Mandates And Crises

It is quickly sinking in that the animosity over healthcare and Social Security in this primary contest among Democrats just isn’t going to go away any time soon.  Indeed, of those things that Obama has taken flak for, these two issues alone seem to comprise the largest sum of the attacks against him, and they boil down to two words, “mandate” and “crisis”.

I initially didn’t necessarily want to rush into the red-faced throng that has ignited over these two words, but after reading the comments to this Kevin Drum post, I find the counter arguments both obvious and impossible to keep bottled up.  In one argument, there is some substantive points to make, but those points are informed by an ignorance of the general way in which politics work.  As for the other, well, that’s just plain old idiocy engaged by a group of folks who seemed to forget what the actual argument was.

As far as mandates go, and for that matter single-payer health insurance in general, there is no argument, this is what a vast majority of progressives want.  Indeed, economists, doctors, health care professionals may not universally agree upon this, but there is a considerable consensus, highlighted in a roundabout way in this HuffPo feature signed off by 80 professionals.

In a perfect world, yeah, it would be great to have truly universal, mandated, single-payer health insurance, but this is why Kucinich never got anywhere, this is part of the reason why Clinton failed back in the early nineties to bring it about.  It is that same old political fact that I return to time and time again and is ignored so frequently that I feel it bears repeating now: Even if you’re right, not everyone is going to agree with you.

It is that simple principle that renders impotent the seemingly obvious arguments for pushing too hard.  Listening to Kucinich talk about health care in a debate you may sit there and go, “Yes, of course, it’s so obvious, why don’t we do that?” but the answer to that would be Republican congressmen, powerful insurance companies, and the opinions of millions of Americans who either aren’t convinced, or know quite a bit about the program and simply don’t want anything to do with it.

The battle for universal healthcare is not a quick one, and it is not an easy one, and guaranteeing on the stump mandates or single payer will do wonders to rally the base, but have at this moment in American politics a net zero chance of actually coming to fruition.  That is why the battle must be waged in stealth, over years, and maybe over generations.  It must be taken in steps, and it must be done with caution and prudence or you risk a repeat of the very same think as happened when Hillary Clinton first attempted in the early 90’s; total failure followed by an extended period where the topic is off the table at the risk of political suicide.

This is a lesson that should have been learned then; that healthcare should be handled delicately.  It’s why you propose mandating children as opposed to everyone; the political battle is much more winnable with children.  Then, you turn children mandates into a proving ground for mandates over all, and that is how you get there.

The ultimate point is that healthcare is essentially a topic where you have to avoid being too liberal.  Push too hard, and everything falls apart.  Don’t push hard enough, and you backslide.  But if you find that sweetspot of making progress without energizing a backlash movement, you’ll get there eventually.

Now, when we talk about this whole “crisis” there is little to no substance there.  Yes, Obama used the words “crisis” and “Social Security” in the same sentence, but at what point did this become antithetical to liberalism and progressivism?  Paul Krugman has YET to get over this apparent faux pas, and I’m somewhat boggled as to why.

As I recall, the problem with Bush wasn’t that he said Social Security was in crisis, yeah, it’s a bit melodramatic, but then Clinton used the same phrase during his time.  It was that Bush was using the term “crisis” to scare people into PRIVATIZING the system.  That was, at least I thought, the big sin committed there, and last I checked, Obama wasn’t trying to privatize, far from it, he instead proposes lifting the cap on payroll taxes (optionally with a loophole) in order to shore up the solvency issue with Social Security.  Considering that this would essentially result in a tax increase for the top six percent in this country, that amounts to a very liberal proposal.

Where’s the foul?  Yeah, he used some “conservative” rhetoric that has also been used by Democrats as well.

Now, if calling it a crisis automatically privatized Social Security, there would be an argument there, but it doesn’t, so there isn’t.

One Response to “Mandates And Crises”

  1. Donna says:

    All the todo about an Obama ad, and its comparison to the ‘Harry and Louise’ ad of the early ’90’s makes
    me laugh. Why? Because, remember, in 1993, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the
    Presidency………and saying that the ‘Harry and Louise’ ad defeated HillaryCare is like admitting that all that power
    held in the hands of Democrats couldn’t cope with a tv ad. Geez, some Democrats cannot look at their lack of
    ability to work even within their own party, let alone with others who hold contrary views. The ability to think
    seems to have disappeared among those who’ve narrowed themselves into some ‘us vs them’ dichotomy.


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