Mr. Cutler Goes To Washington

February 4th, 2009 at 11:51 am | 2 Comments |

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A Harvard professor moves to Washington!

In an administration that boasts having recruited economists Jeremy Stein and Jeffrey Liebman, physician law professor Cass Sunstein, case and former President Lawrence Summers, the news of Harvard Dean David Cutler’s decision to leave Cambridge, MA, hardly seems remarkable.  Indeed, it barely registered in the news.

As I’ve noted here, this isn’t Cutler’s first journey to D.C.  At 28, already on the Harvard faculty, he set out to remake American health care, joining the Clinton Administration.  The efforts, of course, collapsed, and Cutler returned to Cambridge, MA.

Though he has busied himself with a variety of administrative roles (he’s now a dean) and academic pursuits (he has written papers on everything from the value of health-care spending to the rise of obesity in the United States), he has continued to be a fixture in Democratic politics.  He advised Senator Kerry in 2004 and, more importantly, took a major role in President Obama’s campaign.

Cutler will feel at home in Washington.  He has advocated a robust role for the federal government in health reform: paying for performance, mandating employer insurance, and expanding coverage.  His book primarily focuses on championing the first idea on this list.

With another bright liberal in the White House, economist Gregory Mankiw refers to “the best and the brightest” — and the disaster of Vietnam.

Maybe.  Paying for performance, the fashionable idea that Washington will decide which health-care providers are doing good work and should thus be rewarded with more money, seems not simply ideological but impractical — the health wonk equivalent of the 1970s idea that government could pick winners in industry.

But whether or not these ideas really work, President Obama oversees a health-care team that is staffed by veterans of Washington (like Office of Health Reform Deputy Jeanne Lambrew) and of past Democratic health-care campaigns (like Washington-bound Cutler). In other words, they know how to successfully sell them to Congress.

Conservatives who dream of a new 1994 legislative debacle need to wake up.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Bulldoglover100

    Or perhaps come up with ideas that work? Health care is the number one concern with the majority in this country and if we ignore that? We ignore it at our own peril.
    Gallup poll just out today? 38% identify as Democratics while only 26% as Republicans. The biggest margin in history. We won’t fix it by being the party of NO or by sitting around pointing out what we think is wrong when we offer no solution.

  • coleman

    Or perhaps get a seat at the table? There are also many brilliant conservatives who could help craft groundbreaking legislation. Our so-called leaders in the House are sitting it out while historic changes are underway.
    Let’s get in the game. McCain didn’t even vote on the stimulus bill. He made another one of his signature grandstanding speeches, put forth a proposal that didn’t have a chance, then flew out of the country to attend a security conference in Germany – when America needs all the attention it can get from its elected officials.
    McCain continues to be an embarrassment to the GOP.