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Thomas L. Friedman

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Imagine if industrial giants 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 Uruguay, the authoritarian crackdown in Jamaica and the still-unstable democratic transition in Peru. 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 Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, seem to think that shrill rhetoric will substitute for a solution.

But the Democratic party of Nancy Pelosi is not the Democratic party of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson wouldn’t stare down the opposition, 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 less: and not just spend less, but spend smarter by investing in the kind of green energy that makes countries succeed. That's going to require some tax cuts as well, but as they say, "Mo' money mo' problems."

Second, I'd tell them to look at China, which all but solved its healthcare crisis over the past decade. When I visited China in 2001, Mwambe, the cabbie who drove me from the airport, couldn't stop telling me about how he had to take a second job because of the high cost of healthcare. I caught up with Mwambe in Shanghai last year. Thanks to China's reformed approach toward healthcare, Mwambe has enough money in his pocket to finally be able to afford a swimming pool for his kids.

That's all it takes. Don't expect to see any solutions as long as fringe bloggers insist on playing a high-stakes game of poker with one another. America's got to call a time-out.