Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.
Progressives never count themselves satisfied with expanding government a single time in one lone area.
Grotesque growth by government in one area like health insurance never stops do-gooders from trespassing on other private-sector property – such as getting into the high-speed broadband network business.
We’ve seen such bloated expansion of government intrusion right before our eyes – from providing a safety net for the truly indigent and disabled among us to the current socialistic hue and cry: “Health care for all!”
In the same way, what started out as a regional project to provide access to high-speed broadband for poor Kentuckians in Appalachia has grown into a 3,400-mile, $1.5 billion disaster for the entire commonwealth, and which may never be finished.
Government broadband for all!
Or at least a bill for all!
Much of this costly and unwelcome intrusion comes from a misunderstanding about government’s role in our lives and society.
During the just-completed election, Sixth District Democratic congressional candidate Lt. Col. Amy McGrath in her lone debate with Republican Congressman Andy Barr on KET seemed – like many of her fellow progressives – confused about the enormous difference in contending, as she first stated, that “health care is a right, not a privilege” but following up in her very next sentence with: “We need to make sure that all Americans can have access to affordable and accessible health care.”
There’s a Grand Canyon-sized difference between government ensuring all Americans are cared for because it’s their right versus safeguarding the access needed to allow individuals to choose care that works best for them.
McGrath, according to her website, dreams of a government that enforces “guarantees of a basic education to every child born.”
But there’s a colossal and costly difference in ensuring access to a quality education versus forcing a government-run system upon all children.
Government favors its constituents when it eliminates roadblocks to choices, including unconstitutional mandates, onerous regulations and nonsensical demands related to health care, where children are educated and who provides broadband access.
Requiring 65-year-old men, for example, to purchase maternity coverage does nothing to increase – and may actually hinder – their access to care they really need.
No wonder the Heritage Foundation recently reported that despite tens of billions of dollars’ worth of federal subsidies designed to incentivize Americans to sign up for health-insurance coverage, enrollment among individuals is actually declining.
Still, progressives soldier on, with McGrath talking about providing “a public option,” which she righteously declared during the campaign will force greedy private insurers to compete against a government-run health insurance agency, thus reducing costs.
The disastrous KentuckyWired broadband policy takes a similar approach, promising to not only take high-speed broadband access to the poor, but also to provide consumers with another choice.
Yet just as Obamacare resulted in higher premiums while reducing the number of provider-competitors for health-care dollars and resorted to coercing Americans to purchase a product, so the only way KentuckyWired can even hope to survive is by forcing customers currently satisfied with their private providers to jump ship to the government-run operation.
McGrath’s “public option” wouldn’t need to figure out how to reap a profit and truly serve its customers since it would survive by undercutting competitors’ prices while being propped up by taxpayers.
So, too, how unfair is it to force private telecommunications companies to compete against KentuckyWired, which not only received a bailout on the final day of this year’s General Assembly but whose contracts are calling for increasing wholesale prices by 2.5 percent annually even though the price per meg has dropped by 90 percent during the past decade?
Since drivers of disasters the size of Obamacare and KentuckyWired are never satisfied, I shudder to consider what they may spring on us next.
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at email@example.com and @bipps on Twitter.