Wyden, with a solidly liberal voting record, may seem to be an unlikely partner in this enterprise. But he has consistently favored adding elements of market competition to our health care system.
He was one of the relatively few Democrats who provided necessary support for Part D in 2003. And in 2008, he and Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah put forward a health care proposal based on eliminating the current tax preference for employer-provided health insurance.
That preference creates incentives to increase costs, and health policy experts of both left and right have argued for its elimination. But Barack Obama gave Wyden-Bennett the back of his hand and supported a plan that would centralize control in the federal government.
The Obama White House was quick to reject Ryan-Wyden, as well. While Obama has said on occasion that the current Medicare program is not sustainable in the long term, he is now firmly in campaign mode and uninterested in anything other than bashing Republicans for hurting seniors.
Ryan-Wyden makes this kind of cheap-shot politics more difficult. And it comes when a recent poll showed that only 29 percent of voters -- less than one in three -- support the Obamacare legislation. So it's no surprise that Obama prefers Mediscare tactics to defending his administration's largest legislative accomplishment.
The Republican candidates are united in their determination to repeal Obamacare, and repeal is a realistic possibility if Republicans should sweep the 2012 elections as they did in 2010. Ryan-Wyden also renders long-term Medicare reform a realistic possibility.
Ryan-Wyden helps to frame the health care issue in the presidential election as a choice between big government control and market competition. That does not help Obama.
Gallup reports that 64 percent of Americans regard big government, as opposed to big business or big labor, as "the biggest threat to the country in the future." That's just one point under the all-time high since Gallup began asking the question in 1965.
So it's not surprising that Romney and Gingrich saw fit to praise Wyden and that other Democrats are angry with him. But Wyden shows that at least one Democrat, even in campaign season, is more interested in good public policy than in politics.
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