Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "Heresy trials," Aug. 18, 2001

REAL PATIENTS' RIGHTS: With health care reform all the rage, James D. Miller makes a case for a novel idea in The Weekly Standard: Let patients pay lower premiums in return for waiving the right to sue employers. "If Congress really cared about rights," he argues, "it would make the patients' bill of rights voluntary." Put simply, the possibility of lawsuits is factored into insurance contracts. Higher risk of settlement means higher premiums. Liberals say that providers are greedy and Miller says his idea accepts that proposition. "If it costs, say, $100 to give a patient the right to sue, then a profit-maximizing insurance company will happily provide this right to anyone willing to pay more than $100 for it," he writes. Miller says such a proposal is consistent with GOP choice-based public policy (school choice, retirement choice, etc.). A patient who gives up his right to sue gains more control of the money in his wallet, rather than letting it be drained by bureaucrats and lawyers. QUIT COMPLAINING: Summertime means more leisure plane trips-and another chance to complain about the airline industry. Columnist George Will takes a contrarian view, saying that gripers are part of the problem. Since deregulation, more people use commercial flights to get around. He cites a statistic that in 1975, 80 percent of Americans had never flown once. Today there are 8 million scheduled flights and the average traveler pays 70 cents less per mile (adjusted for inflation). "Air travel is the safest mode of travel ever," he writes. "Including walking in a medieval countryside or a modern metropolis." Will says the problem is that people take airplanes for short trips-like between Boston, New York, and Washington-where cars and trains might be a cheaper alternative. Also, Americans are notoriously against building new airports and runways. "At the 30 busiest airports that handle 70 percent of air traffic," Will writes, "only six new runways have been opened in the last 10 years." He argues that instead of complaining about the wait, travelers should encourage changes to make the wait go away. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TAX REFORM: As Americans await their tax refund checks, former Delaware governor Pete Du Pont celebrates the Reagan tax cut's 20th birthday in The Wall Street Journal, calling it the biggest shift in economic policy since the Great Depression. "The Economic Recovery Tax Act reduced the top income-tax rate to 50 percent from 70 percent over three years, cut the capital-gains tax rate to 20 percent from 29 percent, indexed tax brackets to inflation, expanded the use of the charitable deduction and increased the amount workers could contribute to their individual retirement accounts," he recalls. "It was a big victory for a new president. And it ignited indignation and anger among liberals that is with us still." Du Pont quotes leading Democrats denouncing it as "a radical redistribution of income," "a greedy, bloated, avaricious tax bill," and "the ultimate epoch of illusion, an eight-year coma." To this day the tax cut is called a favor for the rich. Not so, he says. It gave birth to a boom that cut unemployment in half, spiked growth, reduced the poverty rate, and created 18 million net new jobs. TOO EASY TO BOTHER WITH: Ex-Presidents Ford and Carter proposed a series of ways to make voting easier. They include making Election Day a holiday, letting released felons vote, and allowing "provisional voting" by those who do not appear on registration lists. Free Congress Foundation head Paul Weyrich says it won't work. "The easier we have made it to vote," he says, "the lower the voter participation." People should be encouraged to vote by knowing that this is a privilege. In fact, he says voting should be harder, not simpler. He says that participation was higher in the days when people had to jump through more hoops to get a ballot. "No one wants to return to the days of poll taxes and unreasonable restrictions on the voter. But the idea that the easier we make voting the better off we will be is simply false."

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