Why Obama Can't Fix Healthcare - But This is What He Can Do

Why Obama Can't Fix Healthcare - But This is What He Can Do
By Alex Hammer
Subtitle: How to kill public financing in Maine

The one thing standing in President Obama's way from fixing healthcare in this country is...

Special interests.

Most people know this. But it goes deeper than that.

I didn't say healthcare couldn't be fixed, I said only that President Obama can't fix it. He can't fix it because he is, to large a degree, beholden to the special interests that elect Democrats and Republicans across this country. It's that simple why "Change" in the election becomes "change lite" in office.

Watered down.

As you know, a lot of the, for example, striking differences that he portrayed in the campaign with the previous administration aren't quite so striking now that he is in office. I wouldn't quite call him Bush-lite, as some have done -- that overstates the case. But we do have a duopoly in this country such that both parties are beholden to the same types of influences.

But this is what President Obama can do. And be effective doing. He can use the "bully pulpit" to point out some of the inadequacies of the system (which is built around the party system but he won't mention that) and, perhaps as a result, drive through incremental rather than fundamental change. Some improvement may indeed be better than nothing. The powerful interests will retain much of what they already have (if not gain more), while some minor to moderate improvements may (and I say may) accrue also to the populace at large.

It's only cynical because it is true.

I am running as an Independent for Governor of Maine. Although Maine has had two Independent Governors, James Longley and Angus King (twice), it remains extraordinarily difficult to be elected as an Independent in Maine as it does anywhere else. Luckily, Maine also is a leader in public financing that can hold at bay, somewhat, the effects of special interests. I say somewhat because public financing is under attack in Maine. Surprise, surprise. Does it surprise you that special interests that wield power at National and state levels would sit idly by to such a potential threat to their interests. Public financing is currently too popular in Maine to kill totally (not that they haven't tried). But they do water it down, to the point where the majority of Gubernatorial candidates, reversing a trend, are not in this election even seeking public funds (Note: I am not claiming that I know the funding motivations for all the other candidates, but I do see this as a very interesting result).

In Maine I speak with thousands of Mainers during the course of, and preparing for, the campaign. Doctors tell me that Dirigo is burdened down by special interest mandates that contribute to its costs (I've written on the entire state of healthcare in Maine, there is a lot there). Hey, if you want an entire book of examples of how famous Maine politicians are (if it seems that way to you) beholden also (to varying degrees) to interests of the two party system, check it out for yourself: This Great State.

I'm not saying that politicians of any party, or no party, are any better inherently as individuals in regard to the objectives that they seek, or the means by which they may seek them. What I am saying is that a lot of politicians would like to be able to be able to do a lot more of service for their constituents then they feel that they can do. I speak with them often. Just as in your job maybe you feel, at least at times, a bit constrained by your boss and/or company, money and special interests are still the boss in this country. Maybe it is a bit better than it was at one time, maybe it isn't, I don't really know for sure about that (comparison across history). Maybe it exists because we as a populace allow it. Maybe the strong are strong for a reason because they can impose their will. Maybe the rest of us (we're strong too) give up too easily.

So maybe it's not Obama's problem, or Maine's problem.

Maybe it's your problem, and mine.

How you like that?

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