Worst Meme Ever: Obama Wants Health Care Reform Because He's "Greedy"


Here's Peggy Noonan's latest column for the Wall Street Journal about Obama's "catastrophic" first year. I guess I just don't get it. Any of it. She writes:

The public in 2009 would have been happy to see a simple bill that mandated insurance companies offer coverage without respect to previous medical conditions. The administration could have had that--and the victory of it--last winter.

Instead, they were greedy for glory.

What does that even mean?

I don't understand the claim that extending health care to 30 million Americans is an act of greed. Yet I see this trope everywhere -- this "Health care reform is all about Obama" thing -- from Fox News, where I expect it, to the Washington Post, where I'm learning to expect it. There are plenty of defensible reasons to criticize this bill. You can say it entrenches a broken system; you can say it fails to provide a public option; you can say the CBO scores are counting mystical cuts to Medicare that will be difficult to pass. But seriously: Obama is trying to provide health care to 30 million Americans, all for himself. Try harder.

Then there's this paragraph:

What a blunder this thing has been, win or lose, what a miscalculation on the part of the president. The administration misjudged the mood and the moment. Mr. Obama ran, won, was sworn in and began his work under the spirit of 2008--expansive, part dreamy and part hubristic. But as soon as he was inaugurated ,the president ran into the spirit of 2009--more dug in, more anxious, more bottom-line--and didn't notice. At the exact moment the public was announcing it worried about jobs first and debt and deficits second, the administration decided to devote its first year to health care, which no one was talking about. The great recession changed everything, but not right away.

Obama "didn't notice" the recession? What movie is Peggy watching, and on what planet? If she didn't like the $787 billion stimulus, or the government takeover of General Motors, or the three months when bank bailout figures were so colossal we forgot what a billion dollars meant any more, that's fine. Again, reasonable people can debate the administration's recession-fighting policies. But first let's agree that there were a lot of recession-fighting policies to debate!

After spending a trillion dollars on the economy, Obama turned to health care reform. That's because he was overwhelmingly elected after running on health care reform, and in January Americans wanted him to follow through. Noonan's last sentence is backward: The great recession changed things right away, but it didn't change everything.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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