Saturday, September 12, 2009

Obama's Pushback on Health Care

I realize that many Progressives feel that President Obama has given in to conservatives on too many aspects of the health care debate. Many want him to go for the jugular and advocate a Single Payer plan. My sense is if he thought it would pass, he'd go for it. But, Obama has looked at the political landscape, and has discerned what can be achieved. To achieve nothing -- that is abandon any kind of reform because it's not perfect -- is not acceptable.

For most of August the radical right has dominated the conversation, and the media always in search of a "good story" gave it lots of press. If you watched the news and listened to GOP opponents of reform, all of America is up in arms. The reality is that most Americans have been silent, waiting to hear the end game.

President Obama, who had entered this season of debate, having perhaps learned too well the lessons of the Clinton debacle, let Congress fight it out. Now you know why he set a a pre-break deadline. With a multitude of bills out there working their way through various committees, all manner of misinformation emerged and all were tacked on to Obama, who was being denounced as a Communist or a Socialist. This despite the fact that most liberal Democrats were advocating something to his left, and the great anti-Communist Richard Nixon himself had advocated something far more radical (Medicare for all).

E.J. Dionne has offered a helpful commentary on the Speech, it's importance, and its impact in recapturing the debate. The President has now, fairly forcefully, defined what he wants to see in a bill. He wants a public option, but doesn't want it to become the focus. If necessary he will take it as a trigger option, if other methods fail. If you believe that they will fail, then hey it won't take long before the Public Option is in place.

The important thing here is that the President has decided to stop playing defense, and has gone back on the offensive. Dionne writes:

By joining specifics, a powerful moral argument and an unapologetic defense of government's role in promoting social justice, the president sought to rescue the health-care debate from the mire of a congressional system that has encouraged delay and obstruction. By putting himself on the line, he sought to restore his reputation for political mastery and to rekindle some of the magic he had conjured during a presidential campaign built on the expansive themes of change and hope.

As we look back on the last 6 months, it is possible the President took on too much at one time. But on the other hand, there are too many issues on the table that are interrelated. Dealing them piecemeal and gradually would only extend the misery.

Hopefully the economy is on the mend, though employment will lag other aspects of recovery. The reason is pretty simple, until the cupboards are bare, companies aren't going to produce. If nothing else, the Cars for Clunkers cleared a backlog of cars, and made it possible to start building new ones.

Health care is key to recovery and thus must be addressed. If people are having to devote massive sums to insurance premiums or have to file bankruptcy because their health insurance company dropped them just as they faced major medical bills. And purchasing insurance has gotten increasingly difficult. Ours will go up 28% in October, and there's a good chance that the company -- the only one that is required to cover those with pre-existing conditions in the state -- will come back for more.

So, am I willing to settle for a bit of pragmatism? Yes, because if something isn't done, I'll be without insurance too. So, I'm rooting for the President! It's in my self-interest -- and yours as well.

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