The Democrats’ Dilemma

With wars, terrorism, and a recession, Howard Fineman worries:

Given the urgency of those challenges, underscored by the Nigerian bomber, was it wise for the president to spend most of his first year and political capital on a monumentally complicated overhaul of the nation’s health-care system? And will the results of that gamble—not fundamental reform, but rather an expensive set of patches, bypasses, and trusses bolted onto the existing system—improve the lives of Americans enough to help him or his fellow Democrats politically?

Fineman’s point is especially well taken, given the fact that all the Democrats have been able to come up with is a monstrous tax-and-spend bill, which the public hates. Fineman sounds peculiarly like Obama’s conservative critics:

The result is a 10-year, trillion-dollar contraption full of political risk and unintended consequences for a health-care system that constitutes one sixth of the economy. Many of the people who will benefit directly from the reforms, the uninsured, don’t vote. Insurance premiums will continue to shoot up for most of us; Democrats fret that they will be blamed for those increases in the 2010 elections. Some regulations on the industry kick in immediately, but most don’t begin until at least 2013. And yet, to allow the bill to “save” money in the first decade, most new taxes and fees go into effect immediately. “We’re collecting money before we’re giving all the benefits!” lamented a Democratic senator facing reelection. “That is a political disaster.”

While it is true that Obama isn’t up for re-election, many Democrats are. They might consider Fineman’s warning that “even simple things in government never go as planned; a project as large and complex as his health-care ‘fix’ is certain to be more costly and disruptive than anticipated, and in ways no one can predict.” So why risk it? Why not get back to the business of spurring an economic recovery, defending Americans, and showing that they are not big spending, fiscally irresponsible, ultra liberals? (Well, unless they actually are, and in that case, that would be the root of the problem.) Many Democrats will be mulling over their options: jump ship or get pulled under in a wave election in 2010? If the new Newsweek can figure out which option makes sense, certainly some of them should also be able to.

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The Democrats’ Dilemma

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