The Political Imperative of Universal Healthcare
by Charles Lemos, Thu Dec 18, 2008 at 07:17:50 PM EST
Universal Healthcare: A Moral Obligation, An Economic Necessity and A Political Imperative
Since 1948 the progressive wing of the Democratic party has fought for universal healthcare largely from the standpoint that it is a moral obligation of the modern state to provide for the general welfare of its citizens and moreover that it makes economic sense to enact it. Harvard economists David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler have estimated the bureaucratic waste from private medical insurance is some $350 billion per year, or just under 2% of GDP. On these merits alone, enacting universal healthcare is worth it. But there's another reason to enact healthcare reform, it is a political imperative. The GOP is deathly scared of it and for good reason--enacting healthcare may just lead to the demise, or perhaps at the very least the long-term political irrelevance, of the Republican party.
"If the Democrats succeed in redistributing economic power, we're screwed."
I say, let's screw them then. After all, they have screwed us long enough. The truth is that I haven't read Tom Daschle's book but now I feel I must for it seems its contents are sounding a clarion call among Republicans to wage jihad against Obamacare as once they waged it against Hillarycare. The particulars of their crusade don't really matter, only that it is a threat not to the American way of life, though they do claim that taking care to insert the word "socialized" at every opportunity, but rather that enacting universal healthcare is a threat to the political viability of the GOP. Thomas Frank in the Wall Street Journal and James Pethokoukis of US News & World Report have already penned alarms.
Now Philip Klein of the The American Spectator has written another, this one on Obama's and Daschle's incremental approach towards a single-payer system. The funny thing is that I don't disagree with the assessment of the long road approach. Incrementalism may actually work and achieve universal healthcare.
Let's be fair: Barack Obama and Tom Daschle will not attempt to immediately impose socialized health care on America.
Instead, they'll just take us along the scenic route.
With the appointment of former Senate Majority Leader Daschle to be his new Secretary of Health and Human Services as well as the head of his new White House Office of Health Reform, Obama has sent a clear signal that health care will be a top priority of the new administration. Daschle combines vast legislative experience with a passion for health care, as well as first-hand knowledge of how the Clinton administration bungled the last serious push for universal health care in 1993.
Liberals, for good reason, believe that the wind is at their backs this time around. Democrats won the White House, took control of both chambers of Congress and built a near filibuster-proof majority in the Senate; Americans are as fed up as ever with the current system; rising unemployment will expand the ranks of the uninsured; many businesses would welcome government taking over their rising health care costs; and even traditional opponents of universal health care, such as the insurance industry and the American Medical Association, have put out their own plans for reform.
Republican Sen. Jim DeMint conceded Thursday that it would be an uphill battle. "Because of down economic times and the promise of free health care, I think we're in real danger of losing this," DeMint said.
The important thing to keep in mind over the next several months is that for all the talk Democrats will do about choice and public-private partnerships, the ultimate goal of any Obama-Daschle proposal will be to put America on the pathway to a single-payer health care system, which is a more academic way of describing a socialized system in which government is the sole purchaser of health care.
Hey, if the scenic route happens to takes the GOP off a cliff, I say let's do it. Even if it doesn't, we still get universal healthcare and that has been a dream deferred for far too long.