Can health care reform save the American economy?

Columnist David Broder argues that — in effect — what is good for health care is good for America.

Writing in The Washington Post, Broder argues that we need health care reform to save the American economy.

“A chart in the budget shows that the three big entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, now consume 41 percent of the federal spending, aside from interest payments,” Broder says. “On current trends, this will rise to 60 percent by 2030, when all surviving baby boomers will be 65 or older — crowding out almost everything else the country needs from government.”

So what’s the answer?

“Because that prospect is such a nightmare, Obama is right in saying this Congress cannot simply walk away from health-care reform,” Broder writes. “It has to try again, with an invitation to Republicans and Democrats to make lowering costs the prime objective and not quitting until there is agreement on a plan.”

But most proponents on health care reform argue that a “public option” is the only real reform. If that is so, that would appear to negate Broder’s argument because a pubic option would add to the government’s cost for providing health care.

With or without health care, Broder paints a dismal picture for the future.

He writes:

The economic collapse of 2008 and 2009 did so much damage to the United States that only now can we begin to measure the devastation.

A sentence buried in the budget that President Obama submitted to Congress this week screamed for attention. “Household net worth fell from the third quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2009,” it said, “by $17.5 trillion or 26.5 percent, which is the equivalent to more than one year’s GDP.”

Translated from economic jargon, that sentence means that America lost the benefits of an entire year of work — of all that the brains and labor of American enterprise can produce, in the calamitous near-failure of Wall Street and the banking system.

The casualties of that upheaval are all around us, most notably in the 10 percent of Americans who are officially unemployed — a figure that increases to 17 percent when you consider part-time workers and those who have become discouraged.