The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Question Needing an Answer

In Impromptus today, I have the usual mélange, ranging over issues domestic and foreign, and large and small. The first issue is big: health care. And I have a memory of the 2016 campaign — the Republican primaries.

Donald Trump said, “I have a heart.” About Ted Cruz, he said, “Maybe he’s got no heart.”

Last month, President Trump celebrated the House’s health-care bill. Then he called it “mean.” And he said that any worthy health-care legislation had to have “more heart.”

What does that mean, in specific terms? This is something that everyone in politics has to wrestle with. What does it mean to have “heart,” or to lack it? For decades, Democrats have criticized Republicans as “heartless.” When a Republican president uses essentially the same rhetoric — where does that leave the parties?

The big question, I think, is whether the federal government should be responsible for the health care of all. Once you say yes to that question, everything changes. Then you are basically haggling over price (to echo an old joke).

During those 2016 primaries, Carly Fiorina spoke of the free market, boldly (and refreshingly, to my ears). She spoke about it in connection with health care. The free market, she said, is “the one thing we haven’t tried.”

“We are all socialists now,” someone said, eons ago. (Not Carly.) Are we? Should we be honest about it? Do the health-care systems of Canada and other such countries have more “heart” than ours? Do they serve their people better?

In my column today, I mention the governor of Newfoundland (called the “premier”), who, in 2010, went to Florida to have surgery — heart surgery. Taking grief from his countrymen about it, he said, “This is my heart, it’s my health, it’s my choice.”

In the future, will Canadian politicians be able to come to America, when the need arises? Will America still be a kind of escape hatch? Exceptional, if you will?

I’ve been doing a fair amount of quoting, and will now quote an old adage: “In for a penny, in for a pound.” If government is to be responsible for health care — might as well do it right, whatever “right” is.