Health Care, Sooner?

Paul Krugman on pundits who insist that Obama should have "focused on the economy":

If there’s one piece of conventional pundit wisdom that annoys me most, it’s the constant refrain that Obama was wrong to pursue health care, that he should have focused on the economy instead. 

For the question people saying this never answer is, what would that focus have consisted of? [...] 

What’s crucial to remember here is that economic policy is about actually doing things, not about saying “Message: I care.” A bigger stimulus -- and, importantly, one that wouldn’t fade out just in time for the midterms -- would have mattered. “Focus”, not so much.

What's more, as far as popularity is concerned, health-care reform suffers from the fact that it doesn't phase in until 2014. Had reform's benefits been more immediate, voters might have been more appreciative of the effort. Of course, the White House isn't entirely to blame for that decision; a deficit-neutral bill was integral to gaining support from moderate and conservative Democrats, and in the absence of further taxes, deficit neutrality meant a more distant start date. If you're looking for someone to blame, "centrist" Democrats, are your target.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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