The disappointing numbers on growth make it even more likely that the 2012 elections will be fought over the president’s inability to generate a robust, job-creating recovery.
But almost as important will be the issues surrounding healthcare, and not just the repeal of Obamacare’s stifling burdens on job creation but also the return of the debate over serious health care reform of the sort that increases quality and access while avoiding the bureaucratization of medical care.
Third in line will be education reform as the ongoing collapse of a large swatch of America’s schools accelerates, especially for children in or near poverty but also for the parents of middle class kids who want their children to be able to compete in a global economy and whose schools are struggling under a variety of insane practices including lifetime tenure for terrible teachers.
Three stories over the past two days feed into this issues set.
The first two, by Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker (subscription required) and Brian Mooney in the Boston Globe, deal with healthcare and specifically the Massachusetts reforms guided into law by Romney in 2006. Five years into the law’s adoption, the assessment of what worked and what didn’t will greatly influence the post-Obamacare debate as well as Romney’s presidential campaign. While political reporters always eager for the easiest storyline have persuaded themselves that the individual mandate in Masscare is the same as Obamacare’s national mandate, GOP voters aren’t so easily persuaded and Romney’s refusal to flee from his package of reforms suggests that the questions of whether or not Masscare “worked,” and if only in part, “which parts,” becomes enormously important. Even after repeal is accomplished, the pressing questions of how to make medical care less costly and more widely available will remain, and the GOP nominee is going to have to present an agenda that is far more comprehensive than expanded HSA accounts. People like HBS’ Clayton Christensen (see The Innovator’s Prescription) and Dr. Atul Gawande haven’t stopped writing about and thinking through health care reform because Obamacare hasn’t fixed any of the problems that led to the pressure for its passage and indeed Obamacare has made a difficult situation much worse. Romney’s command of the issue may or may not become a plus in the debates ahead, but these two articles signal that the debate over the next phase of health care reform is just beginning.
I will have Ryan Lizza on today’s show to discuss his piece and the next phase in the health care debate.
Another potential GOP nominee, Texas Governor Rick Perry, is locked in a battle over education funding in his state that could also shape the 2012 election. Perry is demanding big cuts in state education spending and has called a special session of the Texas Legislature to deal with the issue. If Texas can cut back on the inexorable growth of the state’s education budget but also achieve reform and better results, a model of tough love for public schools will get another key piece of data. Though the national political media hasn’t yet focused on this hugely important debate, Perry’s potential presidential candidacy will change that overnight.
What to do about the young urban poor, especially with regards to their education, seems like an intractable problem, but there are plenty of solutions out there. I will talk with Bruce Main of Camden’s Urban Promise about one approach on today’s show.