There have been far too many pundits on my teevee telling me that Obama can't make a move on health care right now because the economy's in bad shape. It's ridiculous, and I wish that they'd just come right out and say that they oppose universal health care instead of saying that it has to be, once again, pushed to the back-burner.
Paul Krugman's column in the NY Times today takes on the subject of why Obama hasn't already talked about health care and makes some interesting points. Indeed, there aren't too many pundits who have said that the economy just can't handle the 200-some-odd-billion dollar tax cuts that are in the House stimulus package (with even more expected in the Senate version!), but Obama's health care plan, proposed during the campaign, would cost about $104 billion and they're all whining about how we simply can't afford that right now.
The real question is, as Krugman points out, how can we afford not to increase health care access right now? People are losing their jobs right and left, and, with that, their health care coverage. Which means that we're going to have more people go without seeing doctors, getting sicker, and then putting more strain on ER's. Then doctors and other medical professionals are going to feel their budgets tighten up because of the decreased amount of business, in the same downward spiral that affects other segments of the economy more quickly as a country falls into a recession.
But the folks in the media, who I'm sure think that they themselves are "Real Americans," are generally millionaires who don't have to worry about what will happen if they get injured, get a serious illness, or have a close family member who has any of that happen to them. They don't wonder about how they're going to pay for those medical bills, if they'll have to file for bankruptcy if they get sick, or if they'll lose their homes and everything they own because of an injury or illness. They don't worry about how they're going to find work, or if they're going to be eligible for another medical plan because now they have a preexisting condition.
They're millionaires, the last group of the American population who'll ever have to worry about health care. But they should be worried, because health care is the foundation of American infrastructure. People can't work if they're not healthy, which means they can't be creative, they can't innovate, and they can't start up new businesses. The American economy, like all other economies, depends on people, and people who are sick don't work as well as people who are healthy. It isn't all that complicated of an economic argument.
But it would cost money, and with the going paradigm for understanding US spending in the media is the family budget (that is, we all have to tighten our belts and spend less in times of economic sluggishness), it's easy to say that health care is just too expensive for right now. It's the easy, and incorrect, response to the crisis that we're facing on the health care front.
Because without substantial health care reform, the problem doesn't just stay the same - it gets worse. And we were already at crisis level as tens of millions of Americans were uninsured when the economy was supposedly doing well.
Krugman's entire column on the immediacy of health care is worth the read.