The (Re)Public(an) Option

What is the "public option"? Basically, it's a health insurance "alternative" conceived, provided, and run by the federal government to "compete" with private health insurance providers. Apparently, the 1,300 health care insurance providers we already have are not enough; we must have a 1,301st if we're to have affordable health care insurance in this country. I mean, who knew?

As for what the public option does...well, it doesn't do anything, because it would have been a federal program run by the same folks who run the Post Office, the Federal Reserve, the Internal Revenue "Service," Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the National Education Association, and the National Endowment for the "Arts" (which pays "artists" to put crosses in jars of urine).

But just because the public option would have destroyed private health care, led to rationing, driven the cost of health care to the moon while plunging the quality of service to Hades, and created a new generation of dependents and nationalized health care addicts, that doesn't mean it's a bad idea. It's a bad idea only for health care. For beating liberals senseless, it works great.

Ironically, for the insight I am about to impart, I am indebted to Franklin Foer and Noam Scheiber, who recently wrote in The New Republic:

[The public option is a] model that's worked in education. The economist Caroline Hoxby has found that competition from private schools and charter schools tends to improve performance at traditional public schools, which risk losing students if their test scores and graduation rates don't keep pace. Charter schools are also an element of the Obama agenda.

Oh, so the guy whom minority parents had practically to beg not to end D.C.'s school voucher program embraces charter schools as "an element of his agenda." Okaaaaay...but I digress. The logical "flaw in the ointment" dispensed by Messrs. Foer and Scheiber, of course, is the reversed chronologies. In the case of education, we are talking about a preexisting "public option" -- i.e., a public education system -- that was improved by introducing a competing "private option" -- charter schools.

But with health care, it's the opposite. Here, it is the "private option" that is preexisting and with which a to-be-created "public option" would compete. The assumption is obviously that when there is either a preexisting public or private enterprise, introducing its counterpart makes the preexisting enterprise cheaper and better -- and maybe in the world liberals live in, it does. But in the world the rest of us live in? As Maynard would say, "Surely, you jest."

If 200-plus years of American history, not to mention the fall of the Berlin Wall, has taught us anything, it's this: When you have a choice between a public and private option, you want to go for the latter. But for the purpose of discussion, let's take Foer and Scheiber at their word, and their logic along with it. But instead of applying it to health care with its preexisting "private option," let's apply it, as Foer and Scheiber do, to public enterprises.

And since we're quoting Foer and Scheiber, let's pick up where they left off with education and ask a basic question: Why was the public school system created in the first place? Was it not to provide an education for the children of parents who could not afford to send their kids to private schools? Of course it was, and here, the key word is "afford." Public schools -- the "education public option," if you will -- were created because they would be cheaper, not because they would be better. And they aren't, as any D.C. parent of school-age children will tell you. And by the way, public school isn't cheaper, either -- quite the opposite.

But if we must have an education public option, why not make it a real public option à la the Democrats' health care public option? To wit: Every parent must send his school-age kids to a private school or pay a penalty, the operative word being "or." No more paying private school tuition for your kids and paying taxes to send someone else's kids to a public. One or the other, but not both, just as the health care reform plan requires.

And how about the Big Kahuna of "public options," Social Security? Would a Democratic health care reform-style public option work there? As the Woman the Left Loves to hate would say, "You betcha!" Under my substantially-less-than-2,000-page plan, you and your employer would contribute a percentage of your wages to the Social Security (dis)Trust Fund or direct the Social Security portion of your paycheck and your employer's contribution to a 401(k) plan, mutual fund(s), stock(s), etc., and on April 15, enclose written evidence of your contributions with your 1040. Again, one or the other, but not both.

Not that I expect either of these things to happen, logical consistency in the Democratic Party being one natural resource that we actually are short of. But we can still put forth the proposals, link their logic to that of the Democrats' health care "reform" bill, and enjoy watching smoke spew out of the liberals' heads like the Star Trek episode where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy defeat the androids by feeding them illogic.

Too bad they couldn't feed 'em Obamacare.

Gene Schwimmer is the author of The Christian State.