Sunday, March 21, 2010

Robert Reich on Healthcare Reform


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.


  1. "health care relies on large for-profit entities designed to make money"

    Most hospitals are non-profit.

    "fuel comes from unstable and dangerous areas of the world"

    And a left unwilling to let us change that.

    "we can have both strength and competence in Washington"

    This demonstrated neither. They barely got it through even though they have large majorities in both houses. It took bribes and back-room deals (which Obama promised were over). These ideas have failed everywhere they've tried.

    I really thought the GOP would be out of power for a decade after 2008, but I totally underestimated you guys.

  2. ChrisB, hospitals may be non-profit, but insurance companies aren't. They're taking 30 cents out of every dollar as overhead and spending 70 cents on actual care. Pretty staggering, and they'll go further if we don't do something.

    I'm reminded of Bolivia. In Bolivia the water industry was privatized. Before long rates were through the roof. A typical family spend 25% of their income on water. The companies pressured the government to pass laws making rain water collection illegal. Ultimately there were riots and the people took the utility back. We have a system that naturally motivates companies to squeeze the weak and powerless to maximize profits. We need to re-orient our incentives. How else but have government do it?

    Not that I'm a fan of this Obama bill. I don't even know what it mandates.

  3. "a left unwilling to let us change that?" Really?

    The problem is that "the left" lives in the reality-based community, which realizes that the overwhelming majority of the commercially viable oil in the world is in that unstable part of the world, and nobody's moving it.

    Even if we opened up every domestic source of production irrespective of location and/or environmental impact, and even if we could magically bring it all on-line tomorrow, we would still be dependent upon other countries for most of our oil.

    Calls to open up domestic exploration are about profits and nothing else. National security has absolutely nothing to do with it, as there's nowhere near enough domestic supply to meet our national security needs.