Raising Women’s Voices

President Obama’s Path to Greatness: Health Care As Stimulus

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on November 6, 2008

President Obama won an enormous victory tonight, that will change the country. But this is just the beginning as he said in his victory speech.

President Obama has the opportunity to establish himself as one of the truly great presidents in his first days in office. He can take advantage of the current economic crisis to announce plans to jump start national health care insurance. Extending health care insurance can be an effective stimulus that will provide an immediate boost to the economy.

More importantly, it will provide the same access to health care that people in other wealthy countries have long taken for granted. For this accomplishment, President Obama will rank alongside Presidents Roosevelt and Lincoln as one of the nation’s truly great presidents.

The backdrop is straightforward. Economists from across the political spectrum are now calling for a large stimulus package to limit the economy’s decline and the rise in unemployment. The consensus is in the range of 2.0-2.5 percent of GDP, or $300 billion to $400 billion a year.

This level of agreement among economists is encouraging, but the reality is that it is difficult to effectively spend $300 billion to $400 billion a year on short notice. There are some no-brainers that belong in any stimulus package: aid to state and local governments, extended unemployment benefits, and extra money for food stamps and home heating oil assistance. This is money that will be quickly spent, boosting the economy, while helping those hit hardest by the downturn.

A stimulus should also include increases in infrastructure spending, which will come about by moving plans forward for projects already on the books. There should also be a substantial green component, involving retrofitting homes, businesses and other buildings, which will reduce our energy use.

However, after we get through this list, the sum total for the stimulus package is probably still in the neighborhood of $150 billion a year, at best half of the targeted sum. This is the gap that will be filled by extending health care coverage.

As a basic outline, the government can give a substantial tax credit (e.g. $3,000) to employers who cover workers for the first time in 2009 and 2010. It can also offer a tax credit covering most, or all, of any additional payments by employers who increase their coverage.

This means that an employer who picked up the workers’ share of insurance payments, or got a better plan, would have much of the cost reimbursed by the tax credit. Credits can also be given to individuals who are either self-employed, unemployed, or not otherwise covered through their employer…..

For the full story, please visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/president-obamas-path-to_b_141254.html

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