Saturday, 8 November 2014

Barack Obama needs India, and how (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.

Obama needs to create a synergy between the US and India in healthcare , in the production of affordable medication, treatment and transcription.
US President Barack Obama hosts a luncheon for bi-partisan Congressional leaders in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House in Washington, on Friday. REUTERS
That Barack Obama is among the most cerebral of US Presidents is a given, and not merely when compared to his predecessor. His books reveal a brilliant mind, but one clearly focused on a single goal: the promotion of the career of the child of a Kenyan father and a US mother. Each paragraph, almost each word, has been chiselled in order to show the current US President in the hues in which he would like the world to regard him, as the idealist who has beaten the odds to bring light where till now there has only been darkness. Tracking Obama in his policy peregrinations and in his statements, it is clear that the only thing he holds dear is his own career. Now that he has won what is still the most coveted responsibility on the globe, his attention needs to get focused on another — albeit related — objective, which is to ensure a legacy which would put him in the top tier of US Presidents, together with (in the view of this columnist) George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Why the latter two? Because the Civil Rights Act would never have been passed without a decade or more of turmoil on the streets without Johnson, although all that he finally did was to replace the agitation for civil rights with that designed to end the war in Vietnam. As for Nixon, he upended global geopolitics by embracing China in order to smother the USSR. While Ronald Reagan is usually given credit for outspending Moscow, the fact is that it was Nixon's use of Beijing against Moscow which terminally weakened the world's other giant communist state.
The Republican Party claim that it was the healthcare which derailed President Obama's popularity, is wrong. The defeat of Democratic candidates for Senator, Governor and House Representative in the just-concluded polls is indicative of the fact that President Obama erred in accepting the nostrums of the financial industry.
This resulted in a swathe of foreclosures of homes in a manner which was nothing less than inhuman. At far less cost that the subsidies meted out to a few banks and financial institutions, most US homeowners could have held on to their homes, for example, if the US government had taken care of interest payments for a few years at mandatorily reduced levels and given breathing time for homeowners to either find the money to pay off their mortgages or to sell their assets at a price which reflected not the distress of 2008 but the recovery of 2011.
By throwing millions of such people to the vultures, who held their mortgages, Obama showed that the concern for the underprivileged that he constantly wore on his sleeve would not last an encounter with Wall Street. It was only towards the end of his first term in office that President Obama retraced his policy of Clinton-era backing for the financial industry, but not by enough to make a substantive difference. The disaster of housing will be followed by another on health, unless Barack Obama accepts that the solution to his legacy (of affordable healthcare for all) vests with India. He needs to stop seeking to drive away from US and other markets the products of the Indian pharmaceutical industry, or to pressurise governments in Delhi into making concessions which would assist pharma giants based in Europe and the US to ensure that thousands of the poor get killed each month, because they cannot afford medicine at the cost offered. If Barack Obama succeeds in killing the generic drugs industry in India and thereby boost prices of medicines substantially, it is his own budget which would be a prime victim. Rather, Obama needs to create synergy between the US and India in healthcare, not simply in the production of affordable medication, but in other steps such as treatment and transcription.
Thus far, he has acted as an agent of pharma giants, the way in which he took the line of financial giants in the past. Only a US-India healthcare alliance can ensure that "affordable and universal" healthcare can be both affordable and universal in the country whose voters have just administered a severe electoral rebuke to Barack Obama and his tango with billionaires, rather than with the millions who stood by him in two presidential elections.

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