Looking back to the Obama years, I have to say they were boring. Yes, Republican obstruction provided some excitement from time to time. Remember when they were ready to shut down the government? That was a hoot! But generally the No-drama-Obama years were more dulls than lulz.
No more! It began with the president’s promise to unify the nation in his inaugural address. You remember. It was the one delivered to the largest crowd in history in a torrential downpour that ended only when the president stepped to the microphone and the sun came out. Since then it has been one exciting breakthrough after another. No obstacle stands in the way of bringing the US into the world envisioned by the new president.
I was very impressed when he told the nation that our healthcare system is broken. Taking a lead from his unification theme, he added that it is broken in spite of Obamacare and not because of it. Being a businessman and not a politician enabled him to see that the problem is not the cost of insurance but the cost of the whole system, how the parts of the system interact and weird incentives. His promise to set up a task force to come up with alternatives for an entirely new system was as exciting as it was shocking. No options were off the table. Obamacare tried to use the system as it is with largely employer based plans managed through private insurance and supplemented by the public programs of Medicare and Medicaid. It was probably the best that could be done in that system if we as a country wanted to make sure decent healthcare was available to all. But it was fragile.
The new president wanted something that was stronger, pioneering and actually lowered the cost of the healthcare while improving results. He demanded to know why a test might cost $5,000 in New Jersey, only $1,700 in Massachusetts but less than $100 in Japan. He could not be placated over the unavailability of needed healthcare to the working class men that were his greatest supporters. He was furious with the cost of old drugs going up when new ones came out. He wanted to rationalize the system to make costs predictable. In a famous tweet, he declared “When I buy a fleet of limos I know the price will vary within a narrow range. If I get an ECG, it could vary by 5000%. Sad! #rationalhealthcarecosts”. That tweet set off the greatest burst of innovative work since the microprocessor. The president became so involved with the task force that he tweeted only to get feedback on some of the major issues and to encourage the team!
Because the country had become so polarized, there was a great deal of fear and loathing between the election and inauguration. Some argued that he was not ideological and would push for practical and effective solutions to problems. He quickly overcame those concerns with his soothing comments. Then he went further by inviting Democrats and independents to participate in the healthcare task force. He steered away from ideological extremes and chose instead people who are open-minded problem solvers. That’s why there were so few Congressional participants but several governors and mayors of large and small cities.
The “Unification Tour” he embarked on did wonders to break down the barriers that had been built up during the vicious presidential campaign. The highlight of the tour was when he publicly, humorously and ceremoniously gave up his cell phone while promising only to tweet with good cause, after counting to ten and under supervision by Ivanka. He said that might reduce the humor of his administration but it would allow him more time to focus on issues.
His invitations to the press to play golf with him at his resorts was well appreciated but short-lived due to his busy work schedule. In the first six months, he was only able to get two rounds of golf in and one of them was with the President of the People’s Republic of China.
Ah, yes, It’s been great. It helps me enjoy even more the white sun rising in the red western sky between the two moons in my world.