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Health Care and the Fall of Obama

Then, of course, there are the special deals made by the Obama administration with the big pharmaceutical companies and the insurance lobby, whose stock has soared in recent days and who will win big time by passage of the legislation. As former Mayor Ed Koch of New York wrote in a recent blog, “If the president had totally committed himself to this health care legislation and had called in every wavering Democratic Senator --  and yes, the two or three Republican Senators who appeared cooperative as well -- they would have come along and the final legislation would now include anti-trust prohibitions aimed at preventing insurance companies from continuing to conspire to fix prices.   It would also include a tort reform scheme that could have saved the government $54 billion over the next ten years; authorization for insurance policy shopping across state lines; use of U.S. funds by poor women to pay for abortions; allowance of Medicare to negotiate volume discounts on prescription drugs that over a ten-year period could have saved a trillion dollars; and a government option that would have provided insurance companies with competition.” As Koch concluded, “the President sold out to the insurance companies and the prescription drug companies.”

Koch says it will be left to historians in later years to explain why. I think the reasons have already been well stated, by the most astute commentator writing today, Charles Krauthammer. As he puts it, “ it is not that Obama is too cool or compliant but that he's too left.” Obama, he writes,  has favored legislation that amounts to “government health care by proxy, single-payer through a facade of nominally ‘private’ insurers.”  In a country that remains center-right, Obama acted ideologically, seeking “to introduce a powerful social democratic stream into America's deeply and historically individualist polity.”

Krauthammer does not say Obama is a stealth communist or socialist, as some on the Right do. There is a difference between social-democracy and communism or socialism. But as most Americans understand, the European social-democratic states created huge welfare benefits for their relatively small populations. Yet today they are nations that are in an economic state of stagnation, and their benefits packages are stifling their economies.

Even if Scott loses in Massachusetts, the election will be close. Perhaps it might even fall to the libertarian third party spoiler, Joe Kennedy, whose Tea Party followers might succeed in ushering in a win for Coakley. Thus Kennedy would have the same effect in Massachusetts as Ralph Nader had in Florida in 2000, when his percentage of the vote led the state to fall to George W. Bush.

As Krauthammer says, the age of Obama is over, one short year into his Presidency.