The Problem with the Health Care Debate

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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.

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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.
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