Yesterday's big right-wing blog story was about the Frost family of Baltimore, chosen by the Democrats as a poster family for the federal government's SCHIP program. SCHIP provides supplemental federal money to help individual states provide health insurance for gap families, those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid or other indigent aid, but who cannot afford private health insurance. President Bush recently vetoed a planned large-scale expansion of the program that would have raised the maximum qualifying income level to $62,000 a year for a family of four, and funded the increased subsidies via a 60 cents per pack cigarette tax.
A bit of investigation turned up some interesting facts about the Frost family, the most notable of which is that they are already participants in the Maryland SCHIP program -- President Bush's veto of the program's expansion would have had no effect on the Frosts. It was also learned that Mr. Frost owns his own business and employed his wife up until a few months ago, and that the Frost children attended a swank $20,000 a year prep school in Baltimore. Many people asked, how could the Frost's afford private school tuition and yet not be able to afford health insurance? I even insinuated that the Frosts exemplified a kind of greed that allows "families to sponge off the rest of us while banking their own fortunes." I was wrong in doing so.
Truthfully, such speculation is worthless. We don't know how the Frosts put their kids in private school. Scholarships, perhaps. Or maybe the Frost's parents, part of a line of successful engineers, designers and architects, helped foot the bill. Maybe the parents also helped the Frosts buy their home. It is entirely possible that while the Frosts' business income really is much more than the $45,000 a year that they report on their taxes, they choose to live frugally while being generous with their excess. Maybe they feel that they would be better stewards of the money that private medical insurance would cost, so rather than give the money to insurers, they choose to keep the money and instead rely on government benefits; after all, they pay their taxes, and they qualified for the aid.
The fact that the Frosts already qualified for -- and received -- SCHIP aid makes them a curious choice as spokespeople for an effort to expand the program. But choosing the Frosts also had the unintended consequence of stirring up a debate over just who should receive SCHIP aid, rather than the (certainly) planned effect of stifling critics by parading around a struggling family with children.
Is it essential to tax cigarette smokers, who are by and large lower and lower middle class, to pay for health insurance for the Frosts? If the Frosts do have access to family wealth, should that wealth be used to buy basic services, rather than tax revenue? The truth is, we need an open and honest public debate about the core issue of 'neediness.' Politicians routinely toss around terms like "working families," "working poor," "the rich, "the needy," "paying your fair share," etc. But these terms are rarely, if ever, actually defined. Perhaps we should agree on some definitions before raising taxes and spending barrel-fuls of money.
Contrast this to the intense scrutiny given to military spending. Numbers, specific goals, target dates, deadlines, etc. are all demanded by military watchdogs. Even though the meaning of broad terms like "national security" is continually debated, it is rare for an open-ended military spending bill to be passed without causing a hullaballoo from opposition party critics. Yet among Democrats in particular, there isn't a similar passion to exactly define and micromanage the workings of social spending programs. I find this inconsistency troubling, at the very least. Social programs and military programs are paid for in exactly the same way -- money out of our pockets. Therefore we need accountability in all things.
Then there is the disturbing practice of targeting people for destruction in order to further political goals. I might agree to let a contractor put up a sign in my yard telling passers-by that he is doing the construction work on my home. Such an effort utilizes my property as an example, but it also forces the contractor to do a good job, since it is his work that is on display. But I would never allow anyone in politics to use my family as an example or "poster group" for anything. Politics is never about serving another's interest at the expense of your own. Politics is not compassion. Politicians alway have a trick up their sleeve; a hidden agenda; a way to profit at your expense.
The release of Clarence Thomas' new autobiography has inspired a number of writers to re-examine the shameful spectacle that was his Senate confirmation hearing, and the Democrats' detestable attempt to use Anita Hill and others as props to personally destroy Thomas' professional career.
In particular, Captain Ed commented on the disgraceful attempt to portray one of Clarence Thomas' character witnesses, attorney John Doggett, as a sexual harasser himself, by attempting to enter an unsworn testimony against Doggett into the record as hearsay. But Doggett was not intimidated, and ripped Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, and the entire tone of the Democrat-led proceedings, mercilessly:
I have said if you don't like the way the political process is, then you have to get into it and you have to get into the fray. So, I said, okay, if I submit this information to this committee, then I am open season and people are going to shoot at me, and I do not care. I have information I think the committee needs to hear. If they feel it is relevant enough for me to be here, I will be here and I will take whatever occurs. But I will tell you, sir, I have had lawyers and professional people in Texas and around the country say that I was insane to subject myself to the opportunity to have something like this crawl out from under a rock. They have said I should have just stood on the sidelines and let it go by.
Anita Hill's life was forever changed by her inadvertent venture into the public spotlight. Clarence Thomas' character and reputation was scandalously besmirched by reporters and political operatives who stooped so low as to dig through his garbage, hoping to find something incriminating. And those who supported Thomas, like John Doggett, were opened up to public ridicule based on scant evidence and unrestrained hatred.
While the personal scrutiny of the Frost family in no way resembles the full-bore campaign of destruction leveled at Clarence Thomas, those of us who participated in it should also be held accountable for our criticisms, many of which were sheer speculation.
Many argue that the Frost family should have been prepared for scrutiny of their assets and finances, and that the Democrats should have done a better job of vetting their story, which perhaps would have ostensibly precluded some of its criticism. Such things, they say, are inevitable in politics, which is all about power. If you stick your neck out, don't complain about people trying to chop off your head.
Unfortunately such things tend to keep good people out of politics. Who, then, will be left behind?
Several years ago, Michelle Malkin profiled a paranoid, opportunistic young mother who pimped out her daughter as a poster child for socialized medicine. The mother was eventually sentenced to prison for fraud and child abuse. Sadly, politicians aren't the only ones capable of selling other people's souls to the devil.