(O'Rourke) The View From the Couch: Ex-Presidents to the Rescue


Ex-presidents are in the air, at least one of them, Bill Clinton, who was summoned to North Korea and returned with two Al Gore employees, journalists of a TV venture Gore is invested in. They, the two young women, supposedly strolled into North Korea. If so, did they cross a line to film a spot, "Here I am standing in North Korea"? Who knows? When the memoirs come out, we'll learn, I suppose. But, given the subject of ex-presidents, I wish to point out we have a large number of them alive right now. The same number as we had some eight years ago, before Ronald Reagan died, since we now have George W. as an ex.

George W. may well turn into the Dan Quayle of ex-presidents, the one with practically no public profile for his years of service in the job. This is pertinent since President Obama's popular support, his and his programs, has been fluctuating counter to the Dow Jones. It goes up, his goes down, all because of the pesky health care reform, which is now being called health insurance reform. Given the poor economy, young George's legacy (besides two wars, Gitmo, etc.), the public fears the government throwing more money at any problems. So say those helpful watchdog Republicans. Supposedly, 87% of Americans have some form of health insurance. That statistic seems shaky in any number of ways, but, given our system, when aren't we willing to throw 13% to the wolves on any given subject?

Unlike the Republicans, I am willing to put forward my plan for health care reform. What I would do is what LBJ's people wanted to do with Medicare back at the beginning. It was to be for the old and the young. The young got thrown to the wolves, even though they were more than 13%. Just enact what the original plan for Medicare was to be: cover everyone under 18. That would have a lot of salubrious effects. Who could protest giving health care to children? Well, the Republicans, the AMA, Big Medicine, etc. If you covered children you would get healthier adults. You would have fewer abortions, the bugaboo for the Blue Dog Democrats and the no-dollar-for-anything-legal crowd when it comes to reproductive health. A former brother in law of mine, an MD bio-ethicist, now deceased, once said that abortion was a failure of the medical profession, insofar as a large portion of abortions have to do with the failure or absence of birth control, or general knowledge, or family abuse, etc. If children were seeing doctors via Medicare for Kids there would likely be less ignorance, abuse, and lack of access to effective birth control. And childhood obesity, diabetes, etc.

Oh, how to pay for it! Ask Goldman Sachs and friends for a donation from the billions we have given Wall Street. They could add it to the bonuses they hand out from the same pile of bucks. No, well, Obama could insert a one percent surtax on everyone making over $250,000 a year. That would keep him within his campaign pledges. Or he could have the Medicare tax increased a half percent, to 1.95. It could be waived on the employer side for those who provide employees with health insurance. The anti-tax people are an odd coalition of the wealthiest and weird. Most Americans would pay, I hold, a small amount of tax where the benefit is immediately realized. Health Care is one such program. Now, with both Social Security and Medicare, you have to get to your mid sixties. Imagine if workers saw their children immediately covered by a small raise in taxes. There's a tax that wouldn't seem pernicious. If Bill Clinton can rescue Al Gore's employees, Barack Obama can help the children of all employees in America. Tax and spend. Now there's a slogan one can get behind.


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