Friday, March 6, 2009

Public policy debate in the United States

I am now concerned that the current administration won't be making public policy much differently than the past administration. I never thought I'd say that. The President has several non-Democrats in his Cabinet. He campaigned on trying to move beyond partisanship. However, I still find myself concerned and here is the reason.

The President held his first health care summit meeting yesterday. It was not until the day before that Rep. John Conyers was invited. Rep. Conyers might have been labeled the "token" single payer representative. Without him being invited the day before, there would have been no representation of the view that a single payer system might be the right one for the country. That would have resulted in a discussion among those with similar views about how to make policy based on that view. Not much different from my take on the way the last administration worked most of the time. Can't we do better?

Now, there are many pros and many cons to a single payer system. We may or may not find that we end up with that as a society--and even if we experiment with that as the base for the system it is likely that those with enough money will always find ways around it.

However, excluding the single payer point of view from the debate is not a good way to make public policy in my opinion. I'm not saying that my own approach to leadership and idea development is perfect--and I'm sure my colleagues would be willing to share the imperfections in my approach. However, I always try to make it clear that I welcome all points of view to the table. I want to be forced to question my assumptions. I want to make sure I have access to all the best ideas. Eventually, some ideas will be set aside--that is a part of life. However, insulting oneself from new ideas before making a decision is not likely to every lead us to the best ideas in a time of crisis.

I hope that we can move toward a policy making process in which everyone gets to at least make their case and is welcome to the table--even if they must eventually be told that their ideas will be put on hold.

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