Obama, Health Care & the Death of Reaganism

President Obama convened his summit on health care reform at the White House yesterday. Whether the event will prove to be the beginning of the end for the dysfunctional system we have today remains to be seen but there are encouraging signs.

The event showed the many ways in which the political landscape has changed since 1993 when the Clintons tried to reform health care. Today, business leaders have seen their health care costs explode and so they have mostly set aside their fear of government intervention in the market. Health care is at the root of the comparative disadvantage Detroit faces compared to foreign cars, but the same can be said for virtually all American companies.


Secondly, Obama is not Hillary. Yesterday, he joked, he made sure Republicans got the microphone, he issued no fiats and he pledged himself to an open-door process. How different from Mrs. Clinton’s threatening Sen. Bill Bradley that if he did not support a particular provision, the administration would "demonize" him. Threatening senators, and in this case a senator who was inclined to be a natural ally, was not the way to proceed. It is impossible to imagine Obama engaging in such behavior.

Third, many more people lack health insurance today than fourteen years ago. And, not everyone who lacks health care fits the standard prototype of poverty. For example, me. Since I left the restaurant business in 2003, I have never been able to find a plan that works. One plan, offered through a professional writers association had great benefits, even dental, for $800 a month. No thanks. Another was affordable, with a $1,000 deductible so it was essentially catastrophic insurance and no more. I gave up skiing instead. I know that writers have become the new coolies in our culture, but you would think that there would be a way for a self-employed, not untalented, reasonably hard-working person to find a health plan that worked. There isn’t.

The most important reason Obama and the Congress have a shot at actually reforming health care is the pitiful state of the opposition. At yesterday’s summit, Sen Charles Grassley of Iowa (R-IA), voiced his concern that allowing private citizens to enroll in the plan offered to government employees would "crowd out" private insurers. But, if consumers would prefer a non-profit plan, and if we as citizens want our government to extend that non-profit plan to all of us, how does that crimp anyone’s freedom? People will be free to maintain their for-profit private plans under any conceivable scenario.

In 1993, the GOP argued that under Hillarycare, the government, not your doctor, would decide what kind of care you could receive, which was never the case. And, promising "choice" in a consumer culture is always a smart strategy. But, here was Grassley, worried about giving Americans a choice of plan. That is a losing strategy if ever there was one, not least because he himself is enrolled in that government plan.

The GOP will have to decide whether to back their pro-business interests or their ideological presuppositions. It was fitting that the ideological concern was raised by Grassley, a Senator who was first elected in the 1980 Reagan landslide. (He defeated a truly great Senator, John Culver, whose son is currently Iowa’s governor.) For, what we are watching in these first weeks of the Obama administration is the dismantling of Reaganism. Eight years of George W. Bush’s policies put the "lazy" back into "laissez-faire." Now, the Obama administration is putting an end to the idolatry of the market that was at the heart of Reagan’s weltanschauung. Yet, like FDR, Obama is really saving the market from itself. Despite Republican objections, "socialized medicine" is not in the public policy medicine cabinet.

The other part of Reaganism, his blustery foreign policy, is dying a different and more comic death. Republicans as well as Democrats applauded Obama’s plan to bring the Iraq War to a close. And, this week, we found no Republican leader willing to stand up to Rush Limbaugh: How could a voter expect them to stand up to Putin? The analogy is especially rich now that Limbaugh insists on dressing like a Russian gangster.

The Republicans are a party lost at sea, with an ideological compass that can’t find true North and no policy paddles to row for home. They face a President with a gift for communicating complex ideas in a hopeful and concise manner. Unless the economy drags Obama down like it did Lehman Brothers, we are witnessing the beginning of a realignment. Somewhere in the heavens, Msgr. John A. Ryan is smiling.


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8 years 9 months ago
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9 years 10 months ago
The cost of health care insurance is mainly due to pooling of risks and forced pooling by government and government hidden taxation. For instance, the Kennedy-Kassebaum health reform bill of 1996 has increased the cost of health insurance and forced doctors to not provide lower fees for cash. Yes, if you paid cash for a visit and reduced the ''paper-gov't-insurance'' cost for 30-40%, the doctor would face federal imprisonment if you are a citizen. Recent court rulings have found that illegals may be treated for cash since the federal law is for legal citizens! There was a federal program put into law to allow across state insurance plans but only for the HSA program. Of course, for NJ, and NY this plan was not allowed by the states. Yes, each state passes laws effecting the cost of health insurance. For instance, all health insurance and car insurance in NJ provide for the high risk illegals. By pass surgery is given to non-insured illegals and comes out of a pool of money from every insured person in NJ. Of course, the doctor and hospital must give service at cost no profit thus increasing cost for everyone else. Yes, believe it or not, everyone in this country is insured for health care by a hidden system of taxation. Yes, Obama has increased health care cost by signing an executive order holding up payments to doctors and hospitals. This was done as an accountant trick to show govn't spending as down. This causes after 6 months an increase of cost for your doctor because he just gave the govn't a 6 month no interest fee loan. Don't worry be happy!
9 years 10 months ago
As a physician I do not fear the government system. It is likely that my job will have better hours and I long for that government pension. More time off, restricted hours and retirement in my mid-50's like the teachers and police officers sounds a might good to me. I fear, however, that the governement will force me to give immoral care or get out. I will have to get out! I guess I won't get the pention after all!
9 years 10 months ago
"The Republicans are a party lost at sea, with an ideological compass that can’t find true North and no policy paddles to row for home." - If that isn't the best one-sentence summary of the situation I've ever read, I don't know what is. This was a very well-written and insightful essay on a critical issue that may no longer be so intractible. Well done.
9 years 10 months ago
As you read this we are seeing published in a Catholic paper a support article for what appears to the the United States Minister of Death Presidency. Funding abortion, appointing to Head HHS the Governor who protected "Tiller The Killer" the abortionist who performs full term abortion murders; the executive order allowing stem cell. And he can "articulate his Presidency" so well as Pope John Paul described and warned us of the "Culture of Death". Obama isn't recreating Camelot, but Death-O-Lot for our unborn children. I am sorry Mr. Author you can see true, violent and vicious evil, even when it is "packaged so well". The 20th Century had its Hitler, and death camps. Obama will kill more with his actions than Hitler ever did, all in the name of "womens choice", "right to decide" and in cleaner and whiter operating rooms and planned parent clinics.
9 years 10 months ago
Pacifica Radio reported that President Obama's health summit invitation list did not include advocates of a single-payer national health care system. If so, it was a tremdous loss.
9 years 10 months ago
You have an admirable way with words, Ron D. I don't agree with you, however. I think it is likely that prolife policies under Obama will be rational and effective instead of emotionally satisfying and largely ineffective (i.e. partial birth abortion ban). In fact, people who have sensible ideas might want to consider how to present them in a positive and persuasive way to be incorporated into the whole health care package as it is being defined.
9 years 10 months ago
Mr. Winters, I believe you have bought into the deception that perverts much of our society today. President Obama, a gifted speaker, has been able to deceive most of the public into thinking that he is the savior. Please get your facts straight. FDR policies did nothing to help the depression, in fact, his policies made things worse. As unfortunate as it was, World War II provided the impetus that pulled us out of the depression. Can you imagine the federal government managing our health care system? They have certainly been impressive with handling Fannie and Freddie! Mr. Obama supports Planned Parenthood (and their multi-million dollar abortion industry), Embryonic Stem Cell Research, and forcing medical doctors and employees to perform abortions even if it goes against their moral values. It's tragic that somehow our great country has been deceived into thinking that it is okay for a mother (in the name of health?) to take the life of her own baby. Republicans may be lost at sea, but I doubt if the heavens are looking kindly on Obama's liberal policies. I'm sure the devil is absolutely thrilled with our choice of president.
9 years 10 months ago
As they say, elections have consequences. Not for the unborn, as nothing the Pro Life side would gain by electing John McCain was going to impact their lot anyway. If anything, their lot will improve under this President as life time limits on welfare benefits imposed by Mr. Newt and the Republicans are done away with. I would say Republican opportunism will lessen, but I see no sign of that here. I would hope that Obama calls it what it is at some point - he has been much to polite to the leaders and toadys of the right to life movement - particularly the Bishops.


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