"Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If private—if private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality healthcare, if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical."
Obama knows what he's talking about. He clearly understands what he's talking about. Which is why the Left should push the public debate even further.
He understands the flaw in the central right-wing narrative about government programs and markets. The right-wing narrative goes something like this:
The market (read: big business) comes up with the best solutions to all of our needs; government-run anything (besides government-run bombings and surveillance programs) is doomed to fail, since the bureaucracy of what they call "big government" creates contradictions and inefficiencies (correct, of course); finally, government programs, in addition to creating havoc in their own programs, negatively affects the free market as well.
Obama rightly points out that if an industry really offered a good product or if the product offered by a government program was really that bad, and if the market is really such a competitive place, then people would purchase the better product (in the Right's view, non-government products) and shy away from the inferior product (the government produced one).
Obama sees the flaw in the market fundamentalism of the Right, while putting forth his own liberal market mythology that the failures of the market can be corrected by big government. To be able to do this, he clearly has a grasp of how markets work – and don't work. The Left should put forth a third paradigm: that "representative" government and market-based economics are both incapable of delivering maximum efficiency and good products.
Here's what we should propose:
1. We should stand by Obama's claim that if the healthcare coverage market is so competitive, then a government run healthcare program shouldn't be a threat to insurance companies. If, on the other hand, it is like we all suspect, and that the health insurance industry is fundamentally broken and that vast inefficiencies and fraud exist, then a well-run government healthcare program should be more desirable option for millions of Americans.
2. We should take the conservative (actually a libertarian left) critique to heart. On all issues – from defence and security, to healthcare and housing, to education and food, centralized government is a problem. Therefore, we should turn the conservative critique on its head and demand more government programs, with an added demand of localized control of those programs. We should demand localized, democratic control of a national healthcare plan. Take healthcare out of the hands of both corporations and government bureaucrats and coordinators. The people, their healthcare providers, and medical scientists know what's best for our health and welfare. Corporate interests and government inefficiencies get in the way. Self-management and public (not state) ownership is the answer to our problems.
We should follow a similar strategy for all programs (stimulus packages, social programs, etc). Displace market and government inefficiencies with programs run and controlled directly by the people: government of, for, and by the people in practice.
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