Krugman’s devastating critique of Obama’s health care plan

Yesterday in the NYT Paul Krugman wrote a stinging critique of Barack Obama’s non-compulsory, non-universal, non-subsidized giveaway to the big insurance corporations, and illustrates the right-wing lies he has been harping on to promote it.  The scariest part for me is that Krugman, one of few eminent economists whose opinion I respect, actually thinks Hillary’s plan is better and I thought that was a blatant capitulation to corporate power.

It is as I had feared: Obama lost his “audacity” when he allowed the handlers to takeover and has made so many rookie mistakes and strayed so far from the strong moral stances he once took that he has become an vague, non-committal equivocator like Hilary Clinton, except he has staked out the ground to the right of her.

From the New York Times:

The Mandate Muddle

By Paul Krugman
December 7, 2007

Imagine this: It’s the summer of 2009, and

President Barack Obama is about to unveil his plan for universal health

care. But his health policy experts have done the math, and they’ve

concluded that the plan really needs to include a requirement that

everyone have health insurance — a so-called mandate.

Without a mandate, they find, the plan will fall far short of

universal coverage. Worse yet, without a mandate health insurance will

be much more expensive than it should be for those who do choose to buy


But Mr. Obama knows that if he tries to include a mandate in

the plan, he’ll face a barrage of misleading attacks from conservatives

who oppose universal health care in any form. And he’ll have trouble

responding — because he made the very same misleading attacks on

Hillary Clinton and John Edwards during the race for the Democratic


O.K., before I go any further, let’s be clear: there

is a huge divide between Republicans and Democrats on health care, and

the Obama plan — although weaker than the Edwards or Clinton plans — is

very much on the Democratic side of that divide.

But lately Mr.

Obama has been stressing his differences with his rivals by attacking

their plans from the right — which means that he has been giving

credence to false talking points that will be used against any

Democratic health care plan a couple of years from now.

First is

the claim that a mandate is unenforceable. Mr. Obama’s advisers have

seized on the widely cited statistic that 15 percent of drivers are

uninsured, even though insurance is legally required.

But this

statistic is known to be seriously overstated — and some states have

managed to get the number of uninsured drivers down to as little as 2

percent. Besides, while the enforcement of car insurance mandates isn’t

perfect, it does greatly increase the number of insured drivers.


why talk about car insurance rather than looking at direct evidence on

how health care mandates perform? Other countries — notably Switzerland

and the Netherlands — already have such mandates. And guess what? They


The second false claim is that people won’t be able to afford the

insurance they’re required to have — a claim usually supported with

data about how expensive insurance is. But all the Democratic plans

include subsidies to lower-income families to help them pay for

insurance, plus a promise to increase the subsidies if they prove


In fact, the Edwards and Clinton plans contain more

money for such subsidies than the Obama plan. If low-income families

find insurance unaffordable under these plans, they’ll find it even

less affordable under the Obama plan.

By the way, the limitations

of the Massachusetts plan to cover all the state’s uninsured — which is

actually doing much better than most reports suggest — come not from

the difficulty of enforcing mandates, but from the fact that the state

hasn’t yet allocated enough money for subsidies.

Finally, Mr.

Obama is storing up trouble for health reformers by suggesting that

there is something nasty about plans that “force every American to buy

health care.”

Look, the point of a mandate isn’t to dictate how

people should live their lives — it’s to prevent some people from

gaming the system. Under the Obama plan, healthy people could choose

not to buy insurance, then sign up for it if they developed health

problems later. This would lead to higher premiums for everyone else.

It would reward the irresponsible, while punishing those who did the

right thing and bought insurance while they were healthy.

Read the full article here

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.