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March 30, 2010

SARKOZY ON HEALTH CARE DEBATE: 'IT'S DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE'.... French President Nicolas Sarkozy, once a European darling to American conservatives, has been keeping an eye on the U.S. debate over health care. Speaking at Columbia University yesterday, the French leader expressed some astonishment at what he saw. (via Kevin Drum)

"Welcome to the club of states who don't turn their back on the sick and the poor," Sarkozy said, referring to the U.S. health care overhaul signed by President Barack Obama last week.

From the European perspective, he said, "when we look at the American debate on reforming health care, it's difficult to believe."

"The very fact that there should have been such a violent debate simply on the fact that the poorest of Americans should not be left out in the streets without a cent to look after them ... is something astonishing to us."

I imagine it's all the more astonishing when we have unemployed cancer patients expressing their opposition to improvements in the health care system because they fear government programs and benefits.

European astonishment is understandable. I've followed the debate as closely as just about anyone, and I've found it hard to believe, too.

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Wow. When we've got Sarkozy on our side, then it's pretty much over for the GOPers as a political species....

Posted by: S. Waybright on March 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

One of the hardest things to believe was that this Republican bill, that forces millions to pay ransoms to Corporations, was sold so forcefully (and falsely) by the Village Dems as some progressive panacea.

Corporate insurance salespeople like Benen and Drum have definitely become 'insiders' now, but that certainly puts them on the outside of the progressive movement that sacrificed so many serious, substantive and effective policy solutions in order to keep Dem's political aspirations alive.

Posted by: Annoyed on March 30, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Americans are marinated in a long-term corporatist propaganda campaign meant to discredit the whole notion of the common good. Why do we have people who desperately need single payer who are adamantly opposed to it? Because they've spent their lives hearing that it's apocalyptically bad, part of something they don't understand called "socialism."

Posted by: jimBOB on March 30, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Apart from the appalling ease with which the right just denies how broken our healthcare system is to how many millions of people, one of the most bewildering aspects of the past year's
"debate" is how deep the sense of American exceptionalism runs in so many people.

The entire developed world -- every single industrialized country except for us -- has some kind of universal healthcare. How insular and arrogant do you have to be to insist that we're the ones who've got it right and the entire rest of the globe has it wrong?

Posted by: shortstop on March 30, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. When we've got Sarkozy on our side, then it's pretty much over for the GOPers as a political species....

Do you really think so? The fact that the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys approve of the Affordable Care Act carries very little weight with the Sarah Palin crowd, methinks.

Posted by: JCB on March 30, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

I've found the debate hard to believe, too.

Well, that's just 'cuz yer a big-city socialist librul. But when the black helicopters come 'n' take YOU away to the re-education camps, then you'll be sorry, yessir!

Now 'scuse me, I gotta go polish my weapons.

Posted by: bleh on March 30, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

When we've got Sarkozy on our side, then it's pretty much over for the GOPers as a political species....

Well the right's appreciation of Sarkozy was always based upon the fact that he was "conservative" for a European politician but, of course, aside from the strain of neo-nazism in Europe, most "conservative" politics in Europe is still well to the left of the average "moderate" Democrat.

Posted by: brent on March 30, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

But shortstop, Boehner keeps telling me "We have the best healthcare system in the World".

Posted by: ckelly on March 30, 2010 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

The US is full of spiteful, hateful, uninformed and uncomprehending people. No one should be more aware of that than a public figure from France.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on March 30, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

One of the hardest things to believe was that this Republican bill, that forces millions to pay ransoms to Corporations, was sold so forcefully (and falsely) by the Village Dems as some progressive panacea.

The reason that its so hard to believe is that it isn't true. I know of no one among the progressive bloggers, certainly not Steve or Kevin, who thinks this reform is a "panacea," nor did they sell it as such. It corrects some abuses and will save thousands of lives, certainly, but its primary achievement is that it puts the government on the battlefield and the battle out in public for all to see, and the corporations will have to either adjust to the new reality or fight it out in front of the citizenry.

Posted by: Midland on March 30, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

OK, St Sarah may not be amused by his latest statement. But, prior to that, she would have enjoyed Shouting Out to his Conservative leanings, had she only been able to pronounce his name.

BTW, his minions have taken a hit in the recent elections, but, the Committee of Safety will have more than a few words to say to him when he returns to Paris.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 30, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard to believe some so-called "civilized" people are so barbaric. Cheer on the war, yet scream that providing everyone with affordable health care is socialism.

The Rs and nutjobs sure get a lot of attention and muck things up, don't they?

Posted by: Hannah on March 30, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I'm down with Sarkozy's bafflement, but he's being a bit unfair. We have had Medicaid for decades, and we've had SCHIP for more than 10 years. So we've been doing something to ensure that the poor and less-poor have access to health care. Now we're doing more.

Annoyed: One of the hardest things to believe was that this Republican bill, that forces millions to pay ransoms to Corporations, was sold so forcefully (and falsely) by the Village Dems as some progressive panacea.

Assuming that Annoyed is not just a parody troll, I'm truly baffled by the assumption of some on the left that we could just wipe out the private for-profit health insurance industry over night.

In the early 90s, I helped to produce a guidebook for countries that wanted to introduce "social health insurance" systems of the sort that European countries have.

I didn't know much about the topic before I started on the project, but the guidebook's authors and my own study during the process taught me a lot.

My assumption at the time was that if we ever wanted to get "single payer" in the US, we'd have to go through a transitional process, because the private for-profit health insurance industry is so fucking powerful.

Maybe start by regulating the private for-profit insurance companies more heavily, then transition to a system where most health insurance is provided by private non-profit companies (a la Germany), then maybe eventually get a fully publicly-funded system like Canada's.

Welcome to the transition, Annoyed.

Posted by: Iron Knee on March 30, 2010 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

It's also amazing how condescending and insulting many Europeans feel entitled to be towards Americans.

Would Sarkozy talk this way to an Asian or an African audience? We're not Europeans, nor should Europeans expect us, or anyone else in the world to be. Just look at the 16th-20th centuries for evidence from the colonies.

The fact that everyone here just nods in agreement shows a real internalization of beliefs among progressives that we're inferior.

We're American. We still use Fahrenheit. This place is just plain different. And if it wasn't for us, Sarkozy would either be speaking German, or dead for having a Jewish grandparent.

As a progressive, I will always fight for improving the lot of all Americans, but I will not countenance for one second this sort of talk from a fellow head of state. That really pisses me off.

Posted by: itstrue on March 30, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

What our "conservatives" don't get is that in Europe what they call a "conservative" is what we call a "liberal".

Posted by: martin on March 30, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

The U.S. is moving towards social democracy. Shifting demographics and a shrinking world are seeing to that. As a living entity, we must adapt to change, which is, as Kennedy said, the law of life. Yet instead of working to manage the necessary changes while conserving that which is worthy of preservation, Republican party leadership denies this fundamental truth, forcefully, even hysterically.

In opting out of the hard work of problem-solving, with no articulation of strategic, workable responses to the challenges we face, they make themselves irrelevant and unable to lead, which leaves them with stoking the fires of fear and anger via propaganda as their only means of obtaining and clinging to power.

Posted by: FC on March 30, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

"stuff"
JCB on March 30, 2010 at 10:13 AM

So, I'm supposed to care about the feelings of some Moose Scarfing Arctic Squirrels that are Facebook friends with the aborted-at-half-term Wasilla Warthog?

Posted by: S. Waybright on March 30, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

It's also amazing how condescending and insulting many Europeans feel entitled to be towards Americans. -itstrue

Were you here for the Bush years ? We were condescending to every country on the map, but England and Saudi Arabia. One bowed to our every whim and the other supplies the fuel that makes this country wealthy.

And if you truly are a progressive you would relize that comment was not directed as the men and women who fought for HCR.

One last thing, can there be some sort of rule that every time a European says something we do not agree with, we don't throw Hitler in their faces. I am pretty sure they are grateful, but being grateful doesn't mean they can never speak their minds, especially when they see injustice. So stop, it childish, and quite frankly, very republican.

Posted by: ScottW on March 30, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

"We're American. We still use Fahrenheit. This place is just plain different. And if it wasn't for us, Sarkozy would either be speaking German, or dead for having a Jewish grandparent."

Different isn't always better. Why do we use a different system of measurement than the rest of the world? It's is stupid.

And if it were not for the French, the USA would just be another former British colony, having lost the bid for independence.

Cheers,
ExB

Posted by: ExpatBrat on March 30, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Er, itstrue, a little history of "arrogance" - In the first World War, our American troops arrived in France to "save the French and British". The high military commands of both France and England had, finally, realized the futility of sending thousands upon thousands of men across no-man's land into heavy machine gun fire from the trenches. However, Black Jack and his command staff would have none of their wisdom and, immediately, sent thousands of American troops into that same fate. So where did the "Arrogance" lie? Yes, we brought our own version of "Elan" with us and thousands remain buried on French soil.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 30, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Midland wrote: "The reason that its so hard to believe is that it isn't true."

The Obama White House itself proudly proclaimed that the bill was based on 17-year old Republican ideas. Even this week, Steve Benen has written articles showing that the "individual mandate" is an idea that Republicans have promoted for years.

Midland wrote: "I know of no one among the progressive bloggers, certainly not Steve or Kevin, who thinks this reform is a 'panacea,' nor did they sell it as such."

Both Steve Benen and Kevin Drum have repeatedly -- and dishonestly -- equated the medical insurance regulation bill with Social Security and Medicare, both of which created government-run programs, which this bill does not do, instead entrenching the for-profit insurance corporations as the foundation of America's health care system and requiring the taxpayers to guarantee and subsidize their profits.

Single-payer was off the table from the start. The "compromises" that were offered to progressives -- the public option and Medicare expansion -- were taken off the table as part of the deal with the insurance corporations.

What was left was huge taxpayer subsidies for the for-profit insurance corporations, in return for which they would accept some modest regulation of their most murderous practices (which they will of course seek to undermine and weaken through the courts and through their influence over the regulatory agencies).

Is it good that there will be more regulation of the insurance corporations? Sure.

Will that regulation really be effective? We'll see.

Is that regulation worth the price of putting universal, nonprofit medical insurance under open, efficient, accountable public administration "off the table" indefinitely and perhaps permanently, and subsidizing the profits of the insurance corporations at public expense? We'll see.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 30, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that everyone here just nods in agreement shows a real internalization of beliefs among progressives that we're inferior.

No. But to people who can process the info they read, it does indicate a real belief among progressives that our healthcare system is inferior. And, you know -- it is.

We're American. We still use Fahrenheit. This place is just plain different.

Did you really just compare competing temperature measurement systems with systems addressing the health of the citizenry? Did you really?

And if it wasn't for us, Sarkozy would either be speaking German, or dead for having a Jewish grandparent.

I move that Godwin's law be amended to exempt anyone who plays the U.S. in WWII and/or Marshall Plan card from participation in a serious conversation. For crying out loud. Only the most childish and petulant -- and always conservatives -- bring this point up and think they've scored.

Posted by: shortstop on March 30, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure that for many Frenchmen, witnessing the idiocy of the healthcare reform effort just convinced them that we are indeed the land of "zee beeg eediots".

Posted by: bob h on March 30, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

What's with everyone's instinct here towards self-deprecation? It's no wonder Liberal is a dirty word in America. People like a little pride in their way of life, flawed as it may be.

I'm surprised at the amount of venom that comes out of these groups when all I did was chafe a bit at that pollyannaish tripe.

We all know there are two sides of the story. It should go without saying (at least sometimes) that Bush-era policies were condescending towards others. One need only turn to nearly any speech on foreign policy from that time to find and example of disrespect towards our allies. Such examples are an aid in recognizing disrespect when directed at ourselves.

We all know that fahrenheit isn't the most efficient or outward-looking system of measure. It's just something peculiarly American. History (outside TX anyway) is pretty clear that the French played a large part in our independence.

While we're at it, I hate McDonalds, Justin Timberlake, and corporate hegemony over all too many American interests, foreign and domestic.

Nobody here needs to be reminded of America's problems at every turn, or that we have relied on our allies as well as they on us.

Myself, I work every day on issues of social inequality, dealing with some of the worst aspects of American poverty and American policy towards the poor.

But there's something to say for showing a little pride in what we've achieved with health reform. It's ok to show some revulsion and unwillingness to reflexively wag our tails in approval with every chiding pat on the head that comes from our alleged betters.

It is simple self-respect at stake, an emotional brand of patriotism that I will not cede to the right.

Just because such thinking is commonly found among conservatives, it doesn't make its expression jingoistic or wilfully blind to our trouble here. That's the sort of Manichean thinking we're allegedly above around here.

Tomorrow's policy battles will not be won without acknowledging our shortcomings. Conversely, they will not be won without some basic confidence in ourselves and what we stand for as a nation.

Without that, people will not buy what we're selling. Nor should they in my view.

Posted by: itstrue on March 30, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

"I move that Godwin's law be amended to exempt anyone who plays the U.S. in WWII and/or Marshall Plan card from participation in a serious conversation. For crying out loud. Only the most childish and petulant -- and always conservatives -- bring this point up and think they've scored."

I'm pretty far from a conservative. And you're pretty far from arguing a position on its merits instead of discounting ideas you find distasteful.

It's ugly to be so dismissive and presumptuous about others' beliefs based on your own prejudices. Downright un-progressive. Yeech.

Posted by: itstrue on March 30, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Sarkozy wants to watch his mouth, or Conservatives are liable to remember he's French.

Posted by: Mark on March 30, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

And you're pretty far from arguing a position on its merits

And those would be...that because we jumped into WWII 70 years ago French gratitude should prevent them from ever criticizing any aspect of our domestic or foreign policy until the end of time? I do not think this word "merit" means what you think it means.

It's ugly to be so dismissive and presumptuous about others' beliefs based on your own prejudices. Downright un-progressive.

And you thought the liberal goal of acceptance and tolerance means that we're "hypocrites" when we don't accept lazy thinking or weak arguments, and you thought the liberal mantra of racial equality means we can't criticize Michael Steele, and you thought that the liberal principle of not hating people for immutable qualities means we can never hate ideas. Yah, blah blah blah. For a non-conservative, you seem to have perfectly mastered their willful misrepresentation of (or perhaps just inability to comprehend) progressive positions...right down to being the only one in the room who thinks you just said something clever.

Posted by: shortstop on March 30, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Sarkozy really doesn't know much about the ignorance and selfishness of most Americans, does he?

Posted by: giantslor on March 30, 2010 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

It's ok to show some revulsion and unwillingness to reflexively wag our tails in approval with every chiding pat on the head that comes from our alleged betters.

It is simple self-respect at stake, an emotional brand of patriotism that I will not cede to the right.

It seems to me it's you and not the rest that has some national self-respect serious issues.

itstrue, you know what Asian and European countries never say? Our country is the greatest. We're number one! Europe SUCKS!!! Everything we do is better. ALWAYS! WOOT.

or things like; "And if it wasn't for us, Sarkozy would either be speaking German, or dead for having a Jewish grandparent."

You seem to think that when Europeans point to things that the USA does worse because we feel superior to you, While we Europeans do that to make people like you stop being arrogant, condescending sacks of shits who always claim to be better then everybody else.

Asian countries don't do that to us, that why we don't do it to them. It's that simple.

Posted by: Ernst on March 30, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

You go, itstrue! We're gonna keep on keeping on with our Fahrenheit and our ounces and our inches! No way we're gonna accept that there commie-French decimal system! Death to Voltaire and Diderot!

Posted by: exlibra on March 30, 2010 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop: You're conflating an argument with rhetoric, all while getting a little ad hominem for my tastes here.

It was you who jumped to "French gratitude should prevent them from ever criticizing any aspect of our domestic or foreign policy until the end of time," not I.

I found Sarkozy's remarks insulting and unnecessary in light of the achievement we've fought hard on the ground for. He could have just as easily congratulated us for winning what was a brutal battle, instead of rubbing in our faces what the battle was about in comparison to the status of his, or any other country. It was insulting, that's all.

To be clear: arguments are positions, ie. Sarkozy saying "welcome to the club..." is condescending. Rhetoric is, "if it wasn't us, you'd be speaking German."

You certainly have a basis in not liking my rhetoric. It's tasteless. I could have been a good deal more genteel about it, but so could you in your response to me, easy as it is for anyone (myself included) in anonymity to get rough. In any case, it's a rant in a blog posting, not a federal case, and certainly not directed towards anyone in particular.

The question remains unanswered, perhaps because of my overzealous rhetoric getting in the way:

Was it or was it not a condescending thing to say?

I say yes. Look up condescending in the dictionary, and there'll be a fairly apt description of the meaning behind Sarkozy's words.

Sometimes I wonder if there is indeed an emotional basis for people's beliefs here, or if everything boils down to what is most parsimonious or utilitarian (in the JS Mill sense).

I refuse to accept that because the French health care system is better (and I believe it is), this gives Sarkozy license to condescend to us when we've been working tirelessly to change that.

American progressives have a lot to be proud of; it shouldn't be belittled by Sarkozy, much less by its own champions.

That's the point of view I'm trying to bring here; something I think is missing in a lot of today's progressive thinking, to the detriment of progressive ends.

If people here believe that everything is indeed about achieving the greatest good for the greatest amount of people without a care for how people in America feel about it, then good luck talking to anyone outside these pages. You'll need it.

Posted by: itstrue on March 30, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

"While we Europeans do that to make people like you stop being arrogant, condescending sacks of shits who always claim to be better then everybody else."

Wow. Way to put me in my place there, Ernst.

Just when I thought achieving a huge domestic achievement made us better than everyone else, you and Sarkozy are there to remind us that it's nothing to you.

Posted by: itstrue on March 30, 2010 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

itstrue, considering what various politicians from this country have said about France over the past decade, I think Mr. Sarkozcy showed excellent restraint. If you don't want your posts misinterpreted, avoid generalizations, they are very easily read differently than intended.
Oh, and by the way, you really should get your facts correct: if it weren't for US involvement in WWII, the French wouldn't be speaking German, they'd be speaking Russian...

Posted by: Doug on March 30, 2010 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Hi,The best thing is that Sarkozy entered the Low Library by walking up the middle of the grand staircase that faces the Columbia campus, instead of from behind a gold curtain like most other speakers.
iedge

Posted by: smithmaria61 on March 31, 2010 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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