The public option as a signalIf you are a real political junkie, you might enjoy Krugman's op-ed in the NY Times where he identifies three approaches to health care and points out how the US is taking a path similar to Switzerland.
Look, it is possible to have universal care without a public option; Switzerland does. But there are some good reasons for the prominence of the public option in our debate.
One is substantive: to have a workable system without the public option, you need to have effective regulation of the insurers. Given the realities of our money-dominated politics, you really have to worry whether that can be done — which is a reason to have a more or less automatic mechanism for disciplining the industry.
The second is what the option debate says about Obama.
If progressives had real trust in Obama’s commitment to doing the right thing, the administration would have broad leeway to do deals. But the president doesn’t command that kind of trust.
Partly it’s a matter of style — as many people have noted, he has been weirdly reluctant to make the moral case for universal care, weirdly unable to show passion on the issue, weirdly diffident even about the blatant lies from the right. Partly it’s a spillover from his other policies: by appointing an economic team that’s Rubin redux, by taking such a kindly attitude to the banks, he has squandered a lot of progressive enthusiasm.
I must confess that I'm growing tired of the issue. It is like watching a train wreck. I've done my bit trying to alert people. But, at some point, you decide to give up and go back to the smaller concerns of your personal life. It reminds me of how the 1960s turned into the 1970s. Concerns went from large social issues to people narrowing their interests to "personal growth" and a wierd string of self help, personal realization, and finally wierd cults that swallowed up people. Sadly, it looks to me that Obama is single-handedly recreating this phenomenon by refusing to lead and instead trying to be the Great Uniter. (Wasn't the George Bush's self proclaimed title?)