Friday, June 26, 2009


I write letters ...

I wrote this one to the President:

President Obama,

You and others have expressed the wish that you will, as president, be a transforming politician who changes the very terms of our political debate. In particular, you have expressed support (and pushed legislation) for a strong and healthy progressive agenda. In particular you have begun efforts to address our great societal need for improved access to health care, perhaps via government run health plans.

We all know that US enterprises, both small and large, have suffered in the global market-place because they have to pay for health care for their employees while their competitors abroad have employees whose health care is paid for by the government. Additionally, we all know many entrepreneurs who would love to grow their businesses and contribute more to our economy but cannot as they cannot afford to pay for health insurance for additional employees and cannot, even with today’s unfortunately large pool of unemployed, find qualified employees who will work in any job that does not provide health care benefits. We all know that the US needs what has been denigrated as “socialist medicine”.

Yet, your proposals for even modest versions of a public option are likely to fail in the Senate. Some of my fellow liberals have dismissed this as the fault of centrist “blue dog” Democrats who are too willing to compromise on what should be uncontroversial aspects of the progressive agenda. I, however, feel that political opposition to “socialized medicine” reflects a broad popular opinion against government ran programs.

This opposition to government programs in favor of private enterprise, even in an age when we have seen how poorly the free market works, is not irrational. People fear, for example, that government ran health care will result in long waiting times for medical care. Why? Well, when I go to a store to purchase something, I might grumble when I have to wait in line for minutes on end, but I rarely would wait, even on a crowded day in a warehouse store to purchase big ticket items, for more than a half an hour. On the other hand, just today my wife and I spent almost two hours in line to get a passport for my daughter. Previously, I have had to wait over a half a day to get a drivers’ license, and for the majority of a day to get a marriage license.

So long as people associate federal, state and local agencies with long waiting times, people will naturally and rationally fall prey to scare tactics about how “socialized medicine will involve long waiting lists” and thus be opposed to even the minimum necessary reforms in our health care system. More generally, so long as the everyday interactions people have with government involve long waits, speed traps, big city political corruption or catch-22 situations, people will be opposed to the entirety of the pro-government progressive agenda our nation needs to do well in the 21st century.

If you truly wish to be a transformative politician, you need to address all of these issues. Make sure nobody has to wait for 2 hours to hand in paperwork to get a passport. Put strings on stimulus money that will buy local political machines off and keep them on the straight and narrow as well as push recalcitrant agencies like the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to reform (as other DMVs have done). This nation can continue to be a city on the hill and beacon of a forward thinking agenda, but only if we create conditions on the ground where people have every reason to think that a “big government agenda” will be beneficial to them and not result in their having to wait in long lines for medical care, etc., as they have to wait at the post office for a passport or at the DMV.


My wife told me to whom to complain about the actual wait time (was it the inspector general or the post-master general? I forget ... I'll have to ask her later) ... but how can we expect people NOT to think that they will have to wait forever to receive medical care if we have "socialized medicine" when they have to wait so long just to turn in government forms? As I've been harping on for years on this blog, people don't like gummint for a reason and if the Democrats want people to support a progressive agenda, they'll need to do a much better job seeing all the trees that make up the forest of anti-government sentiment and addressing those issues.

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