“Health care reform was the Barack Obama presidency’s main achievement, but it crippled his administration politically once it passed. Obamacare repeal has devoured the first year of the Trump presidency, with nothing to show for it. The country has bigger problems than its insurance system. It’s time for both parties to act like it.”
Before John McCain put yet another Republican health care plan on life support on Friday, I was going to do with the Graham-Cassidy legislation what I’ve done with previous Republican bills, and weigh the plausible ideas that it contains against its hastily rigged-up architecture and predictable G.O.P. stinginess.
But sometimes, when a party has spent most of a year producing health care bills that excite almost nobody and that even the senators voting for them can’t effectively defend, it’s worth stepping back and thinking about our national priorities.
This goes for both parties: not only the stepping-on-rakes Republicans, but the suddenly single-payer-dreaming Democrats. If Obamacare repeal is really dead for the year 2017, both left and right have a chance to shake their minds free of the health care debate and ask themselves: What are the biggest threats to the American Dream right now, to our unity and prosperity, our happiness and civic health?
I would suggest that there are two big answers, both of which played crucial roles in getting a carnival showman who promised to Make America Great Again elected president. First, an economic stagnation that we are only just now, eight years into an economic recovery, beginning to escape — a stagnation that has left median incomes roughly flat for almost a generation, encouraged populism on the left and right, and made every kind of polarization that much worse.
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