Sunday, January 24, 2010

Noonan, Isaacson and Caro on Zakaria's program

It was quite a panel assembled today on Fareed Zakaria's Sunday cable program.  Mr. Zakaria typically focuses his CNN show upon foreign affairs, but today he turned his sites to the domestic political challenges of the Obama administration.

It was sort of a "Where did he go wrong and what should he do now?" theme addressed by three fine writers - Walter Isaacson, Peggy Noonan and Robert Caro

Mr. Caro's own ideological bent came beaming through today when he asserted, "If Obama backs away from healthcare, he will have lost his ideals." 

On a personal note, I am a huge fan of Mr. Caro's work on LBJ.  (I wish he'd complete his book on the final years of Johnson's life soon.)  However, some might take exception with his reference today, to the "fifty million" Americans without health insurance, for two reasons. 

First, many tend to use interchangeably, the notion of "care and insurance" as Mr. Caro did, which obscures the debate. 

Second, the "fifty million" figure needs to be deconstructed for veracity and put it into perspective for a nation of 308 million people.  I'll try here. 

When one looks at "the number" which appears to be closer to 45 million than 50 million, and subtracts from it, the number of people falling under one of the following conditions:
  • eligible for free or heavily subsidized health insurance, but won't take it
  • takes free or heavily subsidized health insurance but reports to census takers they have no insurance
  • can well afford traditional (non-subsidized) insurance, but chooses not to buy it
  • are not American citizens
. . . one ought to reduce the 45 (or 50) million number, by at least 30 million people according to an analysis by former White House economic advisor, Keith Hennessey.  What remains, is the number of uninsured we have a duty to worry about and help, but that number probably approaches 15 million people, not 50 million people.

We need not nationalize 1/6th of our economy against the wishes of most Americans -- to produce a feel good policy that does nothing to lower costs.  Market reforms, tort reforms, increased patient responsibility and other measures promulgated by conservatives would lower costs and improve the system, for all.

Walter Isaacson (author of a critical but engrossing biography of Henry Kissinger) may have made the most practical prescription on today's program when he concluded, "The country is best governed and transformed from the center."

In time we'll know if Mr. Obama will heed this advice and succeed, or choose to double down to please the far Left.