March 4, 2009 in Opinion

Smart Bombs: Not about the kids

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Hope you caught the Sunday article about the same-sex couple who want the same rights that traditional couples have. Our family adopted a great dog from that family. Small world. Anyway, what hit home for me was the reference to the book “Heather Has Two Mommies.” The couple show the book to their daughter’s friends who are curious about their arrangement.

Now, I realize some people recoil at that, thinking it unfair to put a child in that position. I guess that depends on your perspective. Two moms are better than none. Two parents are better than one. That girl is fortunate.

Research is clear that, all things being equal, two parents are optimal for child-rearing. It also shows that children of parents with college educations are more likely to lead productive lives and less likely to become societal burdens. But we would never act on that data by denying parenthood or marriage to high school dropouts – nor should we.

So why do so many people invoke the welfare of children when justifying discrimination against same-sex couples when it comes to adoption, parental rights and marriage? Must be something else that’s bugging them.

Net loss. Would we ever turn people away from medical care if they were in a serious condition? Would we ever let them starve? The reason we will never have the ballyhooed “ownership society” is that the answer to both questions is a resounding, “No!”

It is against the law to deny critical care, which is why emergency rooms bear an extraordinary burden in a country without universal coverage. Imagine a politician calling for the repeal of that law based on each individual’s responsibility to take care of themselves.

Furthermore, imagine that 12 years ago this country had allowed people to set up personal Social Security accounts. On Monday, the Dow Jones average dropped to its lowest point since 1997. Now, the market can certainly climb again, but people who were 50 years old in 1997 would now be 62. They wouldn’t accrue much money before retiring. Fortunately, they would have traditional Social Security to fall back on.

However, what would happen if workers opted out over the course of their careers and their investments tanked before retirement? Even Warren Buffett makes investment mistakes. The only way this could pencil out is if society said, “Tough!” Bailing out these investors and financing traditional Social Security would take huge amounts of money. But I doubt we’d let elderly people starve or live in squalor.

That’s the fatal flaw in these ownership schemes, whether it’s health care or building a retirement nest egg. We’d rescue people – and rightly so – and thus the reforms would end up costing us more in the long run.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Wednesdays and Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or at (509) 459-5026.


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