Irwin Stelzer–American voters must choose: more benefits or more defence

Healthcare remains another important point of difference. And here we have a three-way split. McCain would attempt to bring down costs and make insurance more affordable by stimulating competition and cracking down on the big pharmaceutical companies that he believes overcharge patients. Obama has some as-yet-unspecified plan to make insurance more accessible to those who want it. Clinton, clinging to the approach that proved politically disastrous when she headed her husband’s healthcare taskforce, would make insurance compulsory, even for young workers who neither need nor want it, and deduct the cost from their pay cheques if necessary.

Enough detail to make the broad point. This is one of the few elections that create for Americans what Ronald Reagan once called a time for choosing. In 1932 we elected Franklin Roosevelt and put paid to the notion that “that government is best which governs least”. In 1980 we elected Reagan, a Roosevelt-Democrat turned Republican, and put paid to the conservative war against Roosevelt’s New Deal.

This year we will have to choose between a man who is confident that America can ”“ indeed, must ”“ play a leading role in maintaining world order, even at the expense of domestic spending, and a man or woman who believes that America must concentrate its resources on the home front, while relying more on international institutions to keep the world’s democracies safe from its enemies. Little wonder that this American election has attracted so much attention in Britain and around the world. What happens in America won’t stay in America.

Read it all.


Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Foreign Relations, Iraq War, US Presidential Election 2008

11 comments on “Irwin Stelzer–American voters must choose: more benefits or more defence

  1. AnglicanFirst says:

    From the very beginning of the current presidential primaries, both parties, managed to offer slates made up of ‘losers.’

    When I look at the Democrats now leading in the primaries, I ask myself, where’s the Democrat? Likewise, when I look at the purportedly Republican candidates, I ask myself, where’s the Republican?

    All I see are individuals who will ‘morph’ themselves into almost any political position in order to win the presidential race.

    ‘Winning’ has become much more important than ‘leading.’

    At least when a candidate ‘leads’ and ‘loses,’ the performance of the ‘winning’ candidate can be retroactively measured against what was offered by the ‘losing’ candidate.

    But when presidential candidates ‘morph’ themselves to the point that a voter can’t keep track of their campaign ‘statements,’ then I, at least, develop a feeling of kaleidoscopic vertigo.

    That is, regardless of what the candidates say or propose during this campaign, I am left almost totally unsure what four years as president for any of them might actually ‘result in.’

  2. Brian of Maryland says:


    We did have actual representatives of our respective parties, but none of them got very far. IMHO, folks are really tired with the partisan bickering and wish Congress and the President would get back to the more basic work of the people. Maybe that has something to do with it.


  3. Jeffersonian says:

    We’re going to choose. Boomers, easily the most self-absorbed generation our nation has ever seen, will continue to vote themselves ever larger pieces of government pie in the form of healthcare and, as they approach death, long-term nursing care. It will bankrupt the nation, but they don’t seem to care.

  4. Words Matter says:

    Well, constitutionally, national defense is the business of the national government. In my opinion, health care is a worthy governmental activity, but ought to be handled at state, county, and city levels. It’s called federalism. I also remember Ronald Reagan pitching it in 1980.

    But a national media must have national solutions. It makes better television.

  5. John Wilkins says:

    Don’t mind helping people’s health care. It’s insurance and a demonstration that we care for other American citizens. And we’ll save many more lives than we will in Iraq. And its a lot cheaper. And we won’t worry about war profiteers. Although the military – which is the clearest example of state subsidized economics (some even call it “military socialism”) – will resist, perhaps people would like to see more immediate, rather than theoretical, benefits of their taxes.

    Words Matter, the problem is that economically, the federal government has a better pool. The larger the pool, the better the distribution. That is, in fact, what even makes corporations effective. A small city doesn’t have the resources to care for all its sick. Similarly, it would be ridiculous to expect individual cities to pay for all its roads – the federal government helps. And to its benefit. Subsidies for infrastructure help businesses, which can’t afford to keep up the roads, educate its workers, and doo all that good stuff businesses assume. Look at how Ford and the American car companies love their factories in canada – why? The state pays for health insurance. And as a priest – the operator of a small business – the consequence of having my employees (and myself) have health insurance would save my church a few thousand dollars.

  6. Jeffersonian says:

    One of the problems with socialized health care, and the problems are legion, is the degree of social control that comes with it. If you think that government control is not going to come with government money, you’re in serious need of adult supervision.

  7. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:

    Having left Canada in large measure on account of its horrible health care system and oppressive taxation — I’m a dual US/Canada citizen — I can assure you that the Canadian health care system is enough of a disaster that the notoriously liberal Supreme Court of Canada declared it unconstitutional.

    There are three things a federal government must do: defend the nation, secure its borders, and ensure a sound currency.

    There are many other things a federal government can do … and to the extent they actually do them it almost always detracts from the first three.

    We need to remember that.

  8. Little Cabbage says:

    4. Yup, ‘federalism’ worked great for allowing blacks to vote, and all children to receive an ‘equal’ education…why not for health care, right? And as one who has several Canadian friends who are very happy with the health care system, I say let’s try it here (but let’s not include those in the US illegally….)

    i speak as one who was nearly bankrupted here in the US by a spouse’s ‘catastrophic’ illness. We are still paying the price, some 20 years later. My friends in Canada were able to go on with their lives, without wondering if they would lose the roof over their heads. And yes, we had health insurance, and it was considered ‘good, solid insurance’. Just thank God if you have never had to go thru the nightmare of catastrophic illness lasting years, and dealing with the insurance companies. They are truly vultures.

    Oh, and good luck if you are ‘down-sized’ in the current Bush recession, and have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes or hypertension. Sure they’ll cover you, as soon as you pay five or ten times the amount your neighbor pays. It’s INSANE. You will have more compassion for the 40-50 million US citizens without access to health care if you have walked the frustrating road of no coverage yourself. Come talk to me AFTER it has happened to you!

  9. Little Cabbage says:

    John Wilkins, thanks for your post 5. It is very informative and presents the solid case for a national health care system, instead of this patchwork which allows insurance execs to make MILLIONS while so many people suffer. The US should be leading, not following the Western nations in this effort.

  10. Words Matter says:

    Actually, federalism did work well for universal suffrage, which was gained through an amendment (actually two) to the U.S. Constitution. Whether it worked well for education is an interesting question. And actually, I got downsized during the Clinton administration – three times.

    The problem with a national health care system is whether that scale that Mr. Wilkins touts works to the good or the bad. Sure, it makes a larger pool, but at what point does it become so gigantic as to be unmanageable. We have certainly seen massive fraud in medicare and medicaid. Do we want to extend that?

    Actually, I noted on another thread that Canadians I have spoken with are quite happy with their health care and thought I had said so here. I’ve heard good things about the Scottish National Health Service and also the public health in New Zealand. But those are countries no larger than some American states. Our local public health services are quite good. The problem in America is that the higher you go into the governmental realm, the more complexities multiply and people concern themselves with power and control, rather than actually helping people.

  11. Little Cabbage says:

    WordsMatter: Sorry you were downsized, but the focus was: did you lose your insurance? Or were you young and healthy, so you were able to quickly obtain it elsewhere? If so, count your blessings!

    As for your applause for Federalism in universal suffrage, it was of no help to blacks in the South (or Chinese in California, just to take two examples) from roughly 1875 through the 1960s. ‘Local control’ too often means ‘local prejudice rules’. Federalism did finally help in voting when the Democrats passed the Civil Rights Acts in the 60s, and a Democratic President (LBJ) was willing to enforce those laws despite ‘local’ opposition.