the program was intended to help”, it’s entirely appropriate to consider how emblematic they are. Both The Baltimore Sun and The New York Times have stories on the Frosts this morning, and the interesting point is the matter of whether they do, in any useful sense, represent the “working poor”:
Mr. Frost works intermittently in woodworking and as a welder, while Mrs. Frost has a part-time job at a firm that provides services to publishers of medical journals.
Mr Frost works “intermittently”. The unemployment rate in the Baltimore metropolitan area is four-percent. Perhaps he chooses to work “intermittently,” just as he chooses to send his children to private school, and chooses to live in a 3,000-square-foot home. That’s what free-born citizens in democratic societies do: choose. Sometimes those choices work out, and sometimes they don’t. And, when they don’t and catastrophe ensues, it’s appropriate that the state should provide a safety net. But it should be a safety net of last resort, and it’s far from clear that it is in this case.
Speaking of choices, young Graeme Frost demands President Bush should choose between Iraq and government health care. I’m not persuaded the Frost family are the best judges of the nation’s choices. Middle-class entitlement addiction, as the French President and Prime Minister have recently made plain, is unsustainable even in the wealthiest societies. The Frosts are entitled to make their choices. The President has to choose the broader interest.