After reading this Krugman piece and this Meyerson piece, I can’t help but think that the primary failure of democrats to get Health Care reform done is not a lack of quality policy (name the last piece of quality policy to come from Congress from either party) but rather a lack of imagination.
The most vocal advocates for health care simply can’t (refuse to?) understand the opposition. That leaves a tremendous opportunity for political opponents to exploit “common sense” problems with the policy.
Krugman mocks the Blue Dogs opposition to both subsidies and employer mandates. He talks about “gaming the system” by not insuring the sick, or the healthy not getting insurance. But most of all, he does it without any regard to why these things happen.
Insurance companies are hesitant to insure the sick because they’re more expensive.
Healthy people don’t have insurance because at this time in their life it’s more expensive.
Blue Dogs are worried about employer mandates because they could cost jobs in a recession.
Blue Dogs are worried about costs because we’re spending money while in a huge deficit.
These aren’t complicated concerns. They’re basic, common sense thoughts that resonate with average americans. That’s not to say that there isn’t a good argument for health care reform. The American system provides relatively poor overall coverage and does so at a very high cost (that’s not even entering the debate on the quality of our coverage).
But you can’t make an argument to someone by blowing off their biggest concerns, which is exactly what Krugman does when he says:
“The subsidy portion of health reform would cost around a trillion dollars over the next decade. In all the plans currently on the table, this expense would be offset with a combination of cost savings elsewhere and additional taxes, so that there would be no overall effect on the federal deficit.”
If these “cost savings” or additional taxes are so easy to find, why not use them to help with our current deficit? Why not find those savings now? For those concerned with fiscal responsibility (and given America’s increasing savings rate, it appears we as a nation, if not as a government, increasingly are) this is a laughable brush off of a legitimate concern.
It speaks to a general trend of not being able to empathize with the opposition, and therefore not addressing their concerns. Not exactly “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” but not that far from it. If you’re not for health care reform, you must be stupid.
Or, in the words of Meyerson:
“Watching the centrist Democrats in Congress create more and more reasons why health care can’t be fixed, I’ve been struck by a disquieting thought: Suppose our collective lack of response to Hurricane Katrina wasn’t exceptional but, rather, the new normal in America. Suppose we can no longer address the major challenges confronting the nation. Suppose America is now the world’s leading can’t-do country.”
Don’t take the time to think. This isn’t a complex issue. It’s not that we need to carefully consider our actions, it’s that we as a country are failing.
Health care. It’s a no-brainer. Because Krugman and Meyerson say so.