Saturday, March 20, 2010

One More HCR Post

This piece puts the whole HCR battle in different perspective, to be sure:

More than a quarter century before, Ted Kennedy came close to the prize with none other than the Republican president, Richard Nixon, who embraced ideas that mainstream Republicans today cannot tolerate. Nixon was ready to force businesses to provide health insurance to their workers or pay heavy penalties.

Sound familiar? It will.

At its core, Nixon's proposal is a pillar of Obama's plan today. Nixon's willingness to subsidize coverage for the working poor is also seen in the plan, though writ larger.

Back then, Kennedy's union and liberal allies gambled that by spurning Nixon, they'd get something better later. They didn't. In similar fashion years after that, President Bill Clinton aimed high and crashed hard.

Clinton no doubt drew on his own failure when, in December, he advised Democrats to pass what they could manage and not make it an all-or-nothing fight. "America," he said, "can't afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Obama absorbed these lessons.

For him, a system with government as the sole or principal payer of everyone's medical bills was a nonstarter, nice for the ideologues and other countries but not the American way. He would have liked the option of a government-run plan competing in the marketplace, but didn't need it.

For months he stood so far back from the legislative nitty-gritty that it was hard to tell what he stood for.

In the end, he stood for more than the incremental steps that succeeded in the past, and for less than the towering ideas that failed.

It's another reason Obama didn't go for the whole pie: unfortunately members of both parties would find something wrong with it. In the end, you just can't pass something as grandiose as HCR without making concessions.

It's going to be up to those who want more to continue to champion for it until it happens; the moment they let up, Congress and the White House will just assume that it's all good.

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