Which should come first: climate or health care reform?

Adam Doster

At The Plank, Brad Plumer asks an interesting question. Of course, both Democrats say they'd like to tackle both climate change and health care and revamp immigration and eliminate poverty and enact labor-law reform and overhaul education… and a million other things. But, realistically, a Democratic president in 2009 might only have the opportunity to do one or two "big" things in the domestic sphere, aside from the budget—especially if Iraq and the flagging economy suck up most of their time and attention—before they start to lose political capital and momentum. So the question of what, exactly, the candidates want to prioritize isn't trivial. Each has their advantages. If a Democrat could push through substantive health care reform in light of our current recession, an insecurity about which many voters care deeply, it could form the foundation of an enduring political majority in much the way successful New Deal policies cemented Roosevelt's electoral domination. But my gut tells me that protecting the earth must be our first priority. Universal care doesn't do anyone much good if we have no planet on which to live in good health. Signing Kyoto and implementing sound and far-reaching climate policies that would inherently reposition our foreign policy could also improve our image around the globe, one the Bush administration has sullied beyond belief. An infusion of green jobs and infrastructure would be huge boons for the struggling economy, too. And on a political level, it seems far easier to build consensus around climate issues -- there's no comparable "socialized medicine" slur for global warming policy, even if the institutions that stand in the way of reform wield similar power. Thoughts?

Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.
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