Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Newt Gingrich, announcing for president, puts Serious Medicine on the national agenda

Newt Gingrich announced today for President, offering a distinctly different kind of message to the American people.  

This passage from his brief and succinct announcement video stands out: "There's a much better American future ahead.  More jobs, more prosperity, a better health system, longer lives, and greater independent living."

Every presidential candidate, in both parties, talks about jobs and prosperity--including Gingrich.

But Gingrich then went off in a different direction: He didn't say a cheaper healthcare system--he said a better healthcare system.   As we all know, the standard mantra of both parties has been cheaper--"bend the cost curve," pols like to say.  And then he continued, in the vein of "better": longer lives and greater independent living.    In other words, better health, including for senior citizens.  

And let's be blunt: That's an attractive offer to a lot of people.  To just about everyone, in fact.   Bad healthcare isn't worth very much, even if it's cheap, and good healthcare is worth a lot, even if it's expensive.   Although, of course, history shows that when something gets good, it usually also gets cheaper.   That's the story of mass production and economies of scale.

So why hasn't it been the case that improvements in health, life expectancy, and greater independent living are a standard part of the policy repertoire? Good question.

One possible reason, of course, is that it's simply easier for a politician to say that he or she will spend less on healthcare (or more).   That is, if nothing else, politicians control the tax-and-spend spigot.

But that could be changing.  Gingrich has put the better healthcare issue on the agenda.  Gingrich, in fact, has always been a proponent of this argument, going back decades.  But never before, of course, as a presidential candidate.

Eventually, of course, the American people will come to see that their healthcare system is not giving them what they really want from that healthcare system, which is better health.  Not health insurance, but health itself.

It might seem like a complicated argument, because it is so different from what the extant political class is saying.

But it's actually a rather simple point that Gingrich is making: Cure is better than care.  It's cheaper to beat than to treat.   It's the sort of argument that Ronald Reagan used to make.


  1. "Cure is better than care.  It's cheaper to beat than to treat"
    I hope Newt at least becomes the VP. He's got a beautiful mind, even if he is old school; we should never tire of the Classics, there's such a wealth of substance in them.
    Enjoyed the read Jim.

  2. No question Gingrich has more going on between the ears than any three other people in Congress, but he's also the guy who folded like a house of cards back after the 1994 election when he got a little push back form the Democrats. Why should we expect anything better this time? My other concern is that while he's not stupid, he is also not a small government guy. He thinks that the government is wasteful and inefficient but rather than shrinking it, what he really wants is to make it more efficient but still big and powerful and responsible for delivering us most of the things we want and need. I think that makes him a really dangerous guy, especially being a Republican since his own party members would not likely fight him the way they fought Clinton and Obama on socialized medicine and he's just crazy enough to propose something like that (all efficiently "run like a business" of course). I'm unimpressed by him as a choice for 2012.

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  4. I do not know whether or not I should be supportive of Newt Gingrich. The other websites, liberal and conservative, are savagely attacking him. Why? Because he dared to criticize Paul Ryan's plan?