Blandt høge og duer

Der er næsten fuldt hus, da vi når frem til den populære Hawk and Dove-bar på Pennsylvania Avenue.

Præsident George W. Bush skal holde sin årlige State of the Union-tale til nationen. Sammen med 14 andre europæere er jeg på rejse gennem USA inviteret af det amerikanske udenrigsministerium. Vi er i Washington, og herefter går rejsen til det rigtige Amerika langt fra forskere, journalister og europæiske korrespondenter.

Mange har set frem til Præsident Bushs tale til nationen med stor spænding, da Bush ligger meget lavt i meningsmålingerne. Ifølge en ny meningsmåling foretaget af Gallup for CNN og avisen USA Today ser et flertal af amerikanerne ham stadig som en stærk og respektabel leder, men omvendt synes over halvdelen ikke, at hans præsidentperiode har været succesfuld. Snarere tværtimod.

På Pew Reasearch Center, der er et uafhængigt meningsmålingsinstitut i Washington, anskueliggjorde Carroll Doherty situationen ved at sammenligne med de få andre præsidenter, der har siddet to valgperioder.

»Bush ikke er en Nixon, men han er absolut heller ikke en Reagan eller Clinton, der begge lå betydeligt højere i meningsmålingerne på dette tidspunkt i anden valgperiode, « sagde Carroll Doherty.

Præsident Bushs tale til nationen denne aften er derfor ikke uvæsentlig. Talen er måske ikke hans vigtigste tale nogensinde, men den forventes at indeholde spændende reformudspil, der kan sætte en ny dagsorden for hans anden valgperiode.

Plan for de syge

Ikke mindst forventes et udspil inden for sygesektoren. Ligesom i de fleste andre vestlige lande trænger helsesektoren til samme grundige eftersyn, som Bush allerede har givet pensionssystemet. Problemet er, at hans pensionsreform ikke er speciel populær endnu. Mange gætter dog på, at Bush alligevel har en plan for sygesektoren. Han plejer nemlig ikke at lade sig skræmme af dårlige meningsmålinger.

Inde på Haw and Dove står høgene, de røde, bedre kendt som republikanerne i det ene lokale i baren. Duerne, de blå, altså demokraterne har samlet sig i et andet lokale i baren.

Det politiske landskab

Mine rejsekammerater er allerede begyndt at placere sig i det politiske landskab. Jeg har egentlig mest lyst til at blive inde hos republikanerne, men der er så lidt plads, at man umuligt kan presse sig frem i mængden og bestille en øl og en burger. Jeg besinder mig derfor og går videre ind til de blå.

De blå bryder sig tydeligvis ikke om Bush. Men det er måske også noget af det eneste, demokraterne er enige om i disse dage. Man kan sige, som Carroll Doherty gjorde det tidligere på dagen, at det eneste, der samler demokraterne i øjeblikket, er hadet til Bush.

Edward Gresser, der er cheføkonom for tænketanken PPI, er helt enig.

»I øjeblikket har hver eneste demokrat i repræsentanternes hus, hver senator og hver en demokratisk guvernør en udlægning af, hvad demokraternes politik er,« sagde Gresser.

Det er formentlig også derfor, at tilråbene fra de øldrikkende demokrater er både positive og negative, da talen går i gang. Ja, der er endog flere bifald undervejs. Ikke mindst da Bush begynder at tale om reformer af sygesikring, synes alle enige om, at Bush har ret i, at der skal ske noget. Alle ved, at den store babyboom-generation skaber store problemer i fremtiden. Ikke mindst inden for hospitalssektoren.

Enigheden stopper dog, da snakken går på, hvilken vej man skal gå.

Store spørgsmål

Skal man gennem skattefradrag skabe incitamenter, der sikrer, at amerikanerne helt af sig selv tegner sygesikring, og altså bibeholde det effektive private system? Eller skal man tvinge virksomhederne til igen at betale for sygesikring? Eller skal man gå en helt tredje vej og nationalisere systemet?

Og hvis man nationaliserer systemet, lader staten betale for læger og sygeplejersker og derefter sætter skatten op - hvordan undgår man i så fald, at udgifterne løber løbsk?

Det sidste er i følge PPIs cheføkonom demokraternes største udfordring.

Vi kender problemet fra Danmark. I Danmark vokser antallet af personer over 65 år med 400.000 frem til 2040 samtidig med, at antallet af personer i den erhvervsaktive alder falder med 350.000 personer. Det trækker i retning af højere skattetryk, medmindre der gennemføres reformer, inden babyboom-generationen går på pension og bliver gamle og syge.

Pew Research Center har opgjort en liste over de største udfordringer, USA står over for i dag. Amerikanerne prioriterer først og fremmest forsvar mod terrorisme og økonomien. Men herefter kommer uddannelse samt sikring af kontanthjælpen og fremtidens hospitalssektor.

Bush nævner selv problemet i talen til nationen. Et af de største tilråb i aften på Hawk and Dove kommer faktisk, da Bush siger, at de første af i alt 78 millioner baby-boomere i år runder 60 år.

»Og de inkluderer to af min fars yndlingsdrenge - mig selv og præsident Clinton,« siger han. Baren går nærmest i selvsving. Der skåles og grines. På begge sider. Hos både de røde og de blå. Høgene og duerne. Tilskuerne i baren klapper endda, da Bush foreslår, at der nedsættes en (velfærds-)kommission, der skal undersøge, hvad det vil kræve af samfundet, når hele denne babyboom-generation går på pension.

Læren fra Danmark

Som de eneste to lande er Finland og Danmark repræsenteret med to deltagere på denne tur gennem Amerika, der netop er begyndt. Og vi to danskere kigger lidt på hinanden, da Bush har præsenteret sit forslag. Noget tyder på, at Bush har lært af Danmark. Ingen reformer. Men en kommission, som forhåbentlig en dag vil anbefale reformer, der herefter kan gennemføres af både de røde og de blå. Nu venter amerikanerne også.

Af Kasper Elbjørn Senest opdaterede: 24 April 2009, 22:00

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