Barnes: What a Progressive President Might Say

Here’s a January 2007 Melody Barnes op-ed on what a progressive president might say in a Sate of the Union address:

Here at home there is urgent work to do to fight the historically high — and growing — gap between our richest and poorest citizens. While the mean income of households on the low end of the income spectrum — the bottom 20 percent — is just $10,655 a year, the income of the top twenty percent of households averages almost $160,000. That’s 15 times as much. At the same time, according to the latest census figures, the middle class, beset with stagnant wages and mountainous debts, is shrinking. The sad fact is that one of our most cherished values as a society, namely equality of opportunity, is fading as a reality for far too many people. Economists have shown that a child born into a lower-income family has only a 1 percent chance of making it to the top of the income distribution, while children from prosperous families have a 22 percent chance. To restore fairness to our system, I will embark on a multi-faceted approach including increasing our investment in public education, promoting genuine health care reform, and backing a higher minimum wage.

Domestically, no need is more urgent than fixing our broken health care system. Today, nearly 47 million Americans have no health insurance. And those lucky enough to be insured are seeing the cost of their premiums soar. At the same time, the uninsured cannot afford screening for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or even get a flu shot — and our health care system as a whole places far more emphasis on treatment than it does on preventing disease in the first place. As a nation, we dedicate only three percent of our health dollars to health promotion, but over 20 percent of our health care dollars to care in the last year of life. We must guarantee affordable coverage for all Americans. At the same time, we must also overhaul our health care system so that we make wellness and disease prevention a national priority. The Wellness Trust will create incentives for health care providers, employers, schools and individuals to focus on prevention, and preventative care will be available to people outside of a doctor’s office. Preventive services will be covered whether they are delivered in pharmacies, supermarkets, on the job, at senior centers, or elsewhere in the community.

Come January she’ll be running the Domestic Policy Council in the White House. But apparently the idea that Obama’s administration is charting a progressive policy agenda is some kind of conspiracy theory.