Defense Crouch

In the circles I travel in, the analytic point of the Third Way's months-old analysis "The New Rules Economy" and their just released "Middle Class Compact" are very controversial. Roughly speaking, Third Way asserts that middle class families are better off than most progressives say. To me, though, this is all a bit besides the point. When you bore down to policy specifics, Third Way frames the problems in pretty uncontroversial ways. On health care, for example:

Under the old rules, businesses could afford rising wages and generous benefits for their employees. Now they are competing in a global economy, and soaring health care costs have made yesterday’s calculation difficult. In fact, rising health care premiums cut $3,250 a year from the paychecks of average workers. We now have to rein in health care costs and shift some of the burden away from businesses so they can readily increase wages while remaining globally competitive.

Control costs, shift responsibility away from employers. Pretty uncontroversial stuff, if a bit on the timid side. But their actual proposal is this: "Enable small businesses to pool together to purchase insurance for their workers at lower prices." Now, look. I'm on the timid side in terms of what's advisable to propose, and this is just laughable by any standard. For most workers and most employers it just won't change anything. And even for small business owners and employees it doesn't do much. At best, it puts your typical small business in something closer to the position of a large business, which just gets us back to the point that health insurance costs are growing at a frightening pace.