Saturday, October 04, 2008

Obama launches final assault on "the ownership society"

This blog has noted on multiple occasions that a key part of Obama's rhetorical project is to move this country's center to the left -- to portray redeployment of government resources to shore up the middle class as a matter of fairness, a restoration of balance, a renewed commitment to shared prosperity.

Now, aided by the cratering economy, he's opened an end-game assault to assert the corollary: that McCain's plans to further privatize healthcare, privatize social security, and pile up more tax cuts for the wealthy are "radical." The agenda of "the ownership society" is radical. It has denuded, by stages, the middle and working classes of core protections and resources.

Today Obama made this case in Newport News, Virginia with a detailed attack on McCain's health plan. Master of exposition, he explained how the plan would 1) give a tax break with one hand and a tax hike with the other; 2) make employee-provided healthcare more expensive by driving the young and healthy into the individual market; 3) drive businesses to drop their healthcare plans as they're stuck with older and sicker plan members and lose their tax deduction; and 4) gut strong state regulations by allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines, giving them an incentive to domicile in states with weak healthcare mandates. The result: a "radical" further erosion of existing health insurance:
So here's John McCain's radical plan in a nutshell: he taxes health care benefits for the first time in history; millions lose the health care they have; millions pay more for the health care they get; drug and insurance companies continue to profit; and middle class families watch the system they rely on begin to unravel before their eyes. Well, I don't think that's right. I don't think we should settle for health care that works better for drug and insurance companies than it does for hard working Americans. I don't think that's the change we need. We can do better than that.
Next, Obama tied this "radical" further privatization of healthcare (driving tens of millions from employer-based to individually purchased plans) to McCain's healthcare record and the overarching ideology of the "ownership society"to which McCain subscribes:
In the end, it's not surprising that Senator McCain's plan isn't a vast improvement on the same failed policies of these past eight years. Remember, Senator McCain voted against expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program - a program that provides health care for millions of children in need. He voted against protecting Medicare 40 times over the course of his career. And he supported a massive cut in Medicare that would have raised premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for seniors while weakening the care they depend on.

In other words, Senator McCain's plan reflects the same bankrupt philosophy he's subscribed to for the past three decades in Washington: take care of the healthy and wealthy, and good luck to everyone else. They call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Your job doesn't give you health care? The market will fix it. Pre-existing condition? Tough luck. Insurance company won't pay for your treatment? Too bad, you're on your own.
He also made the quite legitimate (contra connection between McCain's approach to healthcare and his longstanding support for banking deregulation:
Finally, what John McCain doesn't tell you is that his plan calls for massive deregulation of the insurance industry that would leave families without the basic protections you rely on. You may have heard about how, in the current issue of a magazine, Senator McCain wrote that we need to open up health care to - and I quote - "more vigorous nationwide competition as we have done over the last decade in banking." That's right, he wants to deregulate the insurance industry just like he fought to deregulate the banking industry. And we've all seen how well that worked out.
He went on to describe in detail how the "race to the bottom" would work if health insurance companies were free to bypass tough state insurance mandates.

This is the ultimate red meat for Democrats. In the next month, Obama should be using all his verbal gifts to make the Republicans "own their failure," as he put it in his Convention speech. That means reclaiming the center. Bush is a radical. Cheney is a radical. McCain is a radical. The ownership society means "you're on your own." "I'm always for less regulation" means "anything goes" for businesses. Poll numbers in the 20s for Bush and an on the question "is the country moving in the right direction" show that Americans have bought the basic outlines of this critique since shortly after Katrina. It's time to reap that harvest.

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