How is it that a decision next week by a single Senator from Maine will almost certainly determine whether America’s future healthcare system is still in the hands of private for-profit insurance companies and Big Pharma or enables more Americans to get better health care at lower cost?
Obama’s desire to find a common ground was part of his attraction. This is not what most progressives find troubling. Rather, it is Obama’s reluctance to use the vast powers of the presidency to drive the enactment of his top domestic priority that many of his longtime supporters simply cannot understand.
The ideal of universal care has revolved around two poles. In the 1930s, liberals imagined a universal right to health care tied to compulsory insurance, like Social Security. Johnson based Medicare on this idea, and it survives today as the “single-payer model” of universal health care, or “Medicare for all.” The alternative proposal, starting with Eisenhower, was to create a market for health care based on private insurers and employers.
The 30-year class war the rich launched against the working people in this country (and reached its apogee during the George W. Bush years), has left the middle class reeling and wounded. Only bold federal action that puts something concrete in the palms of middle-class Americans can begin to turn these dire social conditions around.
Rather than enshrine him in a giant marble bust to sit alongside Henry Clay’s, as some have suggested, this is their time to follow in the footsteps Everett Dirksen trod in 1964 and yield to an idea whose time has come, and to build a far greater monument to the legacy of their fallen friend. It’s what Ted would want.
If we can’t make sensible reforms to save money in our corrections’ system, then more children will lose their health care, more teachers will be laid off, and more health and safety programs will be cut. Inevitably, we will have more people stealing more pizza and headed off to the only government program left: prison.