Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saving health care reform

Bob Reich has been following the health care reform debate closely. In Memo to the President: What You Must Do To Save Universal Health Care TPM Cafe 06/19/09, he was several pieces of good advice for Obama on getting it done, all based on the idea, "You have to win this."

1. Go to the nation. You must build public support by forcefully making the case for universal health care everywhere around the country. ... And don't be reluctant to take on those vested interests directly. Name names. They've decided to fight you. You must fight them.

2. Be LBJ. So far, Lyndon Johnson has been the only president to defeat [the] American Medical Association and the rest of the medical-industrial complex [with his Medicare and Medicaid programs]. ...

3. Forget the Republicans. Forget bipartisanship. Universal health care can pass with 51 votes. You can get 51 votes if you give up on trying to persuade a handful of Republicans to cross over. Eight year ago George W. Bush passed his huge tax cut, mostly for the wealthy, by wrapping it in an all-or-nothing reconciliation measure and daring Democrats to vote against it. You should do the same with health care.

4. Insist on a real public option. It's the lynchpin of universal health care. ...

5. Demand that taxes be raised on the wealthy to ensure that all Americans get affordable health care. ... [my emphasis in bold]

I'd have to qualify his sixth and final piece of advice:

6. Put everything else on hold. As important as they are, your other agenda items -- financial reform, home mortgage mitigation, cap-and-trade legislation -- pale in significance relative to universal health care. By pushing everything at once, you take the public's mind off the biggest goal, diffuse your energies, blur your public message, and fuel the demagogues who say you're trying to take over the private sector.
It seems to me that Obama has been successfully fighting on several fronts. And, in any case, I'm not sure what putting "everything else on hold" could mean in practice. Obama can't afford to just neglect everything else to concentrate on health. But Reich is correct that it's critical for Obama to win meaningful health insurance reform with a substantial public option.

In the larger picture, even health care reform is less critical to the future of democracy and the rule of law than fully exposing the torture program and prosecuting the perpetrators.

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