Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday

Paul Krugman, liberal economist and Nobel laureate, gives a good framework for evaluating Obama's Wednesday speech in his blog post Hoping for audacity 09/08/09. We're get way too much theater criticism from our pundits and too little analysis. But Krugman is right in saying the theatrics tomorrow will matter a lot. Because Obama hasn't yet provided a vision of his own for a specific health care reform plan convincing enough to adequately counter the Republican hysteria and lies over the concept. Krugman writes, "And this is probably the last chance to supply that vision."

He also gives an excellent brief summary of the key elements that are necessary for a solid health care reform in his words for a hoped-for Obama speech Wednesday:

We’ll have to require that all large employers either offer coverage to their workers or pay into a fund that helps them get their own insurance. We’ll sign people up for insurance now, even if they’re healthy, because it’s not fair to others if you wait until you’re sick to join the system. And we’ll keep the insurance companies honest by offering people the choice of buying their insurance directly from a public plan.
And he adds in his own voice:

Oh, and about the public option: yes, it should be in the speech — and not just because it will lower costs. From personal discussions I know that the individual mandate really gets peoples’ hackles up,because they see it as a giveaway to the insurance industry (you may recall that many Obama supporters made precisely that case during the primary). Yet the individual mandate is necessary — so it’s crucial to have the counter-argument that look, people can choose the public option.
Health care reform will put some new responsibilities on many individuals in the form of the mandate to buy health care. Without a "robust" (i.e., effective) public option similar to (or even part of) Medicare, that requirement is likely to be experienced by many as a big new burden with little positive payoff. Instead of a program like Social Security or Medicare that people will come to see as a valuable and necessary service, a set-up like that would make it seem and awful burden. It would discredit the whole idea of health-care reform for enough people that the Republicans could get any positive aspects of the plan repealed in the short-term, and bury the goal of universal health care in the US for at least another 20 years. That would be a true strategic disaster for health care reform. And for the Democratic Party.

He expands on the need for the public option in a further post, Why the public option matters 09/08/09:

... the argument against the public option boils down to the fact that it’s bad because it is, horrors, a government program. And sooner or later Democrats have to take a stand against Reaganism — against the presumption that if the government does it, it’s bad.
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