Big throw of the dice

Obama has staked his entire presidency on an attempt to reform the ruinously expensive US healthcare system. Today At he will host a “summit”, broadcast live on nationwide TV, with his Republican congressional opponents and his wayward Democratic supporters, in a desperate effort to reach some sort of political consensus. Gridlock over healthcare has produced similar stalemates on taxes, public spending, the budget, macroeconomic stimulus and financial reform. Reflecting the views of their electors as gleaned from the opinion polls, Republicans have resisted tax increases and Democrats have refused to support any cuts in spending. Such “direct democracy” has dangers noted by all political thinkers since Plato and Aristotle. Polls show large majorities for reducing healthcare costs and extending coverage, but against benefit reductions or tax increases. Naturally, the public want all of these objectives to be achieved while reducing government debt. If Obama pulls this off, it will be a neat trick!


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