Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 5, 2009

INTERCONNECTIVITY.... I was watching Rachel Maddow on "The Tonight Show" last night, and heard Jay Leno raise a point we're likely to see quite a bit in the coming months. "The financial [crisis] seems big enough," Leno said. "[Obama is] also taking on energy and health care. Is he biting off too much? Should we just go, 'All right, let's fix the economy; next year we'll talk about health care or energy.' Should you pick one and focus on that? It's like we're doing everything all at the same time."

Rachel's response was spot on: "I think it would be great to focus on one thing at one at a time, if these things weren't all interconnected.... If our health care system stays as stupid as it is, we're never really going to get our economic problems fixed."

And that's the point I was glad to see President Obama emphasize at the White House summit on health care today.

"We are here today to discuss one of the greatest threats not just to the well-being of our families and the prosperity of our businesses, but to the very foundation of our economy -- and that is the exploding cost of health care in America today.

"In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages, and an additional nine million Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured. The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. And even for folks who are weathering this economic storm, and have health care now, all it takes is one stroke of bad luck -- an accident or illness; a divorce or lost job -- to become one of the nearly 46 million uninsured or the millions who have health care, but can't afford it.

"We did not get here by accident. The problems we face today are a direct consequence of actions we failed to take yesterday.... [T]here are those who say we should defer health care reform once again -- that at a time of economic crisis, we simply cannot afford to fix our health care system as well.

"Well, let's be clear: the same soaring costs that are straining our families' budgets are sinking our businesses and eating up our government's budget too. Too many small businesses can't insure their employees. Major American corporations are struggling to compete with their foreign counterparts. And companies of all sizes are shipping their jobs overseas or shutting their doors for good.

"Medicare costs are consuming our federal budget. Medicaid is overwhelming our state budgets. And at the Fiscal Summit we held here last week, the one thing on which everyone agreed was that the greatest threat to America's fiscal health is not Social Security, though that is a significant challenge; and it is not the investments we've made to rescue our economy; it is the skyrocketing cost of health care.

"That is why we cannot delay this discussion any longer. And that is why today's forum is so important. Because health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative. If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy, then we must address the crushing cost of health care this year, in this Administration. Making investments in reform now, investments that will dramatically lower costs, won't add to our budget deficits in the long-term -- rather, it is one of the best ways to reduce them."

The question isn't whether we can afford to tackle health-care reform; the question is whether we can afford not to.

The government will spend $2.5 trillion on health care this year. In less than a decade, it will constitute 20% of GDP. If we're going to improve the economy and take fiscal sustainability seriously, this won't wait.

Steve Benen 2:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Comments

"The government will spend $2.5 trillion on health care this year."

Uhhh Steve, wasn't Obama's just submitted budget for like $3.6 trillion? Total?

Posted by: tom p on March 5, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that a good number of those saying "Let's take it slow" actually don't want to see *any* of Obama's agenda enacted.

Posted by: Chris S. on March 5, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I would not be in the job I have now if I didn't need the family healthcare coverage I get. Hubby is a writer so before I took this job, we paid for it on our own --- $24,000 a year. That means we needed to make $45,000 before taxes.

Affordable healthcare, not at a job, would free up so much creativity in this country it would be like a stimulus. NO more bankruptcies and half of all bankruptcies are related to medical expenses. People could start a business or move to a job they actually like.

These issues are connected.

Posted by: lilybart on March 5, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

This is why Rachel's popularity is growing. Her approach issn't based strictly on simple answers to complex questions. Obama seems to work on the same principle as well. We've just gone through 30 years of moronic posturing when it comes to problem solving.

Posted by: Gandalf on March 5, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

But...Santelli say...bailout bad! Me confused and angry.

Posted by: Cazart on March 5, 2009 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

In Steve's last paragraph, I think he meant to say that the American people (not the government) will spend $2.5 trillion on health care this year.

Posted by: Chris in Seattle on March 5, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

I get so frustrated when President Obama gives any credence to the notion that Social Security is a problem. For many years they've been collecting way more than they pay out. And all this time the surplus has been lumped in with the general fund so they've just been spending it. The only real problem is that they've taken the money and don't want to pay it out in benefits.

Posted by: Rick on March 5, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Jay Leno is a tool.

Posted by: PattyP on March 5, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

The way it's organized today your healthcare is somebody else's private interest.

The importance of your health is a subsidiary concern to another's private interest.

How is this different from blackmail or protection money?

Posted by: alan on March 5, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

It seems obvious to me that our current health care "system" is a drag on our economy. In addition to how it is affecting big companies like the auto industry, think about how it stifles entrepreneurship and flexibility in the marketplace. How many of us know people who would be self-employed, working with something they love, except for the need for health insurance? How many of us continue to work full time for companies that provide health insurance, when we could support ourselves part time if we could just count on affordable health care? If we can come up with a way to manage this better and get all the waste and overhead (and profit?) out of the system, it would go a long way toward turning loose a lot of creativity and productivity in our society.

Posted by: shoeflyin on March 5, 2009 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Total US health care expenditures will be $2.5 trillion - private as well as public, including both insurance-funded care and out-of-pocket expenses.

LE

Posted by: Larry Eitel on March 5, 2009 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

"I think it would be great to focus on one thing at one at a time, if these things weren't all interconnected.... If our health care system stays as stupid as it is, we're never really going to get our economic problems fixed."

While I personally find much of Maddow's delivery smug to the point of being irritating (like Olberman), she's second to none in the brains department. Her point about the interconnective nature of these things is obvious yet brilliant.

Obama's dance card is full. Let's hope his skillz at delegating responsibility are as good as his oratory (and/or that Emmanuel's skillz at kicking ass aren't mere hype).

Posted by: Monty on March 5, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Tax Cuts.... Personal Responsibility.... Hometown Values.... Vigorous Military Spending.... Blame the Gays....

Just thought I'd preempt the Republicans with their likely responses.

Posted by: rusrus on March 5, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

How great is it that Rachel Maddow is on Leno? We shouldn't underestimate the value of this - having a smart person representing smart ideas explaining them to regular folks.

Posted by: bobbo on March 5, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Jay Leno is a tool."

No not really, this is a question that is on the minds of a lot of people. My 88 year old mother asked that question, NOT because she wants to see anything fail. Her comment was something like "Poor Barack, with all of the things he has to do, how can he do so much? I worry about him".

Posted by: wbn on March 5, 2009 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps some who belong to, or sympathize with, the Party of Failure (aka Republicans), feel it is impossible to deal with many things at once. Perhaps because they are used to failing on one agenda item at a time over the passed 8 years, they cannot conceive of capable, can-do Americans starting and achieving multiple initiatives at once.
It boggles their mind.

Well, the can-do Americans are in charge now.

Posted by: JWK on March 5, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

"[Obama is] also taking on energy and health care. Is he biting off too much? Should we just go, 'All right, let's fix the economy; next year we'll talk about health care or energy.' Should you pick one and focus on that? It's like we're doing everything all at the same time."

Because, as we all know, health care and energy have nothing whatsoever to do with the economy....

Seriously, it's like saying "hey, that doctor is also taking on your high blood pressure and your diabetes. Is he biting off too much? Should he just go, 'All right, let's fix your health first; next year we'll talk about your blood pressure and diabetes.' Should he pick one and focus on that? It's like he's doing everything all at the same time."

Posted by: Stefan on March 5, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

If we have a good leader with excellent abilities to delegate, motivate, inspire, get out of the way, re-track derailed groups, along with an energized, intelligent supporting base, YES WE CAN!

Posted by: fuzed on March 5, 2009 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

The deep interconnectedness of all things is a basic tenet of both Buddhism and the science of ecology, and is fundamental to understanding the true nature of reality. And understanding the true nature of reality is a prerequisite of effective action.

The fact that Obama not only understands but can effectively communicate to a general audience the interconnected nature of the major problems that confront the country is enormously encouraging.

Having said that -- sure, it is always possible to bite off more than you can chew. And we will not know for certain whether any of Obama's initiatives individually, or all of them together, have been over-ambitious until we see what actually gets through Congress, and how it is implemented, and what results are obtained.

But it is clear that Obama understands the magnitude of the problems that face us, and is going after them with solutions that are appropriately scaled to match the scale of the problems. It is also clear that he intends to address the root causes of the problems rather than merely relieve their symptoms. It is also clear that he is consciously looking to create synergy between his various initiatives so that the whole will be more effective than the sum of the parts.

I'll call him Bodhisattva Obama.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 5, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Monty wrote: "I personally find much of Maddow's delivery smug to the point of being irritating (like Olberman) ..."

I agree, but a certain degree of smugness is sort of a prerequisite for getting a job on TV where you shoot your mouth off to millions of people every night. And open, honest smugness is preferable to phony humility.

As Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry once said, "There is no substitute for arrogance."

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 5, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

'smug'?

Compared to Charles Gibson?

Posted by: alan on March 5, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

"I think it would be great to focus on one thing at one at a time, if these things weren't all interconnected.... If our health care system stays as stupid as it is, we're never really going to get our economic problems fixed."

Hey, the Republicans didn't just pick one thing per year to fuck up when they were in the White House.

Posted by: Gregory on March 5, 2009 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Maddow ... smug? Really?

Maybe we're just not used to seeing smart people on our teevee and confuse that with smugness. Because of all the things to describe her, that'd be the last on my list.

**shrugs**

As far as the topic goes, it's incredibly refreshing to have a President who talks to the nation as adults. We haven't that since ... well, JFK, maybe?

[I'm only 37, so Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II are my only points of reference. Maybe some old timers could help with this. ;-) ]

Posted by: Mark D on March 5, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

We admitted to our hopital 2 patients last night with DKA.Both had run out of their long acting insulin,which is very expensive, and they have no insurance.Compare the costs of a couple days in an ICU along with the ED costs.That's a lot of bottles of Insulin and trips to see an Endocrinologist.Happens all the time

Posted by: jes on March 5, 2009 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Duh.

This was seriously "duh" in 1993.

Money talks, which is why it's taken until 2009 to get the folks in-office who will finally do something about it.

In the meantime, the lobbying interests of the US healthcare industry have been busily shooting themselves in the foot by sandbagging the very economy that made them so filthy stinkin rich.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on March 5, 2009 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

There is only one rational solution: Single Payer.

There is only one solution that won't be considered: Single Payer.

Like Churchill said" Americans always do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities.

Posted by: geodahir on March 6, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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