Monday, August 24, 2009

Article Of The Week

Obviously, I'm not needed to point out that Paul Krugman's columns in The New York Times are worth reading, but today's, All the President's Zombies, is even a little more so than usual.

Krugman observes that the debate over the public option in health care reform has been bogged down, and its acceptance stymied, in part because "Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism- by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good." Citing the increased concentration of wealth among the wealthiest .01 percent of Americans, he notes the failure of Reaganomics

to deliver what it promised. Remember how lower taxes on high incomes and deregulation that unleashed the “magic of the marketplace” were supposed to lead to dramatically better outcomes for everyone? Well, it didn’t happen.

Failure to acknowledge the role of these economic ideas in the current economic crisis and our inadequate health care system can be attributed not only to conservative ideology but also, as Krugman recognizes, because "there's a lot of money behind them," "flowing" especially to Democratic and Republican Senators obstructing vital health reform.

But Krugman does not shield President Obama, always at pain to assure Americans that competition would not kill the health insurance industry, from blame. He reminds us that Obama- during the Democratic primary campaign (emphasis mine) compared himself (video below) to President Ronald Reagan. Soon after his interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, the newspaper endorsed Obama in the Nevada primary, which he barely lost in popular vote to Clinton, and barely won in delegates at the caucus held the same day. The editorial board commented

One can fairly describe Obama's philosophical optimism and charismatic manner as too idealistic, even a tad dreamy. But he also demonstrates the courage to stand his ground where necessary, willing, for instance, to salute both President John Kennedy and President Ronald Reagan as agents of change in times when the country needed change.

And what major change did President Ronald Wilson Reagan play a major role in bringing about? Joseph A. McCartin wrote in 2001

According to figures recently published by the Economic Policy Institute, over the past two decades wage inequality has widened continually between the highly paid 90th percentile of earners and middle-strata earners in the 50th percentile. Even the economic boom of the 1990s had no effect on narrowing that gap. The "Gini Index," by which economists measure relative rates of inequality, also climbed from .397 in the mid-1970s to .459 by the late 1990s. As the number of millionaires in the United States grew astronomically over the last twenty years, so too did the gap between wealthy Americans and working families.

This disturbing development is linked to the PATCO debacle, for President Reagan's unprecedented act of union-busting critically weakened the one entity best equipped to combat growing income inequality in the United States: organized labor. American unions have endured many heartbreaking losses in their history. But not since the infamous 1892 Homestead strike undermined unionism in the emerging mass production industries has any single defeat cast such a long historical shadow over organized labor. In some ways, the unions have yet to recover from the PATCO strike....

In the 20th century, a strong labor movement played a critical role in elevating the standard of living of not only its members, but tens of millions of nonunion workers who benefited from the rising wages and generous benefits won by unionized workers. It is no coincidence that as the labor movement's strength has declined, social inequality has advanced.

And this social inequality has been marked by a growing tendency of businesses to cut wages and health benefits, as well as declining real income of the middle class. President Reagan, praised by Barack Obama, is not totally to blame; nor is Barack Obama, president for barely more than half a year, at all responsible. Still, viewed in the context of a candidate enamored of a president adored by conservatives for his attacks on government, it is not surprising that the current president (well known for eloquence and persuasiveness) has failed to promote consistently and effectively the importance of a government option in health care.

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