Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

Why Expensive Health Care Is Ok--except It Isn't
April 10, 2009

During a panel discussion the other day, I mentioned that health care is going to bankrupt our society if we keep spending more and more money on it. It's a familiar refrain. Almost everybody involved with the health care debate says similar things. And yet, as I heard the words pass my lips for the gazillionth time, I couldn't help but think they weren't quite true. There is no iron law of economics that holds we can't spend 20, 30, or even 40 percent of our wealth on medical care. In the aggregate, it's a matter of choices and trade-offs.

Stimulus Without The "t"
April 10, 2009

If there's a no-brainer policy right now, it's expanding service on rail transit that already exists. As Matthew Yglesias has repeatedly noted, it puts people to work right away, whether as drivers, attendants, or maintenance workers; it disproportionately benefits less affluent Americans, who are more likely to rely on public transportation; it injects extra spending into the economy, since more riders means more commerce for all of the businesses around station stops; and, all the while, it helps the environment, since fewer cars on the road means fewer emissions.

Selling A Public Plan To The Skeptics
April 08, 2009

It’s been two years since political scientist Jacob Hacker, one of the nation’s most influential health care experts, briefed the leading Democratic presidential candidates on what has become his signature idea: Creating a public insurance plan into which Americans could voluntarily enroll. All three candidates--including Barack Obama--went on to embrace the idea as part of their schemes for universal coverage. Democratic leaders in Congress have followed suit. But not everybody likes the idea.

This Is Not Britain. For Better And For Worse.
April 07, 2009

Tony Blankley takes to the opinion pages of the Washington Times today, trotting out a familiar but frequently effective line of argument. We can't have universal health insurance, Blankley says, because then our system will end up looking like Britain's, where the government makes everybody wait for services and frequently denies potentially useful treatments. First the federal government would get regulatory power over insurance.

Soaking The Rich: Now With Cool Charts!
April 06, 2009

Following up on my previous item--about Clive Crook's latest column and, more generally, whether we can pay for major domestic programs with progressive taxes--I checked in with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. A key question underlying this debate is just how progresssive our tax system is now. Chuck Marr, who is the Center's Director of Federal Tax Policy, wrote back with the following: Keep in mind that income in the U.S. is more unequal than in other OECD countries. Part of why they pay a larger share is that they make a larger share.

Has Obama's Organizing Machine Flopped Already?
April 06, 2009

Barack Obama's organizing machine was supposed to do more than get him elected president.

Detroit's Unions Seem Ready To Deal. And The Creditors?
April 06, 2009

With Chrysler and General Motors scrambling to meet government deadlines for restructuring, you're going to hear a lot of talk about which stakeholders are making the necessary concessions--and whether the unions, in particular, are giving up enough. As I've written before, the United Auto Workers deserves its share of the blame for the industry's troubled state. But, to its credit, it has already made significant concessions. And, by most accounts, it has indicated a willingness to concede even more.

Will Soaking The Rich Go Too Far?
April 06, 2009

Clive Crook--one of my favorite conservative writers--has a new column in which he warns against raising taxes on the rich to finance new government spending, particularly health care. The reason? The U.S. tax code is already very progressive by international standards. Making the tax code even more progressive will, Crook says, push it even more to that extreme. Mr. Obama intends to squeeze the rich, but the scope for this may be more limited than US liberals would wish.

Reconciliation Rules For Health Care?
April 03, 2009

If you like majority rule in the Senate, health care reform, or both, there's some very encouraging news over at The Treatment. --Jonathan Cohn 

Hill Sources: Reconciliation Likely To Survive Conference
April 03, 2009

If you believe in majority rule, health care reform, or both, I have some good news. Some well-placed sources on Capitol Hill* are saying it's likely that the final budget resolution will include "reconciliation instructions" for health care, effectively making it impossible for Republicans to filibuster reform. As you probably know by now, the House and Senate passed their respective budget resolutions on Thursday. And one of the few key differences was a proposal that would allow use of the reconciliation to pass health care reform, thereby limiting the time of debate and amendments.