Tuesday, June 16, 2015

President Obama’s Character and the Road to Health Reform

This last weekend I read The Road to Character by David Brooks (Random House, 2015, 300 pages). Brooks is a New York Times columnist and a regular on the PBS NewsHour.

Mostly his book is about the shift in American culture since World War Ii from one of self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-effacement, humility, and communities uniting behind a common cause – to a culture of selfies, self-expression, facebook gossip, self-expression, rampant individualism, and self-serving entrepreneurship.

Of this transformation, Brooks comments “We have seen a broad shift of culture what might be called The Big Me into a culture that encourages people to think mainly of themselves as the center of the universe.”

As I soaked in these world. I thought of the character of President Obama and his efforts to reform American health care. It seems to me his intentions are noble. After all, ObamaCare is a crusade to protect the poor and make health care more affordable .

But instead, in the main, if you exclude the 20 million who have gained access to subsidized care through the health exchanges and Medicaid, health care has become unaffordable for vast swathes of the middle class. ObamaCare has raised premiums and deductibles, limited choice and access, and imposed mandates and penalties. Something has gone wrong with Obama’s “transcendental presidency” and his efforts to expand coverage, equalize outcomes, lower costs, improve quality, and to do it all in one fell swoop.

Why the uneven results of the health law?

Part of it may simply be trying to do too much too soon given limited resources. Part of it may be you can’t turn around the Queen Mary (the $3 trillion medical-industrial complex) on a dime, or, for that matter, in a decade. Part of it may a spoiled American people with their penchant for simultaneous individualism, unlimited access to the best, and government dependency ( I want what I want when I want it while the sun shines). Part of it may be the American legal system with its quest for million dollar Casino jackpots at the end of rainbow.

And, part of it may be President Obama’s character: his narcissistic self-centerness; his rhetoric about cooling the ear, stopping sea level rises, and changing the climate; his self-isolation in a White House bubble surrounded by sycophants; his frequent signals that he is unwilling to compromise his ideological beliefs; his purposeful and transparent dislike for the other branches of government, the opposing political party, and business and medical interests; and his disinclination to establish relationships with members of his own political party.

In her June 14 New York Times column, “Flickering Greatness,” Maureen Down, a staunch long-time ally, describes the current situation succinctly, “The Obama White House has managed Congress poortly, with arrogance – or even worse, neglect. –Obama castes him as a man alone in the arena, refusing to let Democrats sand on the stage at key moments or even given them a lift in his memo.”

In the end, ObamaCare may succeed because of its need and its nobility of purpose. But it may fail because of flaws in Obama’s character.

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