The Big Apple's Big Choice for Bigger Government

It’s all come down to this. With less than a week before the year’s hottest Senate race is decided, Hillary Clinton is asking the Big Apple to make a big choice in favor of bigger government.

Yet New Yorkers seem remarkably skittish about saying yes to a massive increase in Washington spending and control in areas ranging from health care to retirement security. So despite Mrs. Clinton’s universal name recognition, despite Gore’s wide lead over Bush in New York, and despite two million more registered Democrats than Republicans statewide, more than half of New Yorkers are still leery at best.

For all her husband’s talk of New Democrats and a New Economy, Mrs. Clinton is decidedly old school. Indeed, while she may not have a legislative record, she does have a rhetorical and ideological one. And the message found on her paper trail – and the trail of those who support and advise her – is crystal clear: Big is beautiful, especially when it comes to the size and scope and cost of government.

In a speech in Washington in 1993 when she was trying to sell her big government health reform scheme to the American people, Mrs. Clinton told the audience that “it’s time to put the common good, the national interest, ahead of individuals.”

Asked by Virginia Democrat Norman Sisisky what might be done to ease the burden of her health care plan on small business, Mrs. Clinton responded: “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”

When Lori Proctor, a health insurance agent, asked how the Clinton health-care plan would affect her job, Mrs. Clinton snipped: “I’m assuming anyone as obviously brilliant as you could find something else to market.”

Message: I care (about government, not you).

Equally instructive are the comments made by leading Democrats with whom she would work in the Senate to advance big government, particularly in the area of health care:

“We’re going to push through health care reform regardless of the views of the American people,” said Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W Va., as he tried to advance Mrs. Clinton’s agenda.

“We want people to understand very quickly what they are entitled to and what they are not entitled to,” said Senator Edward Kennedy, D-MA, during the 1994 health debate.

Senator Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, added at the time, “The very essence of representative democracy is that when you are making decisions that are central to peoples’ lives, it is our responsibility to make those decisions.”

Today, Mrs. Clinton says she believes what she tried to do eight years ago was right: “When people ask me if I am discouraged about the defeat of health care reform, I say, ‘Yes, I was disappointed that we were not able to make more progress,'” she declared on her campaign web site. “But I learned about what is possible in the political environment. I come from the school of smaller steps now.”

These echo earlier remarks by would-be House Speaker Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), who said in 1994 , “I think we can move the country forward, maybe in smaller steps, maybe over a longer period of time?If you do smaller pieces, there will be less anxiety.”

Mrs. Clinton’s mission is clear. She supports centralized government control over the health sector — one-seventh of the U.S. economy. She supports policies that would lead to price controls on prescription drugs, policies that would derail the race for the cure for cancer and AIDS, cripple pharmaceutical companies, and help tip Wall Street into a bear market. And she would soon serve with like-minded Democrats in the Senate, who, emboldened by a Clinton victory, would use their new power to speed the march toward Socialized medicine.

Vice President Al Gore is ready. “Gore said he supports efforts to expand health care access but predicted that universal coverage of the sort guaranteed by European governments [read: Socialized medicine] would come within this decade,” according to an article last month in the Washington Post.

Will the Big Apple choose the path of Bigger Government, or embark on a new journey toward less government, more freedom and more innovation – especially in the area of health care? The whole world is watching.

Grace-Marie Arnett writes on health policy issues from Alexandria, Va. John S. Hoff is a a health care attorney in Washington, D.C.

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