Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm with George

Like many Americans, I watched President Obama's speech Wednesday night. As always, I was impressed with his calm rationalism mixed with a stirring call to shape the future. Obama did an excellent job of selling a plan that is clearly within the realm of the Conventional Wisdom. What I would have preferred was leadership for real change.

That's why I am pleased to see George McGovern speaking out for Medicare for All in today's Washington Post. I'm pleased not because I want to see a government takeover of health care but because a single payer system is simple and it works. Look at the convoluted flow charts of the various plans now in play before Congress. They are complex, Rube Goldberg contrivances that leave me and most Americans bewildered. I did not like Bill and Hillary Clinton's proposal 16 years ago for the same reason. Obama's version is sounds little better. Simple works best but no one in Washington seems willing to understand this most basic principle.

From a practical point of view, I waffle back and forth between insisting on single payer and some compromise, which is what Obama's plan is. I don't know if it is better to move something this year or hold out for real change. I'm pretty sure the system will do the former but I am equally sure that the underlying problems will not go away and that the Obama will not be, despite his fervent wish, the last president to call for health care reform.

I hope I am wrong but I don't think another tinkering quick fix is the final answer. If we're lucky, the bill that passes Congress this year will offer a bridge to a better, more practical system. But as we've seen so far, significant change that would be to re-think the whole system from the ground up will require courage and leadership. That's hihgly unlikely in America these days, especially when government regulation or enterprise is a possible solution. The idea of effective government action in the interests of the broad community has been so demonized and dismissed in the past 30 yesrs that to even mention the idea is to be considered a "tax, spend and waste Liberal."

And that's why I am not disappointed in Obama; I didn't really expect him to bring that kind of change. I hoped he might. Certainly he is the first politician since Bill Clinton to offer me that hope. But like Clinton, Obama in office is part of the Prevailing Consensus. So far he has changed little and his health care plan looks very conventional. But maybe?

In the meantime, I'll stick with George. He was right in 1972. He is right again in 2009. I'm proud to say that I cast my fist ever presidential ballot for him.


Badtux the Snarky Penguin actually beat George into print (can I say that about a blog?)with this post about Medicare for All.



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