blank.gif (51 bytes) Rural Wrap
The Trouble With Harry

by Dan Steninger

n an embarrasing series of trips and stumbles, Sen. Harry Reid ended up voting with the losing side on a measure to scrap the tax code and start over. The measure passed in the House, but was defeated in the Senate with Reid voting for it. (Sen. Richard Bryan voted against it.)

We imagine the people at the IRS agents' political action committee aren't too happy with their decision to back Reid, although Reid has stood up for the IRS PAC in other areas, earning failing grades from the National Taxpayers' Union, Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

While Reid voted the right way on this "show vote," revelations in a David Broder column, which appeared at the time Reid was busily switching his "yes" votes to "no" and vice versa, cancels out any credit the senator may be due. Writing about the double standard employed by insurance companies who are willing to pay for the new impotency drug, but not for contraceptives, Broder praised Reid for introducing a bill that would force insurance companies to pay for contraceptives. Broder quotes the senator: "... if we are going to cover Viagra, shouldn't we first remedy the inequities which exist with prescription contraceptives? This Viagra double standard is just another symptom of how biased our health care system has been against women."

A thorough search of the relevant document confirms my initial reaction: No, senator, you shouldn't be worried about remedying inequities in the insurance market stemming from the health care system's biases against women.

In the first place, there are insurance companies out there offering coverage for contraceptives. Not all of them do, but that's not a problem that needs to be fixed; it's a choice people need to make. Should Reid succeed in taking away that option, it means those people who now realize a savings in their insurance premiums because they are not helping pay for somebody else's birth-control pills are going to have to start paying more for insurance.

A senator who was not a pro-government extremist would examine the situation and conclude, first, that any action taken by the Senate would raise the cost of insurance; second, that there is no real problem to be taken care of; and third, that the Senate has no authority to remedy perceived inequities in the insurance market.

Actually, a competent legislator would reverse that order, looking first for authority to act and, upon failing to find that authority, move on, thereby avoiding any wasted time looking for an excuse to act.

And that's the trouble with Harry. He's the kind of legislator who seeks out reasons to act, regardless of any need to act or, most importantly, any authority to act.

Meddling with the private operations of an insurance company isn't going to bring the country to its knees, of course, but the cumulative effect of continually ignoring the constitutional limitations on the legitimate functions of the central government will either bring us down or bring about a new order that a lot of us aren't going to like: one in which there won't be any inequities or biases, nor any liberties or opportunities.

Make that only one opportunity: going to Washington and amassing power by feigning an interest in taking care of all the poor saps formerly known as the free and the brave. u

Dan Steninger is the editorial page editor of the Elko Daily Free Press.


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