Monday, March 22, 2010
After spending the better part of the year negotiating with absent Republicans while antediluvian senators of his own party wrote a Republican bill that should make insurers ecstatic and richer than they already are, Obama won passage of his "historic" healthcare reform. Obama himself is an historic figure; it is too bad that his policies are more in keeping with his rhetoric than with his essence. That is to say that the man who challenged history and the deep biases of American society was exceptional for his courage, his presence and drive. It turns out that whatever substance his words possess came from his being--the way they do from any solid writer or speaker--not from his policies, which are cautious, bland, and half-assed. If the man wants an historic presidency, he needs to develop policies that are based on fundamental principles that are not conveniently betrayed at every turn, so that the end product, if there is an end product, has all the appeal and value of a spam on twinkie sandwich.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Over the past year, I have talked to a fairly large range of people perched on various rungs of the socioeconomic ladder and of different ethnicity, and I must say that when it comes to health care, they are largely confused. They want absolutely to have access to medical care when they need it without worry or hassle. They want absolutely not to pay more than they now are unless it is for something demonstrably better--and that includes the people not paying now because they are young and invulnerable or can't afford insurance. They reflexively proclaim, because that's what they've been taught to say, that they don't want government more involved in their health care for fear it will limit their ability to choose their own doctors, but asked whether they can choose their own doctors now and whether they know of an insurance program that allows them to do so without paying large sums, they invariably answer, "No!" and "Medicare."
In short, the Obamans had to propose a health reform bill that would guarantee that everyone has access to the doctor and treatment they need when they need them. That's all. There are other reforms that make those two goals possible--reform of the ways doctors are paid, medical malpractice reforms, progressive tax rates to pay for the expanded Medicare program--or whatever the national health insurance program is named.
Politicians and pundits claim it is impossible to enact such a program because it is too socialistic, or liberal--many of them don't seem to know the difference--for Americans who don't want Government interfering in their lives. In making that argument, they throw out phrases that are red meat to large swatches of an American public conditioned to salivate at the mere sound of the words. But it doesn't take long to realize that the Pavlovian frothing hardly represents a deeply held or carefully thought out position, that it can be overcome with relative ease--with the proper program--and desire--a desire the Obamans never had.