“I want to make change but I’ve already made change. I’m not just running on a promise of change — I’m running on 35 years of change.”
Update: It’s interesting to read the transcript. Edwards did the best, I think; if the press were willing to admit he existed he might do better. The end of the debate ended up being focused on economic issues, and that’s an area where Edwards really speaks with more passion and conviction than the other candidates. No idea if that would translate into more policy success, though.
Obama did next-best. Hilary came in third; I think her willingness to be driven by what the polls say (“mention the word “change” every sentence!”) was a little lame. Richardson came off as grumpy (“what’s wrong with experience?,” he complained).
Obama annoyed me with his discussion of health care.
We do have a philosophical difference. John and yourself believe that if we do not mandate care — if we don’t force the government to get — to — if the government does not force taxpayers to buy health care, that we will penalize them in some fashion. I disagree with that because as I go around town hall meetings, I don’t meet people who are trying to avoid getting health care; the problem is they can’t afford it. [...]
[...] the reason that I mandate for children is because children do not have a choice. Adults do, and it’s my belief that they will choose to have health care if it is affordable.
So are we to take it that as Obama goes around town hall meetings, he meets parents who are trying to avoid getting health care for their kids?
If you don’t have a “mandate” of some sort, some people won’t buy health insurance, for whatever reason: Because they’re young and healthy and don’t know that they’ll be diagnosed with diabetes or hit by a bus next year, because they’re cheap, because they hate big corporations and big government, whatever. Obama recognizes that when it comes to insuring children; some parents won’t “choose to get health care” for the kids “even if it is affordable,” which is why Obama favors a mandate. But it’s duplicitous to recognize this fact when talking about insuring kids, but pretend that this fact has gone away while talking about insuring adults.
Now, there is an honest argument against mandates, which isn’t “there’s no need for a mandate, because everyone wants insurance if they can afford it” but “we shouldn’t have a mandate, because we should let people be uninsured if they don’t want insurance.” But Obama didn’t make that argument. By attacking “mandates,” however, he certainly is helping to legitimize Republican talking points against Clinton’s and Edwards’ plans.
By the way, I’m for mandates. The large majority of those who choose not to buy affordable health insurance are those who believe they’re never going to be sick (or at least, not for years to come); and when those uninsured people get sick, or get into accidents, they’ll be left with no choice but to draw on a health system they haven’t been paying into. Like social security, decent health coverage has to be universal, because it only works if everyone pays into it.
As for the claim that the government will “will penalize them in some fashion,” referring to those who don’t get mandated health insurance — the phrase is a scary one, and one I’m sure the Republicans will be using a lot. A more specific statement, that would have actually helped the voters understand the issue, is that under a mandated health insurance plan, those who don’t enroll in a health insurance plan will be enrolled in one by the government, and they’ll have to pay for it just like every other American does. Everyone pays a little more, in exchange for universal health care. That’s what universal health care is; it doesn’t work if we give some people the right to be free riders, benefiting from the system but not contributing to it.
Update the second: By the way, we just had a debate with the four leading Democratic nominees — and only one is a white man.