Most Americans continue to be suspicious of government. That distrust is deeply etched in our culture and traditions. Our system of government was devised by people who distrusted government and intentionally created checks and balances, three separate branches, and almost insuperable odds against getting big things done. The period extending from 1933 to 1965 — the New Deal and the Great Society — was an historical aberration from that long tradition, animated by the unique crises of the Great Depression and World War II, and the social cohesion that flowed from them for another generation. Ronald Reagan merely picked up where Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover left off.
But Reagan’s view of government as the problem is increasingly at odds with a nation whose system of health care relies on large for-profit entities designed to make money rather than improve health; whose economy is dependent on global capital and on global corporations and financial institutions with no particular loyalty to America; and much of whose fuel comes from unstable and dangerous areas of the world. Under these conditions, government is the only entity that can look out for our interests.
We will not return to the New Deal or the Great Society, but nor will we continue to wallow in the increasingly obsolete Reagan view that we don’t need a strong and competent government. Today’s vote confirms our hope that we can have both strength and competence in Washington. It is an audacious hope, but we have no choice.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Robert Reich on Healthcare Reform