Memo to President Obama

Six things you must do to save universal healthcare

Topics: Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President:

Momentum for universal healthcare is slowing dramatically on Capitol Hill. Moderates are worried, Republicans are digging in, and the medical-industrial complex is firing up its lobbying and propaganda machine.

But, as you know, the worst news came days ago when the Congressional Budget Office weighed in with awful projections about how much the leading healthcare plans would cost and how many Americans would still be left out in the cold. Yet these projections didn’t include the cost savings that a public option’s bargaining power could generate to lower drug prices, doctor fees, and hospital costs, and force private insurers to be more competitive. Projecting the future costs of universal healthcare without including the public option is like predicting the number of people who will get sunburns this summer if nobody is allowed to buy sun lotion. Of course the costs of universal healthcare will be huge if you leave out the most important way of controlling them.

If you want to save universal healthcare, you must do several things, and soon:

1. Go to the nation. You’re not only a powerful orator; you’re also capable of motivating, energizing, and mobilizing the American public. You must go on the road — building public support by forcefully making the case for universal health care everywhere around the country. The latest Wall Street Journal poll shows that three out of four Americans want universal healthcare. But the vast majority don’t know what’s happening on the Hill, don’t know how much money the medical-industrial lobbies are spending to defeat it, and have no idea how much demagoguery they’re about to be exposed to. You must tell them. And don’t be reluctant to take on those vested interests directly. Name names. They’ve decided to fight you. You must fight them.

You Might Also Like

2. Be LBJ. So far, Lyndon Johnson has been the only president to defeat the American Medical Association and the rest of the medical-industrial complex. He got Medicare and Medicaid despite their cries of “socialized medicine” because he knocked heads on the Hill. He told Congress exactly what he wanted, cajoled and threatened those who resisted, and counted noses every hour until he had the votes he needed. When you’re not on the road, you have to be twisting congressional arms and drawing a line in the sand. Be tough.

3. Forget the Republicans. Forget bipartisanship. Universal healthcare can pass with 51 votes. You can get 51 votes if you give up on trying to persuade a handful of Republicans to cross over. Eight years ago George W. Bush passed his huge tax cut, mostly for the wealthy, by wrapping it in an all-or-nothing reconciliation measure and daring Democrats to vote against it. You should do the same with healthcare.

4. Insist on a real public option. It’s the lynchpin of universal healthcare. It’s one thing to give up on single payer, and say that a public option is the best feasible alternative. But further compromise would essentially gut any healthcare plan. Don’t accept Kent Conrad’s ersatz public option masquerading as a “healthcare cooperative.” Cooperatives won’t have the authority, scale, or leverage to negotiate low prices and keep private insurers honest.

5. Demand that taxes be raised on the wealthy to ensure that all Americans get affordable healthcare. Not even a real public option will hold down costs enough to make healthcare affordable to most American families in years to come. So you’ll need to tax the wealthy. Don’t back down on your original proposal to limit their deductions. And support a cap on how much employee-provided healthcare can be provided tax free. Yes, you opposed this during your campaign. But you have no choice but to reverse yourself on this. These are the only two big pots of money.

6. Put everything else on hold. As important as they are, your other agenda items — financial reform, home mortgage mitigation, cap-and-trade legislation — pale in significance relative to universal healthcare. By pushing everything at once, you take the public’s mind off the biggest goal, diffuses your energies, blur your public message, and fuel the demagogues who say you’re trying to take over the private sector. You have to win this.

 

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His new movie "Inequality for All" is in Theaters. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>