It did not take long, however, for the feelings of exultation and pride felt by many of us on inauguration day to be tempered by the harsh realities of governing a country. Beset with the largest economic recession since the Great Depression, two long, drawn-out wars in distant lands, and a mean-spirited, political opposition that spares no distortion in attempting to divide us, the obstacles facing Obama and the country were huge, the problems inherited seemingly insurmountable. The new President had a very steep mountain to climb, yet he willingly accepted the challenge. Faced with rising unemployment and a collapsing economy, he immediately put into place an economic stimulus package of historic proportions. Although a flawed bill in many ways – with too much emphasis on bailing out Wall Street and not enough on short-term job creation – few mainstream economists dispute that the President’s decisive action and infusion of $787 billion into the economy prevented an economic depression.
Claims that the uninsured can always go to an emergency room for charity care ignore the fact that American taxpayers pay a high price for that care. And it ignores the abundant evidence that people who lack insurance don’t get necessary preventive care or screening tests, and suffer gravely when they finally do seek treatment because their diseases have become critical.
The American Cancer Society now says the greatest obstacle to reducing cancer deaths is lack of health insurance. It is so persuaded of that fact that two years ago, instead of promoting its antismoking campaign or publicizing the need for cancer screening, it devoted its entire advertising budget to the problem of inadequate health insurance coverage.