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Do you follow the discussions in the US?
Nowadays United States of America (USA) does not discuss the 2008 crisis much. Three out of four headlines in the web site of White House (www.whitehouse.gov) is not related with the 2008 crisis. Three-fourths of the headlines and the agenda of the USA are occupied by the health insurance reform draft of President Obama. The discussion is not carried out on rambling grounds as in Turkey. There exists a quite tangible health insurance reform draft. Those who like it and those who oppose it discuss the draft. What the reform means is put forth openly and clearly. Nobody throws his voice as people in Turkey does considering the "democratic opening" issue. One immediately gets what the other says because they do not decide the issue and play with his own rules. This discussion is important. It gives information about the political climate in the USA at the one hand, while it nurses the public policy approach of the future at the other hand. Today let us touch upon the climate of thought in the USA through the health insurance reform draft and derive some conclusions. Let us first address the results rather than the draft itself.
President Obama took over the office promising to bring change into the USA. However, the climate back then made this mission both easy and difficult. The mentioned climate has three characteristics. First, Obama came to power as a crisis period president. There exists a historic economic crisis and challenges it created. People are not content with the climate they live in. level of welfare of Americans headed down with this period. Studies suggest that the crisis affects people directly and negatively. In the presence of such a serious fire, everyone must concentrate on putting it out. As long as the fire is active, there is no sense in talking about what will be done in the burned area in the future. There is no sense in looking at the fire and saying "Let the pain end, let the mothers smile" or talking about our happy days in the future. What matters as long as the fire is active is to take the steps to put it out rapidly. So, Obama has to allocate a substantial part of his time for left over missions.
Though this point indicates a bad situation, there also is another point that must convey hope for the short term: Americans seem quite close to accepting that there is a serious structural problem that originated in the recent past. What is this structural problem? The "let things alone, let them pass (laissez faire, laissez passer)" philosophy inherent in the Reagan-Thatcher period seems to complete its term in feeding public policies. Here what completes its term is not the philosophy of free market economy; but only an ideological interpretation of it.
The "liberty" perception of the Reagan-Thatcher period ends for two important reasons. First; as research suggests, during the last three decades over which this perception was adopted, income/welfare level of Americans did not change significantly. This is particularly why the crisis affects people that bad. Second, size and reasons of the financial crisis proved clearly that the "let things alone, let them pass" policy proposition is not that correct. There grew a belief that this paradigm is not correct; and now it is time for the shift from this paradigm to another. With this lens, mission of Obama seems more realistic and feasible; of course in my consideration. This certainly represents the good option within the current brownout.
Third point to take into account when assessing the climate in the USA should definitely be the situation of the Republican Party. Republican Party is in a bad condition on two counts. First, there is not any strong party leadership as there is not any fascinating leader. Then, a number of TV and media commentators do and tell whatever they like. Worst thing ever must be that media commentators become the intellectual leaders of a political movement. In fact, this is what happens nowadays in the USA. Ideas to shape the climate come not from the political party but from the media. And those who do not take the responsibility of the act lead the process irresponsibly; we hear senseless and inconsistent comments on Obama's being Hitler-like or a communist. Second point about the Republican Party is certainly the fact the ideological approach which has expired as we talked about is associated with this party. In fact, except for the Clinton's rule, Republican governments were in power during the last three decades. As the paradigm changes, the situation of those not renewing themselves clearly seems hopeless. Then, the party transfers its intellectual leadership to media mentors.
The discussions in the USA must be assessed within this lens. Health Insurance Reform draft is not about the fire but about the world at the end of the fire. It appears that public policy approach will be shaped around this discussion. This is why three out of four heading news in White House's web site is related to this discussion. The discussion must also be directly important for Obama; because the change will be related with the shaping of tomorrow, not putting out the fire today.
In a nutshell, health insurance reform discussions in the USA must be considered as an important benchmark on how to discuss a subject that is related to the future. I believe that we have a long path to go in this regard. Submitted to whom this concerns.
This commentary was published in Referans daily on 19.09.2009