Anatole Kaletsky—If Barack Obama fails today at the Health Care Summit, we’ll all be swept away

Posted by Kendall Harmon

You may not have noticed, but today is a very important day for US politics, world economic prospects and even for the global balance of power between Western democracy and benign dictatorship along Chinese lines. Why? Because today marks either the beginning of the end of Barack Obama’ presidency, or the end of the beginning.

At 10am US Eastern Time, he will host an all-day “summit”, broadcast live on nationwide TV, with his Republican congressional opponents and his wayward Democratic supporters, to try to establish some kind of political consensus on the top priority of his presidency — reform of the ruinously expensive US healthcare system. Medicine now absorbs 17 per cent of US national income, double the average in other advanced economies and half as much again as Switzerland, which has the next most expensive healthcare.

If nothing is done to change the US healthcare system, it can be stated with mathematical certainty that the US Government and many leading US companies will be driven into bankruptcy, a fate that befell General Motors and Chrysler largely because of their inability to meet retired workers’ contractually guaranteed medical costs.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

14 Comments
Posted February 25, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Dilbertnomore wrote:

Of course, Obama and the Dems could choose to actually improve the system by making HC insurance portable, implementing true tort reform, expanding MSAs and a few other small things they have regarded as incompatible with the brave new world they hope to impose on us. I wouldn’t mind being ‘swept away’ by those positive changes. But all the ‘worker’s paradise’ stuff Obama and the Dems love belongs in the dumpster.

February 25, 10:29 am | [comment link]
2. J. Champlin wrote:

From here:

This contradictory polling brings us to the most alarming feature of all in politics today, not only in America but in most democratic countries: the way that cheap, ubiquitous and statistically accurate opinion polling has begun to subvert representative democracies and turn them into direct democracies, in which the views of “the voters” are considered more politically legitimate than those of the representatives they elect.

And . . .

In America today, healthcare is the focus of the pernicious direct democracy movement. Polls show large majorities for reducing healthcare costs and extending coverage, but against benefit reductions or tax increases. Naturally, the public want all of these objectives to be achieved while reducing government debt. Since any conceivable reform has to make some kind of compromise, polls show clear majorities in favour of almost all the individual measures in the Obama healthcare proposals, but opposition to the package as a whole.

Which is not to portray Obama as a misunderstood saint, much less to excuse the shameful performance in Congress.

Thank you, Kendall, for posting this.

February 25, 10:40 am | [comment link]
3. Daniel wrote:

Yeah, darn those pesky voters and taxpayers.  If they would just cede the difficult job of governing to the elite, liberal apparatchiks in D.C., everything would be so much better.

I’m hoping today will be the beginning of the end and phooey on what some pompous Brit thinks about it.

February 25, 11:29 am | [comment link]
4. Bob Livingston wrote:

The ultimate accuracy of many of Mr. Kaletsky’s predictions such as “there will be no US recession” in early 2008 and “the credit crunch is easing” later that year make me wonder if he is to economics what Phil Jones is to global warming.

February 25, 12:59 pm | [comment link]
5. Abouna wrote:

In respone to 4: Kaletsky has quoted demonstrably true polling.  This reveals attitudes which are demonstrably and obviously contradictory.  Also, his assertions that our current health care system is imploding and becoming a an economic burden both on business and on individual citizens is hardly debatable.  I found Kaletsky’s “the future of western civilization hangs on today alone” rather overblown and alarmist.  But one ignores the demonstrable facts he presents at one’s own ( and one’s own community’s) peril.

to 3:  And darn those pesky founding fathers, who did not set up the American Republic to be a direct democracy, but clearly wished for an educated and formed elite to govern with the consent of the governed, Not to pander to contradictory whims revealed in polls.  The whole construction of an anti-elite narrative has been extremely corrosive to the right and to the Nation as a whole.

to 1:  Please understand that your proposals deal with the margins of a failing system.  Tort reform may decrease crippling insurance costs.  Portable insurance on the other hand, may increase the number of under-insured which in the long run increases costs.  To deal with this issue one must not simply ride favorite hobby horses, but actually grasp the many parts of the complex problem.

The responses to this article remind me again why I have trouble identifying with the American right as popularly construed.  Plus:  the Republican right is never there when you need them.  With all their reverence for the Market and competition, where are they to champion submitting insurance companies to the anti-trust laws that rest of America lives with, thus allowing greater competition in the Market?  Wouldn’t that be especially important if insurance becomes mandatory?  And where were they to champion state and local control against federal encroachment with the “no child left behind” junk?

Fr. Yousuf Rassam

February 25, 1:57 pm | [comment link]
6. Dilbertnomore wrote:

You know, as a good Conservative, I was remiss in starting with my comment above. I should have begun with the point our Constitution does not give Congress or the Executive the power to meddle in healthcare other than to assure its free flow of interstate commerce. The provision of healthcare is reserved to the people or the states. Now I know this will raise cries of my gross inhumanity, but facts is facts and that’s what our Constitution says. Healthcare is not a right under our Constitution.

And before anyone goes off on the phrase “promote the general welfare” from the Preamble, please do a little research on the meaning of the term as used by the framers. It does not play here.

February 25, 2:21 pm | [comment link]
7. Philip Snyder wrote:

Dilbertnomore,
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what “general welfare” meant to the framers of the Constitution.  It only matters what any five Justicies of the Supreme Court think it means.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

February 25, 3:05 pm | [comment link]
8. J. Champlin wrote:

I can’t speak to the constitutional questions—although any of us who cash social security checks or receive medicare benefits, or for that matter anticipate cashing and receiving them, are in a weak position to launch that argument.  It is simply not the case that we can provide modern medicine along the lines of a straight up free market.  There has to be insurance—we are all consumers of medical services, and, for all practical purposes, none of us can pay for the medical care we will someday need, so we have to distribute the risk.  That’s not an argument for a single payer system—which, in any case, nobody is proposing.  It is an argument for mandates.  It’s also an argument for addressing the runaway irresponsibility of the way we consume medical care—and the way medical services are reimbursed.  FWIW, I believe in tort reform.  But it is simply dishonest to pretend that a few marginal market reforms are going to have any impact on the crisis.  It’s like unto posturing that the jobs bill is an antidote to the long term unemployment in the fruit of this recession.

February 25, 3:53 pm | [comment link]
9. Br. Michael wrote:

The Obama plan will create a new entitlement program costing in the trillions of dollars.  We can’t sustain what we are spending now.  How will we sustain new spending?  To see the future look to Greece.

February 25, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
10. J. Champlin wrote:

#9—That depends on what’s passed.  The Obama plan was not automatically an unfunded entitlement, although it’s heading that way now.  See the wonderful piece by David Brooks a little bit further down.  Our political process (thank you Democrats) is stripping the legislation of any meaningful provisions to pay for itself.  But, then again, the refusal of the Republicans to even come to the table has the effect of polarizing the politics and shutting down the responsible center who might actually stick by their guns—see the Time piece posted a few days ago.  In my opinion, Kaletsky’s basic point stands—this matters.

February 25, 7:11 pm | [comment link]
11. Albeit wrote:

If this passes, sad to say that we can look to over 2/3rds of Mexico moving North, and why wouldn’t they?  Even more distressing is that there would suddenly be an incentive for a large percentage of the Canadian population move South. And why not?  Many of their doctors have already made the move in order to make a decent living in a free market system. (The call it “the brain drain” in Canada).

I suppose that highlights the possible pressures that we could experience within North America, but can you imagine the people from around the world who would be willing do whatever is necessary to enter our borders to avail themselves of health care?

This whole thing is a Pandora’s box of unbelievable proportions.

February 25, 11:23 pm | [comment link]
12. little searchers wrote:

The US health care system serves the wealthy and the well insured quite well.  It does little or nothing for those excluded from the system because of low income, a lost job, a pre-existing condition or some other reason.  The result of this is we have very expensive health care that excludes a large portion of our population.  That is why US health care statistics do not match other advanced countries of the world. It is pretty obvious if you can understand the facts.

February 25, 11:46 pm | [comment link]
13. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

RE: “And darn those pesky founding fathers, who did not set up the American Republic to be a direct democracy…”

Yes, and that system was established when ONLY property owners could vote.  I would be willing to return to that situation in exchange for refraining from “the pernicious direct democracy movement”. (Would you?)  The problem now is, folks that do not pay into the system and/or do not own property that is devastated by profligate govenment largess can vote themselves bread and circuses at the expense of those that do pay into the system and do own property.

So, until those that don’t pay the taxes or have property that is affected stop getting to vote for politicians that will use other people’s money to pander to them, I say, let’s hear it for “the pernicious direct democracy movement”.  It’s the only thing protecting us from financial ruin.

February 26, 11:22 am | [comment link]
14. Joshua 24:15 wrote:

Amen, SToN.  And, to all the folks who look upon the present attempts to ramrod through a pro-abortion, deficit-bloating, exceedingly imperfect (by their OWN admission) piece of legislation as some kind of “last, best hope” for healthcare reform, I ask, seriously:  why not both sides climb down from their political high horses and attempt some INCREMENTAL reforms that have some real political AND popular traction?  The current system (and I speak as one who works in the system) is not at meltdown stage.  There is still some room for sanity and real bipartisanship to prevail—not the phony photo-op that this “summit” was.

February 26, 8:01 pm | [comment link]
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