Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 14, 2009

LIEBERMAN AT HIS MOST LIEBERMAN-ESQUE.... In a Bloomberg interview aired yesterday, Sen. Joe Lieberman offered some relative praise for President Obama, before getting into the details.

Lieberman told Al Hunt that he's "pleasantly encouraged" by the Democratic president he fought so hard to defeat, adding that Obama is "off to a very, very good start in a very difficult time in our nation's history."

The praise was immediately offset, though, by Lieberman taking issue with the president's position on a variety of issues, most notably Israeli settlements and the closing of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Of course, as the cliche goes, Lieberman is with his caucus on "everything but foreign policy," so these remarks were hardly surprising.

I found Lieberman's remarks on health care more disconcerting.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said this weekend that he opposes a public option plan for consumers in a healthcare reform plan to emerge from the Senate.

"I don't favor a public option," Lieberman told Bloomberg News in an interview broadcast this weekend. And I don't favor a public option because I think there's plenty of competition in the private insurance market." [...]

"We have a unique opportunity, a real opportunity to do this year what we've been trying to do for years, which is to reform American healthcare," Lieberman said. "I think the one thing that will stop that is pressure on the so-called public option."

"Let's get something done instead of having a debate," the Connecticut Independent added.

First, reforming American healthcare without a public option is to do reform the wrong way. Second, Lieberman is just wrong about there being "plenty of competition in the private insurance market." Third, these comments yet another reminder that Lieberman is not with Democrats on "everything but foreign policy."

And finally, I have no idea what "let's get something done instead of having a debate" means. What's wrong with having a debate and getting something done?

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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The Senate Democrats had their chance to get rid of Lieberman after the 2008 election. Naturally, they did nothing. The Senate has nothing to do with ideas or even governance. It's about 100 men and women protecting their own power and prestige, and telling each other they're all the second coming of Daniel Webster. See Specter, Arlen.

Posted by: JMG on June 14, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

>"The Senate has nothing to do with ideas or even governance. It's about 100 men and women protecting their own power and prestige"

Forgot the part about big money... other than that, spot on.

Posted by: Buford on June 14, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman is with the Democrats on everything but reality.

Posted by: JoeW on June 14, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK


Once again we do not have to debate everything in this country. Democrats want a public option, Republicans don't. Fine, write up a bill and have them vote on it. There is this strange fetish for debating in this country, everything must be debated. Its really odd.

If Democrats want a public option, and I hope they do, then write a bill, and send it up for a vote. The House and Senate should be allowed to vote on a public-option despite want Holy-Joe thinks.

Posted by: Matt on June 14, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

joe lieberman is a traitor.

Posted by: neill on June 14, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

As someone who watches way too much C-SPAN 2, I see the Senate as the world's longest running Kabuki theater.

In between lengthy quorum calls one of the members of the August Body will bloviate on a subject dear to his heart- in a chamber empty, save for the President, who is either reading, signing photographs, or cat napping.

Watching a vote is excitement itself! 100 ancient men- and, egad! wimmin, since the nation fell into chaos a few decades ago- mill about on the floor, catch up with old friends and enemies while the vote is tallied.

Democracy at work, right out in the open, for all to see on C-SPAN!

I wonder what is going on during those quorum calls. . .

Posted by: DAY on June 14, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Lieberman is to be commended for his courageous stand on bringing "Real Reform" to this mess by cutting paper work from "septet-licate" to the old standard of triplicate forms. Yes, Joe, Stand Tall

Posted by: berttheclock on June 14, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

And finally, I have no idea what "let's get something done instead of having a debate" means. What's wrong with having a debate and getting something done?

Because that would mean someone would actually question the divine, inerrant wisdom of Holy Joe.

Posted by: martinmc on June 14, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

isn't (or if not now in the past) a Pharma lobbyist?
I'm sure that wouldn't impact his viewpoint.

Posted by: JR on June 14, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman is from the insurance state of connecticut. Of course he "thinks" insurance companies are able to offer the market what it needs.

He's just a self interested dick. Most senators are.

Posted by: tomboy on June 14, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Connecticut is known to be the home of an insurance company or two. I don't think Lieberman's stance against a public option is surprising. Dodd won't be a strong supporter either. Neither senator will do anything to damage a home state business interest.

Posted by: rlb on June 14, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK
"let's get something done instead of having a debate"

What that means is "Do it my way and don't disagree with me on how. My way is innately better because I say so and because I'll screw you over if you balk."

The inherent grandiosity of such narcissistic Senators seems to be epidemic in the Senate.

Posted by: Rick B on June 14, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

there's as much competition in the health care "industry" (funny word in this context, no?) as there is among cable providers. And as anyone with cable knows, prices are always going up.

Posted by: sjw on June 14, 2009 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

I am actually curious about this. It seems to me that there are three fundamental issues with regard to reforming health care. Improving quality, lowering costs and making it universally available. The availability question I can see being managed fairly easily with a mandate for both insurers to cover everyone and insurees to purchase some form of health care. But I am curious how people like Lieberman see the government exerting any pressure at all on cost and quality without a public option?

I mean, everyone has to buy auto insurance now but unless you are shelling out a significant amount of money, your insurance probably has a pretty high deductible and doesn't cover much beyond basic liability anyway. In the event of any claim, you are probably still going to be out a lot of money, you are going to have to deal with a lot of bureaucracy to get any kind of reimbursement and afterward, your cost for insurance is going to go up by quite a bit. Its incredibly annoying but I'm not hating. That is basically how insurance companies operate and how they make money. How will a reformed health insurance industry have to behave any differently under the various options being put forward? If they don't then what we are really reforming is the management of health risks but we aren't really looking at a system that will significantly improve health outcomes. That, from my perspective, would be a good thing to do but not really much of a major reform. For most of us, who are already insured we would still be dealing with the same crappy system as before with some minor lowering of price around the margins.

Posted by: brent on June 14, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

I have no idea what "let's get something done instead of having a debate" means.

this actually gets to the heart of what obama is doing on healthcare and everything else: substance-free action, get something done even though it doesn't fix that which needs fixing. Give fancy hollow speeches while maintaining plutocratic policies. Getting "something done" for sake of saying something was done, when in reality nothing got done. Just look at states secrets, DOMA, DADT, wall street no-reform, cram-down and the litany of failures obama is racking up. Guaranteed, he will not have Guantanimo closed in 9 months or ever.

Healthcare reform that does not undermine insurance companies monopoly on ripping off Americans is not reform - its just more disgusting lipstick on a gross pig. But because obama and nearly every other politician in Washington are agents of Big Corporate America, what they will do is pass legislation that sounds like reform, is hailed as reform, but that will in actuality be more of the same or worse, and the raping of Americans with our onscenely expensive heathcare avoidance system will continue for at least another decade because we already "reformed" it.
.

Posted by: pluege on June 14, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

"let's get something done instead of having a debate" = "let's pass something we can call a reform even though it will leave millions without care, fail to control costs, and continue to allow 750,000 people to be bankrupted every year thanks to fraud on the part of their insurer."

Lieberman isn't interested in fixing any of the problems associated with the current joke of a system; his only concern is protecting the profits of a few dozen insurers, their CEOs, and their shareholders. Unfortunately, he's not alone.

We might be able to force real reform (defined at minimum as getting a public insurance option) if we all went on strike. Short of that, they're going to screw us again.

Posted by: Jennifer on June 14, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

what pluege said.

i'm going to start a petition to take away the senate's health care. "government" health care is a terrible thing, let's just help them out and give them an opportunity to insure themselves on the open market.

Posted by: karen marie on June 14, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase an old George Carlin joke, just because our Senators began their fight against the credit card industry in Deleware and ended up in a de-moralized skirmish line atop the Pacific Palisades didn't mean they were poor fighters. However, Bernie Sanders still deserves a Distinguished Service Cross for his fight.

So, Joe L is attempting to stand tall against, what one poster at RedState called, the "Government Run Death Care" plan.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 14, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

"Lieberman isn't interested in fixing any of the problems associated with the current joke of a system; his only concern is protecting the profits of a few dozen insurers, their CEOs, and their shareholders."

I understand the sentiment, I just don't think this is entirely correct. I don't think Lieberman is trying to protect CEOs, I think he is trying to protect himself. The first rule of Congress is to ensure ones reelection first, and then take principled stands. What a change in the health care system means is exactly that, change. Change is unpredictable, change causes new alliances to be made, and it also causes a disruption in constituencies, it also changes the flow of money into campaigns. The reason that Senators and House members don't pass legislation that will restructure major institutions is because they are not certain how they will be able to hold onto their seat. One of the problems regarding legislation like Health Care Reform is that we have and entire branch of government that thinks their jobs should be permanent, which ensures that when the time comes for real reform, we will get water-down versions, that will ensure the status-quo. I want a public option, I want better Health Care reform, I just know that its not going to happen and we will be talking about this issue in the same way in 2012.

Posted by: Matt on June 14, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

It's like people in this country have no idea how to force their government to do their bidding. Perhaps this why Republicans feel the need to demonize the French, because they sure as hell wouldn't put up with this shit - they'd declare a general strike and the country would grind to a halt until their grievances were addressed.

We COULD do the same thing here, but the "me first" values instilled by 30 years of Republican control of government make most people unwilling to impose any pain or discomfort upon themselves as part of a collective (read: effective) action.

For example, we COULD easily get rid of the private insurers altogether, in just a couple of months. All we would have to do is collectively all drop our insurance. In such a scenario, do you not think the AMA and big pharma would be johnny-on-the-spot with the demand that the government step in and insure everyone immediately?

Will this ever happen? Of course not - because neither Joe McMansion or Joe Sixpack Trailerpark is willing to risk the loss of all of his personal wealth (which of course, is already at risk under the current system) if it's going to help someone who has nothing.

One of the things that makes all the "USA! USA!" Lee Greenwood-style patriotism so ironically amusing is that it serves as nothing more than a cover for what a bunch of huge pussies the majority of people in this country have become.

Posted by: Jennifer on June 14, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman thinks there is plenty of competition among private insurance companies. Lieberman alo thinks it's perfectly fine for hospitals to deny appropriate medical care to rape victims because there are enough hospitals in Connecticut that rape victims can just casually stroll over to another one that views women as human beings not merely baby vessels.

As a Connecticut resident I cannot begin to express how much I loath the man.

Posted by: Nothing But the Ruth on June 14, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

"i'm going to start a petition to take away the senate's health care. "government" health care is a terrible thing, let's just help them out and give them an opportunity to insure themselves on the open market."

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the senate has health care just about like the rest of us who have employer-paid health insurance. About 2/3 is paid by their employer, the rest is paid by them, and they have to pay to obtain coverage for their families.

I am for single payer health care, but we don't advance our cause by misstating what government employees get.

Posted by: msmolly on June 14, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Will this ever happen? Of course not - because neither Joe McMansion or Joe Sixpack Trailerpark is willing to risk the loss of all of his personal wealth (which of course, is already at risk under the current system) if it's going to help someone who has nothing.

Or maybe because it's a gigantic collective action problem that could never possibly work in any conceivable situation?

Posted by: John on June 14, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

What a self grandizing pomous ass. What? He's the gatekeeper for what is right and good? How about this Joe, stab someone else in the back for a while.

Posted by: William Jensen on June 14, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

John - it works in other places with workers' strikes. It won't work here for the reasons outlined. And also because many of those who would need to participate have gleefully applauded the death of the unions, who typically spearhead this type of action.

At the same time you're underestimating the havoc if even 10% or 15% of everyone opted out of insurance. Currently 15% are already insured. Doubling that number would quickly drive up prices to the point that a lot of employers and self-employed people would have to opt out from economic necessity, which would further increase prices and opt outs and so on.

But like I said, it will never happen.

Posted by: Jennifer on June 14, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Make that "currently 15% are already uninsured."

Posted by: Jennifer on June 14, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

You only need four words about anything Holy Joe the Jewish nazi has to say about anything:

Lieberman is wrong.

Posted by: TCinLA on June 14, 2009 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

I'm always surprised that no one uses an analogy to PBS and NPR--good and relatively non-threatening examples of "public options." Even most moderate GOPers concede that you get a high quality alternative to the glossy shout-fests on cable news and talk radio. Only the hard core ideologues will go ballistic, but then that's a good thing, since they'll just marginalize themselves.

I know the analogy to health care is far from perfect--NPR and PBS aren't really designed to put cost pressure on the profit-based media. But they do put "quality" pressure on those outlets, and during much of the early Bush years, they were the only place to go (save small circulation blogs) for honest reporting.

Posted by: RMcD on June 14, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Not a helpful comment, but I swear every time I hear Lieberman riff on the phrase "get things done" my blood pressure soars.

Posted by: Jon Parker on June 14, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Senate is a rich-man's club run by rich men.

Why shouldn't the middle class get screwed?

Posted by: Joey Giraud on June 14, 2009 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

"as the cliche goes, Lieberman is with his caucus on "everything but foreign policy,"

Does Lieberman oppose Dem party consensus on Sudan, Cuba, China, Taiwan? Is he a hawk on every foreign policy dilemma - or just the Arab/Muslim question?

Posted by: flubber on June 14, 2009 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Connecticut is home to insurance companies. I remember watching that woman senator or representive from CT on cspan talking against the Clinton plan. I forget her name. Her husband is a doctor and they were from Hartford. So you might say lieberman is simply earning the money he gets from his corporate constituents.

Posted by: CDW on June 14, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

as usual, Liebermen has it exactly wrong.

Posted by: jamie on June 14, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I can't stand these fucking douchebags. My GF can't get coverage anywhere due to a prior medical condition and I just plain can't afford health care for myself despite being super healthy (non smoker/drinker/etc)..

Posted by: Matt on June 14, 2009 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Ms Molly, @11:11,

When's the last time you've heard of a Senator having his health insurance denied him because of preexisting condition? When's the last time you've heard of one of them -- no matter how bad their health is -- having his co-pay hiked up so high he can no longer afford even his bit? Folks like McCain and Specter and Kennedy -- if you had their problems, do you think you'd be able to remain insured? Especially in Kennedy's case (and, before that, Tim Johnson's), where he had been away from his job for months. You and I would have been fired long ago, with no-one providing any support.

So, no. The Senators' health insurance and mine are not at all alike.

Posted by: exlibra on June 14, 2009 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Lieberman is a jerk and the corporations have him in their pockets. Big surprise.

I'm beginning to think that maybe most of the Senate and half the House really do live in a bubble. They really don't see what it's like for the uninsured because most of them 1) are rich and 2) have had excellent federal coverage for years. It's like the general public's ignorance of what it's like to try to live on minimum wage or get by at the lowest economic level. Unless you've lived it, it seems like caricature when it is described accurately. I used to hope for a public plan, but after the last week, it's clear that no matter how many times I write to my Senators and Representative, they will be taking the advice of the healthcare industry. Why did I hope for anything else? Why was I naive enough to think fighting the corporate interests was possible? I don't know.

Posted by: kris on June 14, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I am surprised nobody's mentioned that Not So Holy Joe's Wifey/Pimp is a big pharma lobbyist. I wonder why Not So Holy Joe doesn't mention his religion when it comes to universal healthcare. Perhaps he needs to read up on his religion and what it says about providing for all. Not So Holy Joe gives a crap about nobody but himself. This is POS I wouldn't even say a small prayer for if he dropped dead. Not even for his kids.

Posted by: warren terrah on June 14, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Jennifer:

"Will this ever happen? [Country-wide temporary giving up of health insurance]. Of course not - because neither Joe McMansion or Joe Sixpack Trailerpark is willing to risk the loss of all of his personal wealth (which of course, is already at risk under the current system) if it's going to help someone who has nothing."

I agree that there are people such as you describe who would refuse to give up health insurance for the reasons you outline. However, there is another, very legitimate reason, for not wanting to give up some sort of coverage, no matter how temporary.

I am 63 and have significant health problems. I have intermittent asthma which has twice flared into potentially deadly acute attacks. I'm in the early stages of congestive heart failure and have cardiac arrhythmia which flares up every now and then necessitating a visit to the ER to stop the arrhythmia. Etc. I could have a fatal episode absent the ability to be covered while being taken to the hospital. Moreover, given my health history, were I to give up health insurance temporarily, how easy do you think it would be to get coverage again? Can you say pre-existing conditions?

I am VERY much in favor of a sensible single healthcare plan, such as that which France has. Not only for myself but for all the people/families currently un- or under-insured. For our children, the future of all of us, including people like me who were unable to have children.

So don't assume that not participating in a general strike means selfishness.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on June 14, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Its not surprising that a Senator from Connecticutt would not be happy about a public option for insurance. There are huge insurance companies in that state. What is surprising is that private insurers are so terrified of compettiton from what we are told daily by the media will be a socialistic, poorly run, inefficient, death causing, piece of crap like Canada and England's health system. If private insurers are so superior why all the concern?

Posted by: aline on June 14, 2009 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Wolfdaughter - I don't think you really got where I was going with that.

Yes, I know that the proposition of dumping insurance is extremely frightening for anyone with a pre-existing condition, more frightening for those with life-threatening pre-existing conditions.

However, there are a lot of folks out there now without insurance who are in exactly that situation. They do get treatment when they show up at ER. As for the folks with those types of conditions who do have coverage, many of them are under the impression that their insurance will protect them from financial ruin, when all too often, that is not the case.

And, as I noted, even having another 10 - 15% of the population dump their insurance would be likely to bring the current system crashing to the ground. Preferably, the healthiest 10 - 15%, the ones where the insurers make their profit margin.

Then there's the possibility of presenting the insurers with the ticking time bomb scenario: some significant portion of the population collectively within the space of one week notifies their insurer/employer that they will be terminating their policy in 90 days. The insurers quickly put their number crunchers on it, and figure out that in 90 days, they're not going to have operating capital. Then THEY demand a solution, with the doctors, hospitals, and pharma chiming in. Sure, it's blackmail; it's essentially people telling all responsible parties that they've got x time to fix things before things go ka-boom. But nothing focuses the attention so wonderfully as the prospect of incipient ruin.

They've already demonstrated time and time and time again that OUR incipient ruin is of no consequence, so long as they are able to continue raking off obscene profits and CEO salaries. Does anyone really believe that will change until they get a taste of their own medicine?

We are free agents here; we don't HAVE to participate in a system that is raping and killing us and our fellow citizens. It's a choice. And it's probably not going to get better until a large enough portion of us choose not to participate in it.

Posted by: Jennifer on June 14, 2009 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

What is surprising is that private insurers are so terrified of compettiton from what we are told daily by the media will be a socialistic, poorly run, inefficient, death causing, piece of crap like Canada and England's health system. - aline

I assume you mean ironic, not surprising. But here are a few reasons they should fear the government option insurance.

1) Union wages, but no tiers of management that get paid more than the president.

2) If the government starts turning down viable treatment, people will threaten their congressmen, and their stories will fill the news channels and shows like 60 Minutes. Contrast that with Michael Moore's movie. You can be pretty sure he didn't need a NYT budget to find the stories for his movie.

3) If the government option does not turn away people with pre-existing conditions, people without those conditions will migrate to the public plan, rather than risk a private insurer rejecting treatment after paying years of premiums.

4) The gov't run program will not be worried about stock price or dividends. They probably won't even want to be seen as either profitable or wasteful.

5) The government would not need a sales force. Actuaries to figure out what special rates they can give to large customers? None. Ad budget - zero. Huge office buildings in CT or NY with the kinds of views needed to recruit top execs?- no. Money managers to invest premiums? R&D departments looking for new and exciting plans to offer? No and no.

Posted by: Danp on June 14, 2009 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Joe is dancin' with who brung him. Republicans elected him (over 70% of CT Rs who voted), they don't want to change healthcare unless they do it (Part D) and AIPAC told him the change was bad.
Until and unless the notion that the UK and other European countries pay half or less per capita than we do, nothing will happen.
Until and unless there's a debate over health outcomes with the Rs acknowledging that the US does not have the best healthcare in the world, nothing will happen.
Until and unless the litigation bar changes how doctors are sued, nothing will happen.

So, basically, nothing will happen.

Posted by: TJM on June 14, 2009 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

I just wrote Senator Lieberman an e-mail. How dare these people who are frickin' set for life, at the taxpayer's expense, tell the American people that our ridiculous health care system just needs to do more of the same.

I am steamed, really steamed. I told him he was on the wrong side of history and that instead of making a difference he's going to hurt millions of Americans. The private sector is not adequate to address the needs of our people. The system is broken because of the private sector.

Unbelievable.

Posted by: ajaye on June 14, 2009 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK
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