This is seriously good news. Obviously having another influential Dem politician behind the idea brings it that much closer to happening, and it would be nice to see the Obama campaign settle on a signature issue or two. But to me this is interesting because Obama may have the right combination of qualities to exploit the growing tension between the American insurance industry and basically everybody else. Relative to our competitors with more sensible healthcare plans (that is, virtually every other developed nation) American industry is suffocating under the financial burdens of our employer-provided healthcare system.
It might seem insensitive to set aside the concerns of citizens who can’t afford private healthcare, employees whose coverage nickels and dimes them to death (sometimes literally) and the entire categories of Americans who cannot buy health insurance at any price, and I suppose that’s true. The problem is that outside of AARP, which has Medicare, no specific organization speaks for healthcare consumers. Every politician has to answer to the voters, sure, but come election time they answer with lobbyists’ money. To get attention on Capitol hill you need money and organization. Consumers can’t do it (though it might be wrong to write off the grassroots/netroots just yet). However, if one lumps together the American industries that would quickly come off life support when a single-payer plan is sensibly implemented (auto, airlines, service, etc) it would become seriously difficult even for the insurers’ titanic K street operation to compete.
Needless to say, tossing together American industry behind universal healthcare isn’t beginner chess. Somebody will have to overcome business leaders’ instinctive mistrust of socialist-sounding ideas and Democrats in general. Then we can even start talking about problems like institutional inertia. For that reason it seems unlikely that John Edwards, career trial lawyer, will make much headway. Fairly or unfairly Hillarycare gives me shudders. Obama, though, has a knack for making unlikely friends, a pragmatic tendency to look for common ground and little to no skeletons to get in the way. The idea of marshaling American industry against American insurance may be a fool’s errand for any pol, but I have an odd feeling that Barrack Obama may have what it takes to pull it off.
To add, finding one encouraging quality in a candidate does not a full endorsement make. In my view every credible candidate in the Democratic field would make an fine president. I also have no doubt that if current trends continue any one of them will slaughter whoever the GOP eventually puts forward.
Color Kevin Drum underwhelmed. Maybe I’m guilty of projecting what I want to see. It’s hard to say, he hasn’t proposed anything yet.