Thomas Friedman Is Right About The Problems In Our System But Wrong In His Comparisons to China

I could never apply a simple classification of those I agree with vs. those I disagree with to Thomas Friedman. He is certainly worth reading for the insights he often expresses, but sometimes he also comes up with things which are totally off the wall. I do sympathize with his objections to the Republicans who  simply say “no” without any coherent policy ideas of their own, as expressed in this column. Still, as bad as our “one party Democracy” is, it remains far better than a one-party oligarchy as in China. Sure there have been a number of abuses of civil liberties by the United States government, but freedom of expression is not suppressed in the way it is in a one party state such as China.

There might be some areas where the Chinese government can bring about modernization more efficiently than we can in the United States, just as Mussolini might have kept the trains running on time. That does not mean that overall their systems are preferable.

That said, if we can ignore any thought that the Chinese system might be better than our flawed system, Friedman is right in his assessment of the Republicans:

With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying “no.” Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he’s a centrist.

Friedman also has a few words about the Republicans blocking health care reform:

“The central mechanism through which Obama seeks to extend coverage and restrain costs is via new ‘exchanges,’ insurance clearinghouses, modeled on the plan Mitt Romney enacted when he was governor of Massachusetts,” noted Matt Miller, a former Clinton budget official and author of “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas.” “The idea is to let individuals access group coverage from private insurers, with subsidies for low earners.”

And it is possible the president will seek to fund those subsidies, at least in part, with the idea John McCain ran on — by reducing the tax exemption for employer-provided health care. Can the Republicans even say yes to their own ideas, if they are absorbed by Obama? Without Obama being able to leverage some Republican votes, it is going to be very hard to get a good plan to cover all Americans with health care.

“Just because Obama is on a path to give America the Romney health plan with McCain-style financing, does not mean the Republicans will embrace it — if it seems politically more attractive to scream ‘socialist,’ ” said Miller.

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