The Problem with the Health Care Debate

Keith Hennessey engages Barack Obama.  I would like to see someone on Obama's side engage Keith Hennessey.  Perhaps the health care debate will never be reasonable, for reasons that Uwe Reinhardt gives.

I have a similar, but shorter explanation.


As individuals, we want unlimited access to medical services without having to pay for them. But collectively, we want a sustainable system in which costs do not spiral out of control. Those desires are not compatible, but politicians are tempted to pretend otherwise.

The proponents of any health care reform tend to promise a free lunch--controlling costs without restricting access or giving individuals more responsibility for paying for care. President Obama and his supporters fall squarely within this tradition. Having taken this demagogic approach to selling reform, they have no business complaining about the low quality of the health care debate. 

I'll know that President Obama's supporters are ready to raise the level of the debate when they are willing to engage people like Hennessey.

Presented by

Arnold Kling

Arnold Kling earned his Ph.D in economics at MIT. He was an economist on the staff of the Federal Reserve Board. From 1986-1994 he worked at Freddie Mac. He started Homefair.com in 1994 and sold it in 1999. His fourth book, From Poverty to Prosperity, co-authored with Nick Schulz, is due out in April of 2009. He blogs regularly at Econlog.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Business

Just In