Today's USA Today [Opinionline, p. 7A] includes a quote from Jonathan Cohn, senior editor of The New Republic, as follows:
"[Ted] Kennedy...was a crusader....He saw a country full of people made vulnerable--by circumstances of birth, economic misfortune, illness, or injury....He believed we had an obligation, as a nation, to protect them. And so he spoke out--for universal health care, for civil rights, for aid to people with disabilities, for more generous assistance to the poor. And when opponents criticized those moves, because they meant bigger government or bigger taxes, Kennedy didn't deny the charge. He justified it, in a way few Democrats would dare to do today. It was, he said, the way Americans fulfill their duty to one another."
Americans duty to one another? Now, there's a novel notion. Of course, there are millions of Americans who step up to the plate to help other Americans in need through charitable service or private donations. This is all very good. However, there are some ways of helping our fellow Americans for which private charity simply cannot get the job done. One of those areas is health care. Nor is the free market the answer. Why? Because when it comes to health care, profitability, prevention, and doctor-patient privilege just do not mix well. Cost efficacy judgments must be made by those with the most at risk in the treatment, not by those whose stake is measured solely by the advantage to shareholders.
It's like one of the health care professionals said tonight on Bill Moyers' Journal: "We live in a society, not just an economy." Kennedy understood that. The question now is, does Obama get it?