Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

We Keep Seeking Pie in the Sky

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

We Keep Seeking Pie in the Sky

Article excerpt

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate challenging Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, was asked in one of their debates what his position was on health care.

"I want universal coverage," he replied. And, he said, Americans should be able to move without losing their insurance and should not be excluded because of pre-existing medical conditions.

"But I am not in favor of a program that adds to our taxes or deficit," he said, adding that he also opposed employer mandates.

In other words, he favored covering the 39 million Americans who are not now insured and guaranteeing lifetime coverage for everyone - all without costing the taxpayers or anyone else a penny.

Offering voters a free lunch is a familiar tactic in American politics, but it has never been used more brazenly than in this congressional election. Romney is by no means an extreme example.

Newt Gingrich, the putative speaker-to-be, set the tone with the "contract" that he had Republican candidates for the House flourish. They undertook to cut taxes, increase defense spending - and pass a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. Contractual voodoo.

The distinctive feature of this year's free-lunch campaign is that it is accompanied by a heavy dose of hate. Republicans are trying, evidently with a good deal of success, to tap into the public's anger at politicians and government itself.

The anti-government message has been carried to its logical conclusion by Michael Huffington, who opposes Sen. Dianne Feinstein in California. Tasked with not doing much in his one term in the House, Huffington said he was proud of that:

"I did not go to Washington to pass a lot of new legislation. For the past 200 years, that's all they have been doing."

The 1994 campaign, nasty and vacuous at the same time, raises puzzling questions. Why are the voters so angry? Why is it a successful tactic for candidates to denounce Washington and all its works while promising to go there and deliver something for nothing? …

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