Krugman on Obama's Trust Problem

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    Aug 21, 2009 8:05 AM GMT
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/opinion/21krugman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

    August 21, 2009
    OP-ED COLUMNIST
    Obama's Trust Problem

    By PAUL KRUGMAN

    According to news reports, the Obama administration -- which seemed, over the weekend, to be backing away from the "public option" for health insurance -- is shocked and surprised at the furious reaction from progressives.

    Well, I'm shocked and surprised at their shock and surprise.

    A backlash in the progressive base -- which pushed President Obama over the top in the Democratic primary and played a major role in his general election victory -- has been building for months. The fight over the public option involves real policy substance, but it's also a proxy for broader questions about the president's priorities and overall approach.

    The idea of letting individuals buy insurance from a government-run plan was introduced in 2007 by Jacob Hacker of Yale, was picked up by John Edwards during the Democratic primary, and became part of the original Obama health care plan.

    One purpose of the public option is to save money. Experience with Medicare suggests that a government-run plan would have lower costs than private insurers; in addition, it would introduce more competition and keep premiums down.

    And let's be clear: the supposed alternative, nonprofit co-ops, is a sham. That's not just my opinion; it's what the market says: stocks of health insurance companies soared on news that the Gang of Six senators trying to negotiate a bipartisan approach to health reform were dropping the public plan. Clearly, investors believe that co-ops would offer little real competition to private insurers.

    Also, and importantly, the public option offered a way to reconcile differing views among Democrats. Until the idea of the public option came along, a significant faction within the party rejected anything short of true single-payer, Medicare-for-all reform, viewing anything less as perpetuating the flaws of our current system. The public option, which would force insurance companies to prove their usefulness or fade away, settled some of those qualms.

    That said, it's possible to have universal coverage without a public option -- several European nations do it -- and some who want a public option might be willing to forgo it if they had confidence in the overall health care strategy. Unfortunately, the president's behavior in office has undermined that confidence.

    On the issue of health care itself, the inspiring figure progressives thought they had elected comes across, far too often, as a dry technocrat who talks of "bending the curve" but has only recently begun to make the moral case for reform. Mr. Obama's explanations of his plan have gotten clearer, but he still seems unable to settle on a simple, pithy formula; his speeches and op-eds still read as if they were written by a committee.

    Meanwhile, on such fraught questions as torture and indefinite detention, the president has dismayed progressives with his reluctance to challenge or change Bush administration policy.

    And then there's the matter of the banks.

    I don't know if administration officials realize just how much damage they've done themselves with their kid-gloves treatment of the financial industry, just how badly the spectacle of government supported institutions paying giant bonuses is playing. But I've had many conversations with people who voted for Mr. Obama, yet dismiss the stimulus as a total waste of money. When I press them, it turns out that they're really angry about the bailouts rather than the stimulus -- but that's a distinction lost on most voters.

    So there's a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. And that's why the mixed signals on the public option created such an uproar.

    Now, politics is the art of the possible. Mr. Obama was never going to get everything his supporters wanted.

    But there's a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line. It seems as if there is nothing Republicans can do that will draw an administration rebuke: Senator Charles E. Grassley feeds the death panel smear, warning that reform will "pull the plug on grandma," and two days later the White House declares that it's still committed to working with him.

    It's hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can't be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.

    Indeed, no sooner were there reports that the administration might accept co-ops as an alternative to the public option than G.O.P. leaders announced that co-ops, too, were unacceptable.

    So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Aug 21, 2009 3:41 PM GMT
    I agree
  • jlly_rnchr

    Posts: 1759

    Aug 21, 2009 4:36 PM GMT
    I really wish Obama was being the President we thought he would be. I'm sick of the pussy-footing around every contentious issue, from healthcare to marriage equality.

    The public option is a worthy cause, and something he should have no reservations about committing to. If he really wants to get coverage for the un- or under-insured, this is the way to do it. General reforms, be it regulating premiums and dropping pre-existing conditions, will not be enough.
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    Aug 21, 2009 4:39 PM GMT
    He's got to stop this bipartisan bullcrap

    Repulicans wouldn't sign this bill even if each of them got an individual blowjob
    so trying to get them on board is a complete waste of time
    Thing is the general public still wants a public option so what the hell are they hemming and hawwing about?
  • EricLA

    Posts: 3461

    Aug 21, 2009 4:40 PM GMT
    I agree. Obama needs to "man up" again and start being more forceful.

    I love that he wants to be bipartisan, but doesn't he understand the Republicans are not going to work with him on his agenda? They're not going to go along with him on Health Care, WITH OR WITHOUT the Public Option. If he wimps out on that they'll find something else to sink it.

    He needs to base his decisions on best policy, not on whether or not he get the Republicans to come along. They're not going to do it.

    This form of leadership just makes him look weak. No wonder his polls are taking a hit. He has to restore the confidence we had in him when we gave him this job. So, come on Obama, show some balls!
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    Aug 21, 2009 4:48 PM GMT
    If he ended his first term the way he is now (and has been the passed 9 months), he wouldn't get my support for a second term.
  • jlly_rnchr

    Posts: 1759

    Aug 21, 2009 4:52 PM GMT
    tryandbuy saidIf he ended his first term the way he is now (and has been the passed 9 months), he wouldn't get my support for a second term.


    I still won't go that far. If he's running against Mitt or Sarah, Crist, Newt, etc., he's got my vote pretty much no matter what happens.

    I did think Huckabee was kind of charming, but he's not been getting mentioned.
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    Aug 21, 2009 4:58 PM GMT
    The public option is the looters option, let's get real.
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    Aug 21, 2009 5:00 PM GMT
    This might be a slight digression, but my biggest problem with his approach to heathcare is that he is more concerned with getting something done than he is about whether it is a good thing for the country or even good policy.

    It is absolutely clear that had congress passed the 1,000 page plus document that they were circulating before the August break (of which almost none of them had probably even read), then he most assuredly would have signed it into law. Who cares what it said. I am certain he does not undertand all it says either. He would have done it!

    And then we would have had to see his face on another 50 talk shows and magazine covers talking about how great it was (way too much of a good thing). This guy is much more about being the "rock star" than being a leader.

  • jlly_rnchr

    Posts: 1759

    Aug 21, 2009 5:06 PM GMT
    twomack saidThe public option is the looters option, let's get real.


    Can you explain what you mean by that? How is underprivleged individuals taking advantage of access to affordable healthcare akin to breaking into a store and stealing a tv?
  • jarhead5536

    Posts: 1348

    Aug 21, 2009 5:12 PM GMT
    jlly_rnchr said
    twomack saidThe public option is the looters option, let's get real.


    Can you explain what you mean by that? How is underprivleged individuals taking advantage of access to affordable healthcare akin to breaking into a store and stealing a tv?


    In a nutshell: there are those that think that healthcare is a right, and those that think that healthcare is a privilege not everyone is entitled to. Those opposed to any public option up to and including single payer are in the latter camp. For the record, I believe that healthcare is a human right, and should be free on demand at point of service, paid for by general taxation like police or fire services. Anything less is immoral to me...
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Aug 21, 2009 5:21 PM GMT
    twomack saidThe public option is the looters option, let's get real.


    You're absolutely right! Same goes for parents who send their kids to public schools instead of private schools. Or people who go to church and never put in money in the collection plate! Being healthy, educated, and able to practice ones spiritual beliefs should not be free. They should be relegated to those who can afford them so that the less fortunate and their helpless children have something to strive for.
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    Aug 21, 2009 6:06 PM GMT
    twomack said
    The public option is the looters option, let's get real.


    You're absolutely right! Same goes for parents who send their kids to public schools instead of private schools. Or people who go to church and never put in money in the collection plate! Being healthy, educated, and able to practice ones spiritual beliefs should not be free. They should be relegated to those who can afford them so that the less fortunate and their helpless children have something to strive for.


    Unfortuantely, we do have a society that has an entitlement mindset. Just about everything is an unalienable right that they should not be required to work to get. I have heard a number of 43% for those of working age that do not contribute $1 to the tax system in the US. I am not sure of the accuracy of that number, but if it is even close then it is STAGGERING!

    I need to make a couple of comments here.

    Healthcare -- I do believe that kids should be covered without exception. Once you hit an age (say 18 or 21), that should end. Go out and become a productive member of society where you can either afford insurance, or at least contribute to the tax system that you are going to burden with your needs. We talk about uninsured. I am not aware of anyone that goes to a hospital emergency room (for a true emergency) that gets turned away. Also, every day when I go into the office, I pass a free clinic. Aren't these health care options for those who have no insurance? Or is it just not good enough for those that feel entitled?

    BTW, I heard on NPR yesterday that they put the number at about $300B annually that is fraudulantly charged to Medicare/Medicaid. Given the "efficiency" of this program, just think of the payday for crooks in the public option. I have also heard that we spend less than 1% of that total in systems and procedures to try and stop the fraud. Government heath--the white collar, modern day equivalent to a drug cartel.

    Public schools - Given the exorbident property taxes that we pay and all of the fees now required by "public" schools, if you were sending kids to school, you would think they are anything but free. Or maybe it is just once again where those that are productive in society gets soaked so that others can ride along.

    Religion - is a private matter and is typically funded privately, as it should be. I am not sure I have seen a chuch yet that charges admission at the door. While everyone should be able to practice their beliefs, I do not think that we should have to finance anothers belief.
  • Mepark

    Posts: 806

    Aug 21, 2009 6:15 PM GMT
    All that happened when the administration said they can compromise is they wanted to hear a response. And the response from Republicans was that they're not interested in anything/co-ops.
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    Aug 21, 2009 6:35 PM GMT

    patience yields many good things . . .

    lets stop this fast-food mentality and leave the guy alone.

    b787
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    Aug 21, 2009 7:03 PM GMT
    The President has lost my support, but not because I perceive him as on the wrong side of the line between realism and weakness, and not because I perceive him as being careless about his promises.

    People I respect compare this administration to the first Clinton term; a naive new President sideswiped by the realities of governance and just a little too flexible and not quite morally courageous enough. I happen to think that comparison is wrong.

    The President knows exactly what he is doing. Neither Karl Emanuel Metternich nor the President go to the toilet without a three-dimensional holographic map of how to get in and back out again. They are cynical to the point of being mechanical.

    People (not just progressives) voted to send Mr. Smith to Washington and they have now discovered that Mr. Smith turned out to be Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones plays by the numbers, likes to win, and wants to win again. Mr. Jones strategy is a calibrated and considered compromise between where his political strategists see the electorate going and the terms his backers are laying down for 2012.

    From what I can see President Obama turns out to have far more in common with Vladimir Putin than he does with Abraham Lincoln. At best he is an opportunist who plays precisely by the Bush 42 playbook without hauling around the exhausting burden of Bush's moral certitude or the deranged Vice President (we get Jerry Lewis instead of Emperor Palpatine).

    I disagree with those who prognosticate the decline of the American empire. We aren't witnessing the evolution of republican government into imperial amorality. The truth is much worse than that. We are witnessing the failure of democracy and the birth of technical oligarchy.

    President William Jefferson Clinton was our Boris Yeltsin, an affable doufus with good intentions and an engorged penis.

    The post-Glasnost period seems to have started in earnest with Bush-Cheney in 2000, and I suspect Cheney must have nursed along his thinking for most of the 70s and 80s until the opportunity finally arrived. It did arrive. Think of Al Gore as Jar Jar Binks. "Monsters out there, leaking in here. Weesa all sinking and no power."

    President Obama is doing absolutely nothing different. Technical oligarchy is simply the new business as usual. Welcome to the future.



  • jlly_rnchr

    Posts: 1759

    Aug 21, 2009 8:33 PM GMT
    jstrapguy said

    Unfortuantely, we do have a society that has an entitlement mindset. Just about everything is an unalienable right that they should not be required to work to get. I have heard a number of 43% for those of working age that do not contribute $1 to the tax system in the US. I am not sure of the accuracy of that number, but if it is even close then it is STAGGERING!

    I need to make a couple of comments here.

    Healthcare -- I do believe that kids should be covered without exception. Once you hit an age (say 18 or 21), that should end. Go out and become a productive member of society where you can either afford insurance, or at least contribute to the tax system that you are going to burden with your needs. We talk about uninsured. I am not aware of anyone that goes to a hospital emergency room (for a true emergency) that gets turned away. Also, every day when I go into the office, I pass a free clinic. Aren't these health care options for those who have no insurance? Or is it just not good enough for those that feel entitled?




    You pass a free clinic like the one depicted here? Remote Area Medical, founded for 3rd world countries? Listen to what the woman says about racking up an ER bill or suffering a heart attack. Should Americans be forced to make that decision? And have you ever gone to a free clinic? You'd likely have to take off all day from work to jump in line, and may not get seen. And, I may be wrong, but aren't most free clinics for STD testing. It's not like you can pop in and get an MRI.
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Aug 21, 2009 8:36 PM GMT
    jstrapguy saidtwomack said
    The public option is the looters option, let's get real.


    You're absolutely right! Same goes for parents who send their kids to public schools instead of private schools. Or people who go to church and never put in money in the collection plate! Being healthy, educated, and able to practice ones spiritual beliefs should not be free. They should be relegated to those who can afford them so that the less fortunate and their helpless children have something to strive for.


    Unfortuantely, we do have a society that has an entitlement mindset. Just about everything is an unalienable right that they should not be required to work to get. I have heard a number of 43% for those of working age that do not contribute $1 to the tax system in the US. I am not sure of the accuracy of that number, but if it is even close then it is STAGGERING!

    I need to make a couple of comments here.

    Healthcare -- I do believe that kids should be covered without exception. Once you hit an age (say 18 or 21), that should end. Go out and become a productive member of society where you can either afford insurance, or at least contribute to the tax system that you are going to burden with your needs. We talk about uninsured. I am not aware of anyone that goes to a hospital emergency room (for a true emergency) that gets turned away. Also, every day when I go into the office, I pass a free clinic. Aren't these health care options for those who have no insurance? Or is it just not good enough for those that feel entitled?

    BTW, I heard on NPR yesterday that they put the number at about $300B annually that is fraudulantly charged to Medicare/Medicaid. Given the "efficiency" of this program, just think of the payday for crooks in the public option. I have also heard that we spend less than 1% of that total in systems and procedures to try and stop the fraud. Government heath--the white collar, modern day equivalent to a drug cartel.

    Public schools - Given the exorbident property taxes that we pay and all of the fees now required by "public" schools, if you were sending kids to school, you would think they are anything but free. Or maybe it is just once again where those that are productive in society gets soaked so that others can ride along.

    Religion - is a private matter and is typically funded privately, as it should be. I am not sure I have seen a chuch yet that charges admission at the door. While everyone should be able to practice their beliefs, I do not think that we should have to finance anothers belief.


    Entitlement? I'm sorry we can't all be businessmen like yourself and talk out of our asses. Do you have any idea about any of the holes in your logic? Emergency rooms still charge you! My friend racked up a 10,000 hospital bill for breaking his collarbone. His collarbone! How is that even remotely affordable? And free clinics? One, free clinics can only do so much, and two, they are hardly capable of handling large amounts of people, not to mention they are not ubiquitous. I seriously question your 43 percent statistic, and frankly the people who evade taxes are mainly the uber rich white businessmen who launder money and hid it in Swiss bank accounts.

    You are missing the point of public education, health care, and sarcasm. We fund things like public education because we deem them as a society to be beneficial. We as a country do better when our people are educated. We as a country do better when our citizens are healthy. It's just about entitlement, it's about realizing that this country has a duty to look after its citizens and help out when needed. Go picket the agricultural or mining lobby for all the subsidies the government gives those businesses to survive.
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    Aug 21, 2009 11:08 PM GMT
    We fund things like public education because we deem them as a society to be beneficial.

    We also fund research on the migration of slugworms during winter months.

    Part of the point you are missings is all of this costs money. If healthcare and education are so important, then prioritize it and pay for it from the troves of money that we are already collecting.

    ...because we cannot afford to pay for everything your little bleeding heart might like.
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    Aug 22, 2009 3:55 PM GMT
    No offense to Ursa Major or anyone else:

    The Democrats have the White House, The Senate and the House of Representatives. They have a majority in all houses.

    They can do what ever they want and there is no way for Republicans to stop ANYTHING that they want to do. If things do not happen. do not blame Republicans. They have no say right now. None. They have no say. Anything that does not happen now is the fault of Demos. The Demos can do, and they have the votes, to do anything they want. This is not an R vs D thing. The Demos have a majority and can vote or pass anything they want and they have a Demo Pres to sign off.

    There is absolutely nothing stopping them from doing anything they want. So, it is no longer a Repub vs. Dem battle. Repubs have no say. Now, it is an internal fight between Demos, the right wing Blue Dogs that they ran to take Republican seats in normally Republican districts and more traditional liberal Demos. You brought them to the dance. Now, the Blue Dogs are biting back..But, you brought them to the dance. The Demos supported Blue Dogs to get elected. Now the Blue Dogs are fighting back.

    Quite a quandry. Have fun.

  • CuriousJockAZ

    Posts: 19136

    Aug 22, 2009 4:18 PM GMT
    jarhead5536 saidFor the record, I believe that healthcare is a human right, and should be free on demand at point of service, paid for by general taxation like police or fire services. Anything less is immoral to me...


    This sounds good in theory, but whether it is realistic is another story. Someone has to pay for the healthcare, and the government, much as they would like to think that money grows on trees, is not a bottomless pit full of cash.

    I agree that everyone should be entitled to healthcare, but where do you draw the line? Personally, I think the first place it should be is this ridiculous practice of giving illegal aliens free healthcare. This idea of people coming across the border and wondering into an emergency room and getting the same treatment as a tax paying American needs to be curtailed. The sooner we do that, the sooner perhaps some will stop coming here for freebies. I also disagree with the practice that if an illegal alien comes here and has a baby, that child is a U.S. citizen. Sorry, you should be a citizen of the country your parents are citizens of, otherwise this only encourages foreigners to come here for the sole purpose of having a child so that they are entitled to the benefits of U.S. citizenship. This seems ass-backwards to me.


    edited to add: I'm not saying that an illegal alien wondering into an emergency room who legitimately needs emergency care should be turned away. Obviously, every one deserves to be treated humanely and with compassion. However, once they are stabilized they should be returned to their country for proper care. It would actually be cheaper in the long run to put them on a plane back to where they came from, then it would be to keep treating them indefinitely here in the U.S.
  • CuriousJockAZ

    Posts: 19136

    Aug 22, 2009 4:31 PM GMT
    Mepark saidAll that happened when the administration said they can compromise is they wanted to hear a response. And the response from Republicans was that they're not interested in anything/co-ops.


    I don't think this is necessarily an accurate assessment at all. Republicans are not fighting this Health Care bill for the case of fighting it -- everyone wants Health reform. But they want it to be done right. Yes, there is urgency to getting it done, but Obama seems hell bent on getting it done -- period -- rather than taking the time to really get it done right. Someone above made the point, and it's so true, that the Democrats would like to blame the Republicans for this bill faltering, but that simply isn't going to fly. They have the votes to get it done if they really want THIS bill passed, but the fact is that many Democrats are also on the fence about this bill. They have the majority, so if they can't get something passed they only have themselves to blame.
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    Aug 22, 2009 4:46 PM GMT
    CuriousJockAZ saidI don't think this is necessarily an accurate assessment at all. Republicans are not fighting this Health Care bill for the case of fighting it -- everyone wants Health reform. But they want it to be done right.


    So the Republicans fought it when Clinton brought it up, under Bush they did zero to reform health care and now they are fighting it against reform again. In the last 16 years the Republicans have either fought health care reform when it was brought up by Democrats or flat out ignored it when they were in power. To claim they want health care reform is disingenuous at best.
  • CuriousJockAZ

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    Aug 22, 2009 4:59 PM GMT
    I think we are inching toward health reform and I suspect it will even get done in Obama's term. But, it's a massive overhaul that affects the entire economy. It has to be done right and it's going to take the cooperation of both parties to do that. Passing a bill of this magnitude is one thing, passing the right bill that works and is good for the American people as a whole is quite another.
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    Aug 22, 2009 5:18 PM GMT
    CuriousJockAZ saidI think we are inching toward health reform and I suspect it will even get done in Obama's term. But, it's a massive overhaul that affects the entire economy. It has to be done right and it's going to take the cooperation of both parties to do that. Passing a bill of this magnitude is one thing, passing the right bill that works and is good for the American people as a whole is quite another.


    It actually doesn't require the Republican party and since they have never shown interest in health care reform I am not sure why anyone is bothering to placate them.

    As for getting it right, there currently is a reasoned, civil, nationwide debate on health care reform between conservatives and liberals. It is just happening within the Democratic Party. The only thing Republicans have offered to the dialogue are obfuscation, lies and hysterics.