Obama prefers this to the Republican approach, which would introduce market forces into health care in order to save a calcified system from collapsing under the weight of state controls. Indeed, he couldn't even acknowledge this is the intent of Republican plan, preferring instead to recycle ancient barbs and insults about conservative cruelty and class warfare.
In a speech billed as being full of specifics, it had precious few save the president's passionate desire to raise taxes on "the wealthy." Rhetorically, Obama defines the "rich" as millionaires like himself or billionaires like Warren Buffet. But in reality he sets his sights considerably lower: households (and small businesses) that make more than $250,000 a year.
As for shared sacrifice, it is hard to find any in his proposal. Six out of 10 U.S. households receive more from the government than they pay in taxes. If "shared sacrifice" is the standing order of the day, where is theirs? The president suggests that repealing Bush's tax cuts will save the day. But the vast bulk of those cuts go to people making less than $250,000 a year. The president wants to keep those cuts as his idea while talking about shared sacrifice. Meanwhile, as The Wall Street Journal notes, if you taxed everyone who makes over $100,000 at a rate of 100 percent, you still wouldn't raise enough to balance president Obama's budget, never mind pay off any debt.
The only good news to come from all of this is that the battle is now joined. The president has staked his banner in the soil of reactionary liberalism. Good. By setting his fortifications so far to the left of the middle ground, he gives the forces of reform room to advance far.
The rank and file are ready for battle, with the tea parties at the forefront. The only question is whether the GOP's generals have the stomach for the fight. And that question raises as much dread as hope.