To the common American, Dick Gephardt's recent call to repeal President Bush's tax cut and use the money to create universal health insurance sounds too good to be true.
And, it probably is.
Democrats have been getting elected since the 1930s on promises to have the federal government spend money to fix social problems.
Yet despite all the trillions of dollars spent since the "New Deal" of the 1930s, America still has a large homeless population, another section of its society that can't seem to get off public assistance and, as Mr. Gephardt points out, millions of uninsured or underinsured citizens.
It's clear that our country has a big health care problem. Basic care is expensive, and so are the wonder drugs or hospital stays that can help heal us. And that's with health insurance. For someone without it, affording anything beyond basic treatment is generally a luxury that's done without save for the most serious illnesses.
In a country built on fairness, it seems almost un-American that such a simple liberty as the freedom of good health should be on sale to the highest bidder.
And that's where Gephardt, Bill and Hillary Clinton before him, and others who believe in universal or socialized medicine score the most points.
Yet that's a very simple view to something that's a lot more complex.
Providing universal health insurance could be seen as one more reason not to work for some Americans who already are soaking the government for every penny possible. (This isn't meant as a universal slam on public assistance recipients. Obviously, many people on public assistance are truly in need. But it's also true that some Americans who use this system abuse it).
Under Gephardt's proposal, taxpayers also are a big loser. By the time any universal health care plan is finalized, individual taxpayers and businesses likely will get stuck with a huge burden above and beyond what's already required. It seems naive -- or calculating -- of Mr. Gephardt to think Mr. Bush's proposed tax cut savings would come close to paying for a universal health care plan. Why doesn't Gephardt instead come up with a plan to cut taxes and provide universal health care? (Because -- heaven forbid -- that would require cutting our bloated government.)
Another question that must be asked: Would an across-the-board plan downgrade care that many Americans already are receiving?
Gephardt's proposal is sure to generate interest. As stated, there are simply too many Americans who can't afford health care or who are having to go hungry just to pay for it.
It's too early to say whether Gephardt's proposal is right, wrong or a little bit of both. What does seem clear, however, is that Congress and the president need to address potential health-care reform in a decisive manner, do it soon, and do it in a way that won't leave average Americans with a huge tax headache.