So what happened to the days when a Republican president could sound so
nonideological, and offer such a reasonable proposal?
Part of the answer is that the right-wing fringe, which has always been
around — as an article by the historian Rick Perlstein puts it, “crazy is a
pre-existing condition” — has now, in effect, taken over one of our two major
parties. Moderate Republicans, the sort of people with whom one might have been
able to negotiate a health care deal, have either been driven out of the party
or intimidated into silence. Whom are Democrats supposed to reach out to, when
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who was supposed to be the linchpin of any deal,
helped feed the “death panel” lies?
But there’s another reason health care reform is much harder now than
it would have been under Nixon: the vast expansion of corporate influence.
We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of
lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations
prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests
against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always
was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation,
dating mainly from the late 1970s.
And now that this system exists, reform of any kind has become
extremely difficult. That’s especially true for health care, where growing
spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in
Monday, August 31, 2009
Moderate Republican as an Oxymoron
Paul Krugman explains why President Nixon could offer a plan for health care that sounds a whole lot like today's Democratic plan: