President Obama’s reported decision to bail on pushing public option health insurance — a government-subsidized alternative to private health care that would obviously push prices down — is, for me, a heartbreaker. I confess to knowing zip about whether insurance co-ops, which the Obama administration is now floating as an alternative, would have as strong and decisive an effect on keeping costs down…but I strongly doubt that they would.

I do know that there’s no honor in compromising in order to save face. By my sights the public-option tent-fold is a wimp move. A bad day for the Obama brand. The greedy insurance-company bastards are having their way.

N.Y. Times columnist Paul Krugman, whom I trust, says in an 8.16 column that Obamacare (as it was understood before the public-option capitulation) is basically “a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.”

But “if we were starting from scratch we probably wouldn’t have chosen this route,” he adds. “‘True ‘socialized medicine’ would undoubtedly cost less, and a straightforward extension of Medicare-type coverage to all Americans would probably be cheaper than a Swiss-style system. That’s why I and others believe that a true public option competing with private insurers is extremely important: otherwise, rising costs could all too easily undermine the whole effort.”

Howard Dean said this morning on talk shows that “you can’t really do health reform without” a public-option program. He called a direct government role “the entirety of health care reform. It isn’t the entirety of insurance reform…we shouldn’t spend $60 billion a year subsidizing the insurance industry.”