Bill Clinton’s failed attempt at health care reform is frequently cited as an example from which Obama can learn from as he tries to pass his own health care reform. In a New York Times op-ed, R. Glenn Hubbard, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush and author of the just-published The Aid Trap: Hard Truths about Ending Poverty, suggests that George W. Bush failed attempt to reform Social Security might also offer important lessons for Obama and what mistakes he should avoid.
Hubbard argues that Obama has already erred in similar ways to Bush by placing too much emphasis on fulfilling campaign promises rather than looking to compromise. Hubbard writes, “President Obama is now making the same kind of mistake [as Bush] with his relentless emphasis on the public option and universal coverage—two pet causes during his campaign.”
Hubbard concludes by arguing that as with Social Security, health care reform needs to be seen in two ways:
In the case of health care reform, we also need two debates. The first is over how to reform insurance arrangements to reduce cost growth and provide better value for the money spent. The second should be about access to health care. To achieve these goals, the president could embrace a compromise of tax and regulatory reform for cost containment, and progressive intervention to offer assistance to low-income individuals. But President Obama, like his predecessor, has been unwilling to let go of his campaign goals even as his words fuel intense partisan debate and obstruct his ultimate objective of improving health care value.
President Obama’s message on reform is even more inconsistent than Mr. Bush’s on Social Security, and his opponents know it. The president should stop talking about a “public option” and “universal coverage” and focus on real reform.