Government ‘steals’ to keep people healthy and safe

Wayne Hoffman’s column last week is a good example of the persuasive writing from the far right —clearly stated, carefully developed and absolutely wrong. For that, I thank him.

The article’s premise is that taxing some people to pay medical expenses for others is no different than using a gun to steal from them.

The fallacy might not be so evident if Hoffman attacked government taxes used for economic programs — perhaps crop support payments so many of our legislators receive? — rather than health care.

By attacking Medicaid expansion, Hoffman makes it clear that he believes the right to property trumps the right to live.

If taxing for Medicaid expansion is theft, what about Medicaid itself? Medicare? The catastrophic medical payments that county and state governments pay?

And why stop with medical care?

Schools can be run by private charities. Libraries. Swimming pools. Campgrounds. Recreation programs.

And what about the taxes we spend on having clean air and water and a safe food supply? Or police and firemen?

Oh, we “steal” a lot to keep people healthy and safe.

Hoffman based his logic on one absurd premise. “It is unethical to pass a law that gives the government the power to do that which, if committed by ordinary citizens, would be illegal.”

I believe traditional conservatives would support the antithesis: Government exists only to do those things which would be illegal (or impossible) for ordinary citizens to do.

Moderate Republicans might regret that the post office is written into the Constitution and have reservations about unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation. Most accept, however, that the government should negotiate treaties with foreign governments, draft young people for military duty, and jail — even kill — people for committing crimes. And most consider eminent domain allowing government to decide what it pays for land needed for roads and government buildings as a necessary evil.

Do I need to point out that all of these acts are crimes for you or me?

Eisenhower Republicans even supported the federal government building of interstate highways — not for commerce, but for quicker transport of military units. Toll highways were common along the densely populated East Coast but weren’t happening in rural states. (Eisenhower Republicans actually saw wealth as responsibility and supported high income and estate taxes.)

Hoffman also makes it clear that his absurd premise trumps majority rule. “No one in their right mind would approve, for example, of a majority vote that legalizes murder, rape, arson or other acts of violence against others. So why do we condone the same tactic to take money from people by use of force?”

Democracy does require trust in people to make choices fair to all and — if they fail in that — to learn over time. It’s inefficient, but we haven’t found anything better.

None of this would be so important if Hoffman didn’t head the Idaho Freedom Foundation that ranks Idaho legislators annually. A lawmaker who respects property over life — one who supports little but cutting taxes and regulations — gets a high rating. Republicans Heather Scott and Ronald Nate both scored over 98. The lowest score, 56.9, went to Boise Democrat Cherie Buckner-Webb.

All the top 19 scores went to legislators outside Canyon County.

Greg Chaney, District 10, ranked 20th with 88.9.

Brent Crane, District 13, Gary Collins, District 12, Jim Rice, District 10, and Scott Syme, District 11, all scored 79 to 84. The other scores in districts 9 to 13 were 75.7 to 69.7. (Is it surprising that Caldwell’s legislators are ranked more conservative than those from the more rural districts 9 and 11?)

Life or property? Our votes decide.

Note this editorial published by Idaho Tribune June 11, 2018