Where Is Richard Nixon When You Need Him?
Paul Krugman in the New York Times reminds us that one of Ted Kennedy’s regrets is that he didn’t accept a deal on health care with Richard Nixon in the early 1970s. What Richard Nixon wanted to do makes today’s Democrats look like Republicans.
Nixon’s proposal for health care reform looks a lot like Democratic proposals today. In fact, in some ways it was stronger. Right now, Republicans are balking at the idea of requiring that large employers offer health insurance to their workers; Nixon proposed requiring that all employers, not just large companies, offer insurance.
Nixon also embraced tighter regulation of insurers, calling on states to “approve specific plans, oversee rates, ensure adequate disclosure, require an annual audit and take other appropriate measures.” No illusions there about how the magic of the marketplace solves all problems.
Today’s ideological atmosphere is radically different than that of Nixon’s time. There are few moderates with whom to work. When you have Iowa Senator Charles Grassley promoting the idea of “death panels” there is little room for compromise. On the other side, there are centrist Democrats like Kent Conrad of North Dakota, opposed to a public plan that would compete with private insurers. The other problem is the influence of corporate money poisoning the ability of either party to make policy decisions in the public interest, in favor of satisfying influence peddlers.
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