Common wisdom ain't always that wise.
The pundits have concluded that Obama made a big mistake by focusing on health care reform this past year, when he should have focused on the economy. Politically speaking, the pundits are correct. Obama has appeared to be ignoring the economy at the expense of health care reform, and his popularity has consequently plummeted.
But Obama is right to have stuck by his desire to reform health care. Sometimes the good of the country is more important than this year's approval ratings. And here are 7 reasons why Obama was correct to focus on health care reform this year, and why we can only hope that his efforts will come to fruition soon.
1. The federal government can't do very much to change the course of recessions.
If stocks are overvalued, the stock market will drop. If houses are overpriced, the housing market will plummet. The government cannot change these realities. The best it can do is to soften the economic blows thrown at us by the recession.
2. The Obama administration did take aggressive steps to attack the recession.
While the government cannot stop recessions from happening, it can go into deficit spending to minimize the depth of the recession. That's what Obama did. Paul Krugman wished the Obama administration had spent more money. Members of the Tea Party wish he'd spent less. Looks to me like he got about as much spending out of Congress as he could have at the time, given the circumstances.
3. The recession is going to end sometime soon -- hopefully -- and then we're going to have to look at how we can minimize the depth of the next recession.
Having pushed a stimulus package through Congress in the opening months of his administration, Obama rightly turned his attention to future threats to our economy.
4. The biggest long-term threat to our economy is our health care system.
If we don't reform health care, our future will be disastrous.
5. If health care costs continue to rise, the middle class will move toward poverty.
Do the math. If more of our money goes toward health care, our wages will decline, our taxes will rise, and our employers will have a harder time offering us any health care benefits. This will lead to economic disaster, for all those middle-class Americans who are struggling right now to make fiscal ends meet.
6. The health insurance industry can't solve this problem on its own.
Health insurance companies are making great profits, despite rising health-care costs. Their primary goal is not to reduce how much money people spend on health care. If we want to control health care costs, we need the government to use its clout to negotiate better prices for the healthcare industry.
7. If we don't reform health care now, we won't be able to touch this topic for another decade.
And we can't afford to do that. Ten more years of rising costs, of people losing their insurance, of stagnating wages, of Medicare expenditures squeezing federal budgets, of Medicaid expenditures squeezing state budgets... and the American economy will be headed toward long-term decline.
Obama and his team have made plenty of political mistakes. Their public relations efforts have not fared well against Fox news, et al. But under Obama's leadership, the administration is staying the course in health care reform -- looking for enough votes to pass some kind of bill that will move our country in the right direction.
I desperately hope that the administration succeeds.