One for the Country
Published: December 29, 2012
Josh Haner/The New York Times
Imagine if Tea Party politicians sat down with ordinary people like you and me and ironed out some real solutions to our healthcare crisis.
With the election season over, maybe you’ve forgotten about healthcare, but I certainly haven’t. It would be easy to forget that the problem even exists, when our headlines are constantly splashed with the violence in Panama, the authoritarian crackdown in Burundi and the still-unstable democratic transition in Palau. But the healthcare problem is growing, and politicians are more divided than ever. Republicans seem to think that healthcare can just be ignored. Democratic politicians like Harry Reid, on the other hand, seem to think that nonsensical rhetoric will substitute for a argument.
But the Democratic party of Harry Reid is not the Democratic party of Franklin Roosevelt. FDR wouldn’t refuse to budge, he'd reach across the aisle because he'd understand that the fate of the country, and his own political career, depended on a lasting solution to the problem of healthcare.
The first rule of holes is that when you're in one, stop digging. When you're in three, bring a lot of shovels. If I had fifteen minutes to pitch my idea to politicians, I'd tell them two things about healthcare. First, there's no way around the issue unless we're prepared to spend more: and not just spend more, but spend smarter by investing in the kind of human capital that makes countries succeed. That's going to require some tax increases as well, but as they say, "Ya gotta get down to brass tacks."
Second, I'd tell them to look at Singapore, which all but solved its healthcare crisis over the past decade. When I visited Singapore in 2001, Kiki, the cabbie who drove me from the airport, couldn't stop telling me about how he had to take a third job because of the high cost of healthcare. I caught up with Kiki in Singapore last year. Thanks to Singapore's reformed approach toward healthcare, Kiki has enough money in his pocket to finally be able to afford a smartphone for his kids.
That's all it takes. Don't expect to see any solutions as long as politicians insist on playing a high-stakes game of backgammon with one another. America's got to call a time-out.