Kyle Wingfield: Thanksgiving leftovers

Kyle Wingfield

As we leave Thanksgiving behind, a few leftovers from the fridge — er, notebook:

• Driving home from our family’s Thanksgiving dinner, I was saddened to see so many stores open on such a precious, universal holiday — and so many people flocking to them. But I also had to shake my head at a disclaimer in some Black Friday-starting-Thursday advertisements: The “doorbuster” sales didn’t start until Friday in Maine, Massachusetts or Rhode Island, where so-called blue laws prohibit most retailers from opening on Thanksgiving. Instead, stores opened just after midnight in Maine, and at 1 a.m. in the other two states. How is that better for their employees? It’s a reminder that government action, however well-intended, can’t make people do what’s right.

The holiday wasn’t as bright in Camilla, where the family and friends of state Rep. Jay Powell were still mourning his shocking, sudden death three days earlier. Powell served 11 years, including four as chairman of Ways and Means and one as chairman of Rules. That’s a lot of power, but I always found Powell to be respectful and judicious in wielding it. He was a sort of anti-politician: a little gruff at first but willing to open up and be friendly, rather than the shallow glad-hander of stereotype. He knew the law well and had his opinions about shaping it, but he was also willing to have his mind changed; his evolved stance on the state’s tax-credit scholarship program is one example. His death is a loss for all Georgians.

By coincidence, this was the second straight November the House lost its Rules chairman; John Meadows of Calhoun last year died of stomach cancer. Each death is a private tragedy, but there’s also a substantial public impact: That’s a lot of institutional memory and experience for the House to lose in such short order. We might see a negative ripple effect as other chairmen rise, and less-experienced members backfill their old positions. Let’s choose instead to be optimists and hope new, capable leaders with fresh ideas pick up the baton and run with it in a way that honors the work and service of leaders like Meadows and Powell.

Mid-November brought the national political spotlight to Georgia, as Atlanta played host to a debate among Democratic candidates for president. Perhaps you missed the rally that proponents of charter schools held, encouraging those candidates who have voiced support for charters — and pointing out the disconnect between candidates who threaten charters’ future, and the large segment of their constituency whose children benefit from these public alternatives. The clear message is charter schools, and school choice more broadly, should be considered a bipartisan issue.

Also increasingly bipartisan: the notion that further government control of Americans’ health care, in the form of “Medicare for All” or other so-called single-payer systems, doesn’t make sense. Elizabeth Warren, who topped the RealClearPolitics average of national polls for a single day (Oct. 8), has seen her support fall by almost half since then. Opponents have pointed out her plan not only would cost trillions of dollars that middle-income Americans would end up paying one way or another, but would also rob Americans of their control over their own health care. The main beneficiary hasn’t been Bernie Sanders, an even louder proponent of single-payer, but one of the chief critics of Warren’s plan, Pete Buttigieg.

Don’t be fooled, however. The alternative pitched most notably by Buttigieg and Joe Biden is the same kind of “public option” insurance plan Democrats discussed but ultimately ditched when crafting the Affordable Care Act. But that’s merely a precursor to single-payer, since a publicly subsidized plan that could operate in the red would unfairly undercut private plans. The public option would then be held up as “proof” government-run insurance works better. Republicans in Washington haven’t done themselves many favors regarding healthcare, but Americans deserve something better than this “lite” version of Medicare for All.

Dalton native Kyle Wingfield is president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation (www.georgiapolicy.org).

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