Brooksflash: President Reads Polls

Sometimes I agree with David Brooks; sometimes I disagree. In this morning’s column he analyzes President Obama’s Wednesday speech on healthcare deftly and succinctly, summarizing:

In short, the president can read the polls just like anybody else. He has apparently recognized the need to pull back to get something passed. He is, characteristically, trying to rise above old divisions in search of a pragmatic sweet spot. He has opened up many opportunities for intelligent Republicans and moderate Democrats to constructively offer amendments to improve the bill and bring it closer to fiscal sanity.

Which is not to say that this is effective health reform. The only risible parts of the speech came when Obama said that parts of the system work (they don’t; they’re unsustainable) and when he said he would be the last president to take on health care (we still await a president willing to take on fundamental perversities in the system).

I agree with this Brooks column probably more than any other of his, particularly on the subject of healthcare reform.

Here are the points he makes:

  • The President has effectively killed the House bill with his insistence on not raising the deficit. Any bill is likely to have reduced coverage.
  • He has accepted in principle the idea that he derided during the campaign, capping the tax exemption on employer-provided health benefits.
  • He has accepted in principle the idea of malpractice claim reform.
  • He has either scaled back or killed the “public option”.
  • He has abandoned the idea of paying for healthcare by imposing additional taxes on those in the highest tax bracket.

I’m not satisfied with the shape that healthcare reform is assuming which Mr. Brooks aptly describes as “expanding the current system rather than fixing it”. Unfortunately, expanding the system now will make it that much more difficult to fix later and later is likely to come within two years. Long range planning ain’t what it used to be.

5 comments… add one
  • Our Paul Link

    It is clear that “sweeping” health care reform is a myth, and not the President’s goal. Any reform will have to be incremental. At a time of economic uncertainty, the sixth largest economy cannot be put in a position where jobs will be lost, or shopped overseas. We all know that if belt tightening is forced, the belt is cinched at the bottom of the pyramid, not at the top.

    In my humble view, Obama’s speech was brilliant, and he chose the best venue. In front of Congress, where all could see the Republican Congressional members sitting on their hands.

    It was the first shot of the 2010 campaign. He had to drive home that the opposition to reform, with their bizarre tales of death panels, pulling the plug on granny, socialized medicine was a nutso fringe group. The Republicans, with their
    boorish behavior
    , played right into his hands.

    He had to establish the concept of Universal Health Care. In the Republican counter argument,
    Representative Charles Boustany agreed
    , everybody deserved coverage. He alluded to, but did not nail down the concept of Universal equity. While Jack and Jill are lugging a pail of water for the folks living in the “Shinning City on the Hill”, they should not have to pay more for the same health insurance than the fat cats on the hill.

    The outlines of the battle, which for sure will go on longer than this Congress, were delineated in this speech. Universal coverage is the goal, and everybody will be treated the same. The public option is the safety valve. If the Insurance Industry does not reform, it has to be implemented. He closed his speech by using Teddy Kennedy as the battering ram: This is a moral imperative, this battle will define who we are as a nation.

    Brooks? There are those days that his column points a simple fact. If he had scales instead of skin, he would be slippery as a…

  • Jimbino Link

    How is Obama planning to bring health care to the hundreds of thousands of us Amerikans who reside for all or part of the year overseas?

  • Brett Link

    I mostly loathed that Brooks’ article.

    The President has effectively killed the House bill with his insistence on not raising the deficit. Any bill is likely to have reduced coverage.

    He also just handed the opponents of UHC a formidable political weapon. We can look forward to a whole host of studies, dubious and good, showing how the plan will create a deficit (and since costs are almost always higher than planned for, there probably will be one), and UHC will get delayed even further.

    He has accepted in principle the idea that he derided during the campaign, capping the tax exemption on employer-provided health benefits.

    That’s something – we’ve been reliant on the employer-provided model for far too long. Of course, without something to replace the benefits the model provided (economies of scale due to greater purchasing power at the company level, and the ability to cross-subsidize coverage between people of differing health costs), you’ll just end up with the individual market and all its problems and benefits.

    He has either scaled back or killed the “public option”.

    His proposal for it was to basically turn it into a quasi-private entity like the Post Office, except it would be non-profit. It wouldn’t receive any operating cost support from the government, but most likely would get subsidies for the initial capital costs of setting it up.

    That’s sort of like what public housing was before they started subsidizing the operating costs, way back when the federal government first started getting into it.

    One comment on Brooks’ part pissed me off, though. Namely, his line “White House officials no longer mask their exasperation with the liberal obsession on this issue. ” What, they’re exasperated with the fact that their base – who did the footwork and usually the fund-raising to get them in power – actually wants something?

  • jacksmith Link

    Why A Strong Public Option Is Essential – By jacksmith — Working Class

    Robert Reich explains the pubic option:

    It’s not just because more than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 77% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (86% of democrats, 75% of independents, and 72% republicans). Basically everyone.

    It’s not just because according to a new AARP POLL: 86 percent of seniors want universal healthcare security for All, including 93% of Democrats, 87% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans. With 79% of seniors supporting creating a new strong Government-run public option plan, available immediately. Including 89% of Democrats, 80% of Independents, and 61% of Republicans, STUNNING!!

    It’s not just because it will lower cost. Because a strong public option will dramatically lower cost for everyone. And dramatically improved the quality of care everyone receives in America and around the World. Rich, middle class, and poor a like.

    It’s not just because it will save trillions of dollars and prevent the needless deaths of millions more of YOU, caused by a rush to profit by the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!

    It’s not just because every expert in every field, including economist, and Nobel laureates all agree that free market based healthcare systems don’t work. Never have and never will. The US has the only truly free market based healthcare system in the World. And as you all know now, IT IS A DISASTER!

    It’s not just because providing or denying medically necessary care for profit motivations is wrong. Because it is WRONG! It’s professionally, ethically, and morally REPUGNANT!, Animalistic, VILE and EVIL.


    The public option is ESSENTIAL because over 200 million of you are trapped in the forest of the wolves. Which is the forest of the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! With no way out except through needless inhumane suffering, and DEATH. While the wolves tear at your flesh, and rip you limb from lib. Then feast on your lifeless bodies like a dead carcase for transplant parts.

    At the most vulnerable times of your lives (when you were sick and hurting), millions of you have had to fight and loose cruel, but heroic battles. Fighting against the big guns of the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! in the forest of the wolves. All because you have no place else to go. You have no other CHOICE!

    But the PUBLIC OPTION will give you someplace safe to go. And it will give us someplace safe to take you. The public option will be your refugium (your refuge). Where the wolves cannot get at you when your down, hurting, and vulnerable. Where everyone who needs it can find rest, security, comfort and the care they need. Protected by the BIG GUNS of We The People Of The United States. THE MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE AND COUNTRY ON EARTH.

    This is why it is so critical that we do not lead another 50 million vulnerable, uninsured Americans into the forest of the wolves, without the protections of a Strong Government-run public option. We The People Of The United States MUST NOT LET THAT HAPPEN to any more of our fellow Americans. If healthcare reform does not contain a strong public option on day one. YOU MUST! KILL IT. Or you will do far more harm than good. And millions more will die needlessly. Rich, middle class, and poor a like.

    To those who would continue to obstruct good and true healthcare reform for the American people, and who seek to trap millions more vulnerable Americans in the forest of the wolves. We will continue to fight you. We are prepared to wage all out war against you, and will eagerly DESTROY! you. Time…is…UP! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! No Co-op’s! No Triggers!

    Healthcare reform can be the GREATEST! Accomplishment of our time and century. A time when future generations may say of us, that we were all, AMERICAS GREATEST GENERATIONS.


    I therefore call on all my fellow Americans and the peoples of the World. To join us in this fight so that we may finish becoming the better America that we aspire to be for everyone.


    I have been privileged to be witness as many of you fought, and struggled to take your first breath, and your last breath on this earth. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Life is precious.

    Whatever the cost. WE! MUST SUCCEED.

    God Bless You My Fellow Human Beings

    jacksmith — Working Class

    Senator Bernie Sanders on healthcare (

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