Paul Krugman Hits the Nail on the Head

The industries with entrenched interests in sustaining "America's vital interests" in the Middle East are far more powerful than those defending our decrepit system of medical care.
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Sometimes Paul Krugman cuts to the heart of some issue in a way that few people can. His December 17 Op Ed in the New York Times is an example. He compares the positions of John Edwards and Barack Obama on medical care, and finds Obama to be severely wanting.

As Krugman points out, their official positions are dramatically different: Obama advocates getting all sides (consumers, doctors, hospitals, drug companies, health insurance companies, hospitals) together around a "big table," and hammering out a satisfactory universal health care program; Edwards attacks big business and says they have to be defeated to get anything done.

The media makes Obama look like the good guy--he advocates a new, non-confrontational type of politics that can work on our underlying agreement that health care needs repair, whereas Edwards' "harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change."

But Krugman points out that Obama's vision is unrealistic and therefore worthless. As he puts it:

It's actually Mr. Obama who's being unrealistic here, believing that the insurance and drug industries -- which are, in large part, the cause of our health care problems -- will be willing to play a constructive role in health reform. The fact is that there's no way to reduce the gross wastefulness of our health system without also reducing the profits of the industries that generate the waste.

As a result, drug and insurance companies -- backed by the conservative movement as a whole -- will be implacably opposed to any significant reforms.

Krugman only implies it, but this same logic extends to the war in Iraq. The three major Democratic candidates (including Populist Edwards) and every Republican save Ron Paul advocate that we extract ourselves only after we safeguard "America's vital interests" in the Middle East. This is just code for the imposition of a client regime that supports U.S. Middle East policy, including the doubling of regional oil production and the ongoing campaign for regime change in Iran. The regime must also welcome an imposing American (military and political) presence in the country to protect ongoing US interests there (eg, the facilities of US oil companies), and to help extend those policies to the rest of the region. This program, needless to say, guarantees ongoing wars and ongoing crises and ongoing sacrifice of the already depleted economic, political, and moral resources of this country.

Make no mistake about it; the industries with entrenched interests in sustaining "America's vital interests" in the Middle East are far more powerful than those defending our decrepit system of medical care. In order to abandon "America's vital interests" in the Middle East, the US must abandon the underlying energy policy of claiming privileged access to the world's remaining oil resources, and move decisively to conservation and to alternative sources of energy. And, to paraphrase Krugman: "that there's no way to reduce our dependence on hydrocarbons without also reducing the profits of the industries that depend on them for their privileged place in our economy."

The key industries which would have to endure these decreased profits extend well beyond the "usual suspects"--oil, coal, oil service, petrochemicals, and plastics--who actually extract, process, or sell us our hydrocarbon products. The list also includes other basic industries, like automobiles (which would have to invest billions in alternatives to the internal combustion engine), electrical power (which would have to finally figure out wind, thermal and other power, instead of just dismissing them as impractical), construction (which would have to include energy efficiency into basic building design and construction processes) and even finance (which would have to make risky investments in alternatives, instead of the much "safer" bets they now make on increasingly scarce and therefore highly profitable hydrocarbons). wonder all Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidency--including John Edwards--with any support from the financial backers are adamant about defending "America's vital interests" in the Middle East: the major industries in the U.S. economy would lose billions in profits if we "fail."

As Krugman implies, but does not explicitly state, in order to change the direction of U.S. government policy, the electorate has to do more than look for the "best" of the candidates--the lesser of evils. We need to insist on specific policies that take on the interest of these dominant industries, and force them to give back some of those ill gotten profits in order to move the country into a direction that serves the interests of the people instead of the interests of the bloated, inefficient and consummately greedy corporate establishment. This means we have to stop the current trend, in which ALL the candidates "with a chance to win" advocate policies in Iraq (and in other realms) that simultaneously protect and enhance the ill gotten gains of major corporations, contribute to the moral, physical, and economic decay of American society, and annihilate the lives of millions of people around the globe.

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