Thursday, December 20, 2007

Readers Respond to Krugman's Attack on the Big Table Approach

The NY Times today has seven letters responding to Krugman's criticism of Obama's inclusive approach, particularly when it comes to health care. Six of the letters support Obama's position, raising some similar points to those I mentioned in a previous post. Here are some highlights from the letters:

Many progressives would agree that the wealthy and corporate interests have undue influence over public policy, and that bold action is necessary to minimize that influence and change public policy for the better. But there is no consensus that we should move to a national one-payer health care system, or that we must eschew the benefits of technology and drug innovation to improve health care availability. So it is not clear that the politics of exclusion will produce a solution that works or is desirable.
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Lincoln, Kennedy and Johnson all practiced the politics of inclusion to overcome the ills arising from the factionalism and the special and corporate interests of their time.
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The “big table” is at the heart of our American politic, serving as a place where the arguments of the contenders can be discovered and, in some cases, exposed.
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I think Senator Barack Obama is right: Invite the insurance and drug companies to the table. If and when they try to sabotage reform, doctors, nurses, patient advocates, unions, corporate benefit managers and every other interested party will be there to point the finger at the problem.
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Paul Krugman calls Barack Obama “na├»ve” for emphasizing the need for reconciliation. But there may be an alternative explanation for the senator’s rhetoric. Perhaps Mr. Obama is simply shrewd enough to know the kind of message he must send to get elected. And that says to me that Mr. Obama, like Roosevelt, knows plenty about politics.
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Historically populism has failed as a unifying national platform in part because Americans tend to dislike “class warfare.” Also, policy change is most likely, and most likely to succeed, when it is incremental.

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