Pick candidate with principle, not personality

The presidential campaign, unfortunately, is being reduced to personality and identity politics. We would be better served to pick a president on principles and positions, rather than the way “American Idol” is chosen.

Once the preening and pandering is done, we will be left with what the winner will do in office.

On one of the most substantive issues facing the nation, there’s nary a difference worth discussing among leading Democrat candidates. The Los Angeles Times recently reported, “(T)here’s one thing the top Democratic presidential candidates agree on: Americans of all ages should have the choice of buying a government-run plan modeled on Medicare.”

This should send shivers down the spines of Americans of all ages. USA Today reported that the combination of Medicare and Social Security already are on a “collision course with financial reality that threatens the nation’s prosperity and the well-being of the next generation of elderly.”

“Americans may soon have to start thinking the unthinkable to solve the severe financial problems that the retirement of baby boomers will bring the Social Security and Medicare systems,” USA Today said.

Appetite has exceeded affordability, and yet Democrat presidential aspirants want to add more. Taxpayers have a hidden debt of $53 trillion in government obligations, mostly from Medicare, Social Security and the federal debt, USA Today reported. The debt equals $473,456 per household, far more than the $84,454 in personal household debt for mortgages, car loans and other borrowing.

“Clearly, the pressure on the general fund to honor scheduled Social Security and Medicare benefits will grow dramatically and rapidly,” the U.S. Treasury Department concedes. “(T)o pay for these additional scheduled costs, either taxes will have to increase sharply, other government programs will have to be cut to a fraction of their current levels, or increased borrowing will have to take place.”

This reality puts Democrat candidates’ new health care proposals beyond the pale. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama would expand Medicaid and SCHIP and create their own flavors of a new public plan modeled after Medicare. According to a comparison compiled by the Kaiser Foundation, the immodest estimated annual bill for these government health plans runs as much as $110 billion for Clinton, $120 billion for Edwards and $65 billion for Obama. Judging from history, we can count on substantially higher costs.

Although Republican candidates show excessive appetites of their own, none of the front-runners — Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain or Mitt Romney — has proposed similar new Medicare-like plans with attendant price tags. We’re not confident Republicans won’t eventually close the cost gap between themselves and Democrats, particularly considering the costly state health care plan enacted by Romney as governor of Massachusetts.
But for now, there appears to be a health care gap worth considering when evaluating candidates on principles and positions, rather than personality and identity politics.