The fight for freedom on major policy fronts

Americans love choices. From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, we have an insatiable appetite for making decisions based on individual preferences. As the congressional appropriations season heats up, expect Republicans to not only vigorously oppose the amount of taxpayer money spent (or better put, borrowed from China) but also to fight against Democrat proposals that will limit Americans’ freedom to make individual choices.

Republicans on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will be fighting to protect individual liberties that allow Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money to stimulate the economy, that promote personalized medicine, and that give local communities and parents more control over educational decisions.


ECONOMY

This country has never in its history spent so much money on larger, more intrusive government programs. We spend more but get less in return. With so many workers caught in the grasp of an ailing economy, the remedy is not more borrowing, spending and growth of the federal government — in contrast to what Democrat leaders tell us. Instead we should focus on building the economy from the ground up rather than the government down.

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Despite grand promises of economic salvation from Obama’s stimulus spending plan, unemployment numbers keep rising. In April of last year the national unemployment rate hovered at only 5 percent. Today, Americans are facing a nearly doubled unemployment rate of 9.4 percent. What seemed unfathomable just a few years ago is now a growing reality with 5.7 million jobs lost since the recession began.

In response to this, I recently led the Republican effort to rescue taxpayers from the Obama administration’s budget-busting, stimulus spending quagmire. During a House Appropriations Committee markup, I offered an amendment that would have rescinded un-obligated money in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This would have saved taxpayers from borrowing an estimated $250 billion. Unfortunately, Democrats were unwilling to part with their massive government spending ways and defeated the amendment on a party-line vote.


HEALTHCARE


Americans are awakening to the reality that a single-payer healthcare system means rationed healthcare and fewer choices. My concern, especially as it relates to actions within the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, is with the impact government interference will induce on our healthcare delivery system. The bottom line: Reforms should not limit access to high-quality healthcare, options for medical treatments, or innovation.

Patients and physicians should have the freedom to choose which medical treatments are used on a personalized basis. The Democrats’ one-size-fits-all healthcare proposal seeks to give more power to unelected bureaucrats who will fund research that dictates which one medicine or medical treatment works best for most people. The government then only pays for that so-called optimum treatment option, even if it is not the best treatment for the patient.

Earlier this year a Kansas constituent with an immunodeficiency disease came to my office describing firsthand just how harmful standardized treatments can be. Under her private insurance plan, she and her physician found a medication that worked well for her condition. She could play with her grandchildren, frequent public shopping centers and live a productive, happy life. Unfortunately, after switching to Medicare, the government refused to cover her personalized prescriptions and forced her onto a new medication. Now, she suffers from severe headaches and muscle pain and is suffering from the flu — all because of government’s interference in a decision that should have been decided by the patient and her physician.

This trampling of individual freedoms is what comparative effectiveness produces.

One-size-fits-all medical treatments run counter to what is happening in the world of medicine. Personalized medicine is the new frontier in healthcare. For example, the University of Kansas is developing the technologies that can not only detect and analyze a patient’s unique physiological response to a disease (such as cancer), but also tailor the optimum treatment for that person.

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Our challenge on the committee is to promote improvement of and access to exceptional healthcare and human services while not interfering in the quality of the systems themselves.

EDUCATION

Healthcare is not the only worry. If liberal policies triumph in Washington, we will see a mass intrusion by the federal government into the education sector as well. This year alone federal spending for education (and all the bureaucracy that comes with it) has substantially doubled. More federal funding means more strings attached — and ultimately parents will have less say in their child’s education.

Educational decisions should be made on a state and local level with parental involvement. The Department of Education’s mission should be to help states deliver the best education to our children and ensure education is a lifelong pursuit. The American worker needs to maintain the skills necessary to compete in the global economy through lifelong learning.

Modern economies are driven by knowledge and skills. Just as America’s public education system changed the notion that schooling is for the upper classes, we now need to change the notion that education ends at age 18 or 22. Job retraining should not be thought of as being in addition to schooling but as a part of a lifelong pursuit.

Freedom is part of who we are as a people, and Congress must promote policies that protect our ability to make decisions without unnecessary constraints from the federal government. As the House considers the fiscal 2010 appropriation bills, I look forward to taking on these individual liberty issues and pushing for commonsense conservative principles to prevail.



Tiahrt is ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.