Drawing sharp distinctions between President Obama's and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's versions of the American dream, Governor Deval Patrick praised Massachusetts' state health care system in a speech Thursday (June 14) to a progressive legal policy group and laid out his vision of how government can “help people help themselves.”
“One option of the American dream says everyone is on their own, we should crush unions, shrink government, cut taxes for most fortunate and let student loan costs rise,” Patrick told an audience of lawyers and policy makers at the American Constitution Society's meeting in Washington.
“But there is another option,” Patrick said, “that says that the best strategy invests in education and infrastructure. We have a common stake in those outcomes and history tells us this strategy works.”
Patrick has been at the forefront of the national charge in favor of the federal Affordable Care Act and took the opportunity to tout his state health care program's success. In 2006, under the direction of a bipartisan coalition that included then Massachusetts Governor Romney, a Democratic legislature and the business and health care communities, the state implemented Commonwealth Care, a statewide health care system that relies on private insurance with varying degrees of public subsidy. Its goal was to provide health insurance to every state citizen.
The program, Patrick said, has been achieved without the "calamities" that detractors had feared. There are enough doctors in the state to handle the number of people with insurance, and more private employers, he said, now offer insurance to their workers than they did before the law. The system, he said, is a model for state health exchanges that would be created under the Affordable Care Act, pending the decision any day now from the U.S. Supreme Court on the law's constitutionality.
Patrick put Commonwealth Care in the context of two different “American dreams,” which also has been a common theme from both President Obama and Romney on the campaign trail this year. In a campaign ad Romney released last month, workers at a steel plant say that the investment Romney's private equity firm Bain Capital made in their company to create jobs in their community is an example of how the private sector can help people achieve the American dream.
Obama's vision of the American dream rests on an emphasis of shared goals. In a speech earlier this year at the University of Michigan, Obama said that he owes his success to the people who came before him who believed in the American dream for all people and “decided, we're going to think not just about ourselves but about the future. We've got responsibilities — yes to ourselves, but also to each other."
Thursday's conference was themed “democracy at stake,” and Patrick agreed, saying that not only democracy, but the “character of the country” is at stake in the November presidential election. “If democracy is about choices, and if it's at risk, it's because of choices we're making or failing to make,” Patrick said. “We have a choice to make in November. Choose wisely.”