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Where on earth has the National Leadership Commission on Health Care been for the past decade or so? Marooned on some remote desert island?

For years, Congress has repeatedly rejected a steady stream of proposals to get the government even more deeply into the health care business than it already is. During the presidential election campaign last fall, George Bush firmly spurned still another such proposal.These schemes keep getting rejected for good reasons: They would increase the tax load and push America further along the road to socialism.

But that hasn't kept the blue-ribbon Leadership Commission - which includes former presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter as co-chairmen - from giving another spin to the same old broken record.

Saying that one-fourth of the American people cannot get adequate health care, the panel wants to impose new taxes on virtually all employers and employees in order to finance a national health care system for all Americans.

Never mind that some of the 37 million Americans now lacking health insurance go without it not because they can't afford it but because they don't want it. By the panel's own admission, an estimated 14 percent of those who are uninsured earn $40,000 a year.

Never mind either that the more deeply the government gets into health care, the less incentive private physicians have to hold the line on their costs and the fees they charge.

Even without such objections, the Leadership Commission did such a sloppy job that its recommendations should be rejected out of hand.

For openers, the commission fails to spell out who would set the tax rates for paying for the proposed new health care system, how the rates would be set, who would collect the taxes, and how the money would be distributed to the states and then to the health care providers.

Also, key monetary figures in the report can't be trusted since they result from pure guess-work. The commission says that the $49.8 billion it is proposing in new taxes would be offset by "certain factors" and that as a result the nation's tab for health care would see a net increase of "only" $15 billion. But the chief economist on the commission admits he cannot identify the offsetting factors.

Moreover, just because some Americans lack health insurance, it doesn't always mean that they go without health care. They get it because of the generosity of various charities and individual physicians.

President Bush has struck some responsive chords with his vow of no new taxes and his appeal for Americans to stop automatically looking to Washington for solutions to all their problems. But some Americans just haven't been reading his lips - including three former presidents.