A Strong Defense of the Public Option, and Active Government

The Washington Post columnist hits back against government critics.

By + More

By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne today gives one of the more concise, effective rebuttals I've seen to the notion that a public option would destroy private healthcare, and specifically the idea voiced by GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa that government is a "predator."

Grassley was then forced to explain how he felt about Medicare. Is it predatory for government to pay health bills for the elderly? Is Social Security, which lives side by side with private pension and savings plans, predatory? Is it predatory for government to regulate, well, predatory lenders or stock swindlers or bank boodlers?

Democrats have been far too timid in taking on the right wing's arguments against government. They have been defensive when they should be going on offense by insisting that government can expand human freedom and give people options they would not otherwise have.

Consider universal K-12 education, loans and grants to help students attend college, clean water systems, and unemployment compensation so people can get by while they look for the next job. A public insurance option lies squarely within this American tradition of using government to open new avenues of choice and opportunity.

Preach, brother Dionne! There are legitimate questions about a public option—how, for example it would be constructed to prevent employers from dropping their own health coverage and dumping everyone onto the government plan—but he's right that Democrats have become far too accepting of the premise that activist government is ipso facto a problem.

  • Check out our political cartoons.
  • Become a political insider: Subscribe to U.S. News Weekly, our digital magazine.
  • Follow Robert Schlesinger on Twitter.