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18 responses to “Global implications of US health care reform”

  1. Mercurius

    Netanyahu’s advisers thought that the young black lawyer from Chicago of no political pedigree and who had no business being POTUS; but who beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and then beat a bona-fide decorated Vietnam war hero and son of the establishment, against the most rabid right-wing hate machine ever assembled on US soil, and who then decided in the first year of his Presidency to attempt to accomplish what Presidents FDR, LBJ, Nixon and Clinton had failed to do — was weak?


  2. Sam

    Obama’s opponents have underestimated him from the get-go, to their cost.

    He’s pulled off the greatest domestic policy reform since the Civil Rights Act of 1965. (In the Vice Presidnet’s words, a “fucking big deal” – the T-shirts are already on sale.)

    Next: a great foreign policy victory.

    Defeating the Taliban? Stopping the Iranians getting nukes? Getting international agreement on carbon reduction? Nah, that’s small potatoes.

    Beating Netanyahu into submission is the prize.

  3. Nickws

    I think Andrew Sullivan was making this very same argument on his blog and in the Murdoch press, but I didn’t pay close enough attention. Instead of t(oo)l(ong);d(idn’t)r(ead), I thought, “here we go again, the same old infatuation.”

    But as it’s Wexler saying this I can see how this analysis is fundamentally right.

    The first Bush administration famously told Israel to knock off the building of new settlements, an event which is now remembered as James Baker’s “fuck the Jews, they didn’t vote for us in the last election” moment.

    If Poppy Bush hadn’t ended up in the dustbin of history after one term, blamed for the recession by most Americans and loathed by sections of the US conservative movement for daring to raise taxes, then I can how imagine Baker’s brutal utilitarianism might have won out over the neocons in the foreign policy councils of the Republican Party.

  4. patrickg

    Crikey, that’s a pretty long bow for a bunch of un-named sources.

  5. tssk

    One of the reasons they might have thought of Obama as a one termer might be less to do with percieved weakness and more to do with concern about him not being assinated.

    Check this out at http://www.metafilter.com/90385/They-probably-refer-to-themselves-as-Freedom-Fighters

    Following the vote on Sunday, Mike Troxel of the Lynchburg Tea Party posted the address of what he thought was Dem Rep Tom Perriello, with the comment that activists should add a “personal touch” to their anger at Periello — who voted yes on the health care bill — by going to his house. It turns out the address was actually Perriello’s brother’s house, and the FBI are currently investigating the cut gas line that was discovered the next day.

    From TPM – “Another tea party activist who reportedly posted Periello’s brother’s address online, Nigel Coleman of the Danville Tea Party, wrote in a blog comment after learning about the mistaken address: ‘Do you mean I posted his brother’s address on my Facebook? Oh well, collateral damage.’ ”

    As some of the posters on that thread said…if the US media is so liberal why is this sort of thing being ignored rather than being called what it is? If some bearded hippy had done this during Bush’s term we’d be getting all sorts of calls to lock up every hippy and Grateful Dead fan from coast to coast.

    And at the risk of Godwining

    There have been several other vandalism attacks in the wake of the vote, but many involve thrown bricks and smashed windows at the most. Mike Vanderboegh of the Alabama Constitutional Militia has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, and said in an online posting, “And if we do a proper job, if we break the windows of hundreds, thousands, of Democrat Party headquarters across this country, we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary.”

  6. Wozza

    This is an unanswerable question, of course, till time tells us the answer, but, if we’re speculating, a number of commentators seem to be taking the opposite view – that the healthcare stoush will be a negative for foreign policy – with arguments that seem at least as convincing as the ones Robert adduces for the affirmative. Points like:

    – healthcare is seen overseas as the latest manifestation of an administration heavily emphasising domestic policy at the expense of foreign policy. It has already directly damaged foreign policy interests, albeit in a minor way, in the postponement of the Asia trip. This domestic fixation is unlikely to change this side of the November elections, which may well lead to a weaker administration.

    – it has, ironically given his campaign rhetoric of restoring consensus, cemented Obama’s place as one of the most polarising Presidents in recent American history. With 60% of the electorate opposing the healthcare bills, the Republicans are going to become more not less recalcitrant in their wake. This is not a plus for foreign policy which has been (relatively) bipartisan in the past.

    – foreign policy success depends on having well conceived and realistic foreign policy goals and strategies. This has got nothing to do with the success or lack of success of healthcare. Obama’s mid-east policy, in particular, is no less incoherent for the healthcare victory.

    – a main issue in the assessment of the US overseas has been the enormous increase in debt under Obama, and its implications. Taking on another hugely expensive program will not help that. Mark Steyn (yes, I know, but I like quoting from sources that people might froth over) foresees massive defence cuts and the end of America’s role as he ultimate guarantor of the post-war global order.

    I don’t necessarily support all of these points, particularly the last, but in the interests of an argument….

  7. tssk

    I counter the last by pointing out long term that putting money into the proper health of your citizens stabilises your economy. How many people who could make an economic contribution were either stuck in limbo or died from preventable causes?

    How much time gets wasted right now on health issues that other countries competing with the US in the global marketplace don’t have to deal with?

    I don’t know that Obama will see the improvements in his two terms (if he gets voted in.) But long term he has given a gift to the US.

  8. jane

    There’s something very wrong with the American far right, I mean even more so than what you’d expect from RWDBs. What a poisonous bunch of weirdos.

  9. Sam


    “With 60% of the electorate opposing the healthcare bills”

    Of whom, 13% think they don’t go far enough.

    “the Republicans are going to become more not less recalcitrant in their wake”.

    Maybe, maybe not. The Republicans are going through the 5 stages of grief. In the lead up to the vote, they were in denial. Now they are angry.

    They might come to realise that (i) they don’t have the numbers and (ii) the majority of the electorate will be less than impressed by the sight of them acting like two year olds with Asperger’s Syndrome. At which point, they might try to deal to deal themselves in to the legislative process by acting reasonably.

    The implications of the US’s likely inability to continue to spend gazillions on defence is actually a real issue. Please come back with a serious source of commentary.

  10. Wozza

    Sam: “Of whom 13% think [the healthcare bills] don’t go far enough”.

    I see – that means only 47% of the American population oppose the entire policy direction represented by the healthcare initiative, which completely negates the point that Obama is a polarizing President and its implications for continuing problems in achieving almost anything?

    You might of course be right that the Republicans will come round – we’ll just have to wait and see – but frankly I don’t think that psycho-babble about the 5 stages of grief cuts much ice in the real political world.

    I agree that that the likely implications of the US budget situation for defence strategy is a real issue – I just don’t think the healthcare spending fundamentally alters that. The hole had been well and truly dug already by Obama’s spendthriftery (with some assistance from his predecessor). As for providing “a serious source of commentary”, I suspect that your thinking and mine on what constitutes a serious source are very different. You might try the US Joint Forces Command recent strategic outlook:

    “For over six decades the U.S. has underwritten the “hidden export”of global security for the great trading nations of the world, yet global and domestic pressures will dramatically impact the defense budget in the face of rising debt and trade imbalances. This may diminish this service which is of great benefit to the international community. In this world, new security exporters may rise, each having opinions and objectives that differ from the global norms and conventions that we have encouraged since our own emergence as a great power a century ago. Moreover, they will increasingly have the power to underwrite their own not-so-hidden export of military power. Unless we address these new fiscal realities we will be unable to engage in this contest on terms favorable to our nation.”

    Though they don’t provide any responses to this description of the problem.


  11. Sam

    Wozza: contrary to your assumption, I do take the US Forces Joint Command seriously. These people are professionals.

    On the polarisation, for months Obama tried to deal with the Republicans, and they threw it back in his face. It’s hardly his fault that they adopt extremist positions after taking their cues from Fox News. The duly elected majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate passed some legislation, as happens all the time in parliaments around the world, including ours. Why this is problem beats me. Are the Republicans supposed to have some right to blackball any legislation they don’t like? Apparently they think they do, but this makes no sense on any level.

    And we’ll see how long the residual opposition to the health care bills lasts. Once people get to realise that Grandma isn’t going to be exterminated by Death Panels and that the insurance companies will no longer be able to capriciously exclude them from coverage, I predict that they’ll come to accept it, avid viewers of Fox News excepted, of course.

  12. derrida derider

    The lines that long-term the US is in deep fiscal doo-doo, that this must eventually affect its ability to throw its weight around, and that foreigners know this so are adjusting their attitudes accordingly are all correct.

    However this has almost nothing to do with Obama – the bailout and stimulus measures are basically one-offs that will effectively disappear from the Budget with economic recovery. For the locked-in structural problems try looking at the huge and permanent GWB tax cuts, the 2003 Medicare Part D bill and the “drown the beast in a bathtub” strategy of the small-government Right that wants to use politically popular tax cuts now in the hope that fiscal reality will force extremely unpopular spending cuts later (that such large cuts would most likely be in the US military does not seem to have occurred to them).

    All impartial health economists expect the current bill to save the US government money (basically the wider insurance coverage reduces Medicare and other government health costs) and the independent Congressional Budget Office – the body that does the official budget costings – agrees.

  13. Wozza


    Yeah, well, we could debate forever who is most to blame for the current and projected US deficits – especially if we are already bringing into play phrases like “all impartial health economists” which generally means “all health economists who agree with me” – and not shed any more light on the actual subject of the thread, the healthcare bills and foreign policy. Not playing, sorry.

    I can’t let you get away unchallenged with “this has almost nothing to do with Obama” though. If Congress approves his current budget, Obama’s deficit spending will total $3.5 trillion for the first half of his first term. Bush’s deficit spending totaled $2.9 trillion over 8 years. Yes that sentence on its own is very simplistic, yes Bush has good deal to answer for – but Obama almost nothing at all in the face of those figures? You gotta be kidding.

  14. Sam

    Obama is spending money that was committed by Bush (to bail out the big banks) and to clean up after Bush (the recession he bequeathed.) What was he supposed to do, let the US fall into a depression? But as DD says, that will go away when the US economy recovers.

    Bush’s contribution to deficit, especially the tax cuts, is structural and permanent until someone does something about it. Obama could try to fix this by raising taxes back to where they were, but the Republicans would object, and so that would be divisive. Can’t have that.

  15. Wozza

    Sam, I don’t think it’s worth either of our whiles arguing fault. It’s rather more complex as I think we both know than a simple blame Obama, no blame Bush, dichotomy.

    But there is one thing that is certain: it is simply not plausible that the problem “will go away when the US economy recovers”. I have a bridge to sell you if you think it is. See the projected continuing deficits out to 2020,in this table, far, far higher than anything seen prior to 2009, and even that is in the unlikely event that this administration resists its natural urges towards even more spending.


  16. Sam

    Wozza, I said, I thought clearly, that Bush created a structural deficit with his tx cuts that won’t go away, so I’m not sure what our argument is.

  17. Chookie

    I agree, tssk — if someone doesn’t manage a pot-shot at Obama some time during his presidency, I’ll be very surprised, and I can imagine that some foreign leaders might perceive him as a temporary American with all those armed RWDBs running around.

    However, Wozza, I disagree that Obama is fixated on the domestic or that he is perceived that way. It’s hardly a secret that the US health system is cactus and is driving the country broke, or that the obstructionism of the Republicans is unprecedented. And yes, he polarises people, but he’s black — and that’s a big issue over there (Remember the reports of black people dancing in the streets when he was elected? Reckon they did that for Clinton?). He has some big domestic issues to deal with, and the rise of the foaming acolytes of Beck is not helping.

    OTOH I do agree that the US doesn’t seem to have thought-through foreign policy goals, but it didn’t under Dubya either. Confusion is not impotence.

  18. Wozza

    Sam, my argument is with the notion that Bush created the entire longterm deficit problem and Obama’s spendathon, now exacerbated by the healthcare “success”, has had nothing to do with it, which is patently absurd. But, yes, my last comment was less than clear, sorry – I was trying to avoid provoking a pointless “did, didn’t” exchange about apportioning US domestic political blame when the thread is about the global implications of the healthcare bills. Pussyfooting is not my forte.