The Obama administration may have blown its chance to reform health care in the United States by cynically cutting deals with special interests and ignoring public sentiment, according to an explosive Wall Street Journal story today.
It’s a profound piece of myth busting by the Journal. According to the story Obama likes to tell, he is engaged in a struggle against special interests to remake the health care system in a way that will benefit the American people. But there aren’t really any special interests opposing him. The drug companies, the health care providers, the health insurers all signed on to Obama’s plan long ago. They are actively lobbying for it.
The Obama administration “expended great effort to line up the support of health-care insurers, pharmaceutical makers and care providers, believing that by keeping them around the table, they could win over Republicans and stop the kind of industry-led attacks that helped sink the Clinton plan,” writes the Journal team.
It was supposed to be a simple formula. Win over the health care industry shepherd, and the Republican will follow like sheep. But it didn’t work.
What seems to have gone wrong can be described as a failure of the imagination: Obama’s administration just never believed Republicans would stand up for their limited government principles if that meant opposing business interests. They were apparently assuming that Republicans and conservatives could be won over by winning over “business interests,” as if free market and anti-government positions were just rhetorical cover for policy making at the behest of business.
There was plenty of evidence for this during the Bush administration, when the Republicans seemed to throw every principal overboard to serve special interests. (Well, every principal except “Do Not Speak Ill Of George Bush.”) But, at least as long as they are in opposition, the Republicans now seem willing to buck the siren call of business interests supporting Obama’s plan in favour of resistance to big government. Time may tell whether this is pure partisanship or a post-Bush return to principled conservatism.
But, in any case, the Obama administration’s assumption that brining business to the table would win over the GOP opposition seems to have played a key role is putting the plan to reform health care in jeopardy.
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