The good news is that it's pretty much official -- health care reform is ON this year. Obama is carving out a big chunk of money for it -- and we wouldn't be reading these stories if they weren't serious about it.
There will of course be many posts to come as that debate unfolds. But what's fascinating to me is how politically ambitious the proposed funding allocation is. He's not merely trying to pay for health care -- he's trying to drive a stake through the heart of the Reagan coalition by isolating the wealthy.
I first saw this argument in the excellent NYT Magazine article by David Leonhardt (which I posted on a few months ago). Essentially, Leonhardt argues that "Obamanomics" aims to break the Reagan coalition by severing the rich from the lower-income classes. To achieve this goal, Obama is cutting taxes for everyone but the top 5%, and then using those tax hikes to pay for ambitious progressive legislation. Here's Leonhardt:
To do this, he is proposing tax cuts for most families that are significantly larger than those McCain is offering, along with major tax increases for families making more than $250,000 a year. “That’s essentially a major part of our economic plan,” Obama said. “But it’s also a political message.” Economically, he is trying to use the tax code to spread the bounty from the market-based American economy to a far wider group of families. Politically, he is trying to drive a wedge through the great Reagan tax gambit.
And that's exactly what he's doing here with the proposed health care funding. Obama is pushing for national health care reform -- the crown jewel of the progressive legislative agenda -- while simultaneously trying to break down the modern political coalitions that Nixon and Reagan built.
This guy is swinging for the fences -- and swinging hard.