I'm not really sure what Garance Franke-Ruta is getting at in this post. She moves from saying that the task for Democrats is "finding the big story that explains our world and politics today in a way that sounds real and fresh" -- a true, if less than novel, assertion -- to arguing that conservative ideas aren't wrong just because they were thought up by conservatives. Well no, they're not. Indeed, conservative ideas are often quite right, which is why Democrats have adopted so many of them in recent times. Welfare reform was not identified with our side of the aisle, no matter how many times Moynihan is invoked. Deficit reduction was not thought to be a particularly Democratic thing to do, at least not until Bill Clinton did it. And James Galbraith not withstanding, we're not going back on it. We also pushed NAFTA through, passed a crime bill, and began adopting sensible, targeted tax cuts as a cornerstone of our economic policies. In fact, Democrats have been surprisingly willing to betray party dogma over the past 10 years, a trait attributable primarily, but not entirely, to Clinton.
But that shouldn't give us the idea that everything shiny, new, and advocated by Newt is worth adopting. Health Savings Accounts will destroy health care in this country. Seriously. As Matt says, and Arnold Relman argued in a TNR cover story a few weeks ago, HSA's might hasten the coming of a complete health care overhaul and, in that sense, be positive, but there'll be a lot of pain involved in that path. And if Garance is really just being sneaky and cunning and hoping to destroy so we can build, consider my comments moot. But know that HSA's will leave people like my girlfriend, who was born with hypophosphatemia, completely screwed, as the healthy opt into HSA's and those with chronic (though entirely manageable) conditions, like her, have no community on which to disperse costs. Under that scenario, health care becomes prohibitively expensive and many to most of those who need it worst will be unable to pay.
As for Flex accounts, they're fine, but they're really not forward-looking. They're an incremental step which makes things a touch better for folks. That's great -- hell, if the Prospect hires me, I'll be sure to take advantage of them. But this sort of small-bore proposal is only good for a sitting leader, not for a party that needs to prove itself visionary and in-touch. The way to assure voters that you see the future is to promise to radically upend the present. That means that health care can't be fixed by the tiny steps Garance is proposing, and certainly not by a simple willingness to trawl CATO and AEI for good proposals the right may have missed. Democrats need to find the courage put 1994 behind them and propose a radical restructuring of health care in this country. That's tough and dangerous to do, but it's also necessary, important, and the sole way to prove ourselves more than the party of tweaks. And that, in the end, is what forward-thinking means: able and willing to break out of the paradigm we're in and propose answers that the shackled politicians of the day are too scared to reach for. That's not, contra Garance, a call for compromise, but a recipe requiring vision.