And let’s also not fail to take note of those who had a chance to join in this historic moment, and punted.
I’m not talking about the progressives who have rejected this bill because they don’t think it’s good enough; I disagree, but I respect their motives. I’m talking instead about the self-described centrists, pundits and politicians, who have spent years lecturing us on the need to make hard choices and actually come to grip with America’s problems; you know who I mean. So what did they do when faced with a chance to help confront those problems? They made excuses.
Health care costs are, as everyone serious acknowledges, at the core of many of our difficulties, very much including long-term budget deficits. What reformers have been saying for years is that the only way to tackle health care costs is in the context of a reform that also tackles the problem of uninsurance; and so it has proved. As Atul Gawande and others have pointed out, the Senate bill tries a wide variety of approaches to cost containment — in fact, just about everything that has been suggested. We don’t know which of these approaches will work or how well, but that’s more than anyone has managed to achieve ever before.
Oh, and the legislation is fiscally responsible from the start.
So did the deficit scolds, the people who preach the need to rein in entitlements and start paying our way, rally behind the cost-containment plans? Um, no. As I said, they made excuses, whining that the bill doesn’t do enough (as if there were any chance of passing a bill with everything they want), or insisting that even though the legislation does do the right thing, it doesn’t matter, because Congress won’t let the cost cuts go into effect — which turns out to be a claim at odds with the evidence of history.
And the lesson I take from that is that these people are insincere. They like posing as defenders of fiscal rectitude; they like declaring a pox on both houses; but when push comes to shove, their dislike of social insurance, their refusal to consider any government economy measures that don’t involve punishing people with lower incomes, trumps their supposed concern about acting responsibly.
Via Brad DeLong.