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Tilting at Windmills

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December 5, 2009

LIEBERMAN'S ON TO REASON #7.... Regular readers may have noticed that I've been keeping track of Joe Lieberman's evolving rationales for opposing a public option. The Connecticut senator is so opposed to letting some consumers choose between competing public and private plans that he's willing to kill the entire bill over this one issue, but his reasoning keeps changing.

Believe it or not, we're up to seven arguments over seven months, none of which makes sense.

In June, Lieberman said, "I don't favor a public option because I think there's plenty of competition in the private insurance market." That didn't make sense, and it was quickly dropped from his talking points.

In July, Lieberman said he opposes a public option because "the public is going to end up paying for it." No one could figure out exactly what that meant, and the senator moved on to other arguments.

In August, he said we'd have to wait "until the economy's out of recession," which is incoherent, since a public option, even if passed this year, still wouldn't kick in for quite a while.

In September, Lieberman said he opposes a public option because "the public doesn't support it." A wide variety of credible polling proved otherwise.

In October, Lieberman said the public option would mean "trouble ... for the national debt," by creating "a whole new government entitlement program." Soon after, Jon Chait explained that this "literally makes no sense whatsoever."

In November, Lieberman said creating a public plan along the lines of Medicare is antithetical to "the way we've responded to the market in America in the past." This, too, was quickly debunked.

And here we are in December, and the independent senator has a new explanation, which he explained to the Wall Street Journal:

Why is he adamant? Mr. Lieberman says that while he is not "a conspiratorial person," he believes the public option is intended as a way for the government to take over health care. "I've been working for health-care reform in different ways since I arrived here," he says. "It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can't afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies . . . So where did this public option come from?" It was barely a blip, he says, in last year's presidential campaign.

"I started to ask some of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus, privately, and two of them said 'some in our caucus, and some outside in interest groups, after the president won such a great victory and there were more Democrats in the Senate and the House, said this is the moment to go for single payer.'" So, I joke, the senator is, in fact, as big a "conspiracy theorist" as me. He laughingly rejoins: "But I have evidence!"

This really is incoherent. First, independent analyses, including reports from the CBO, have found that public and private plans can compete and co-exist without driving the other out of business. Lieberman may claim to have imaginary "evidence," but there is no conspiracy.

Second, this wasn't sprung on lawmakers after the election; it was part of all of the major Democratic candidates' plans as far back as mid-2007.

And third, if progressive lawmakers decided this is "the moment to go for single payer," they would have proposed single payer. As it stands, they're pushing for a watered-down public option with a state opt-out.

Lieberman's "conspiracy theory," in other words, is bunk.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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how many times,
how many ways,
does one need to point out how thoroughly full of crap LIEberman is?

what is the point? It is as proven as the Earth is round.

Posted by: pluege on December 5, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

If Democrats could only smear and distort like Republicans - then it would be a fair world.

"The Republicans are turning America into a fascist country owned by the corporate elite and using any issue to divide us while pursuing their hidden agenda."

"Health care is just a Republican proxy that they are using to take over our country in a violent conspiracy."

Oh yeah, Democrats seek the higher ground and defend themselves until there is nothing left to defend.

Double standards apply.

Posted by: Dean on December 5, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

IIRC, Mrs. Lieberman makes millions as a healthcare executive, so you can't really blame Joe for being upset. After all, he can't come right out and say what's really bothering him: healthcare reform will cut his income. Screw those 40,000+ Americans who die every year -- the Liebermans have a vacation home to pay for!

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 5, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

the nihilism grows...Lieberman is one of the very best front men on either/both sides of the aisle of the Clown Car Senate.

He may exude the qualities of a love child of Woody Allen and Dick Cavette -- and one could make a million dollars selling cute little Lieberman dolls, but he is evil, vile, contemptuously corrupt to the gills.

Posted by: neill on December 5, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

How about if there was a movement to remove Israel from the U.S.'s foreign aid entitlement program and put the Israeli's on a cash basis. That's a couple of billion a year to pay for health care.

Posted by: Cycledoc on December 5, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Why not have a one time gross progressive tax, the "2010 Balanced Books Tax" that would take the entire national debt - figure out a tiered ratio and eliminate it - just get it over and done.

Posted by: Dean on December 5, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

As a strong supporter of the public option, here's what I say to the Dems - forget the public option for now, adopt the best kind of health care plan you can without it, THEN, after it's adopted, go back and say, "You know, this is a great plan. Only one thing missing - a public option." Then use reconciliation and tell the Liebermans of the world to go to hell... or at least out of the Democratic caucus.

Posted by: Geneva Mike on December 5, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

"I've been working for health-care reform in different ways since I arrived here," he says.

By which he means, Doing the bidding of the insurance industry,

Posted by: martin on December 5, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Fuck him. Use reconciliation. Maybe Snowe can be brought back into play. Maybe Reid will be willing to try some Hail Mary plays, since he himself is going to be out of office next year.

In the long run, I have family in a neighboring state, and I would be willing to help out an opponent of his in a primary. Like Strom Thurmond or Jesse Helms, Lieberman s a "national senator" in the sense that he's willing to gum up the works and who does know or care how much he is reviled.

Posted by: Rathskeller on December 5, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

A new Lieberman excuse? Has a month gone by already? Wow, time flies. It sure is good of the Senator to make sure we know that it's December by rolling out the new one. I guess I need to get the holiday lights up this weekend.

Just so I understand, he's adamantly against the public option because a couple guys told him that, after the election, in the moment of Democratic success, some people interested in single-payer thought they might have a chance? Damn them for getting their hopes up, huh? How dare they think they could achieve something progressive!

Clearly, he has to stand against even the most watered-down bills, just to teach them a lesson about wanting to change the status quo.

Posted by: biggerbox on December 5, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Look, I think everyone knows that Lieberman wants to throw sand in the gears of the Democratic Party after he had his head handed to him the Democratic Primary. So opposing health care reform, the Democrats signature issue this year, is the perfect way for him to get even. But more than harboring ill feelings to the Democrats in general, he must pray imprecatory prays every day for Jane Hamsher, who lead the charge against him in Connecticut.

Now Jane has been a strong advocate for the public option and has made single payer a long term goal. My guess is that the little prick by bringing up single payer in this interview is letting everyone know that he is giving a big fuck you to Jane when he opposes the public option.

Nice to have such a grown-up in the Senate....

Posted by: veblen on December 5, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

"It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can't afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies . . . So where did this public option come from?"

Gee, Joe, I dunno, maybe because it helps make all of those other things stronger?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on December 5, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

@ veblen: Isn't Hamsher part of the reason why Lieberman _won_? Because of that stupid blackface image? He should be thanking her every day for making such an odious little homunculus into a sympathetic figure.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on December 5, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

There's a small grain of truth in Lieberman's latest argument, in that the large number of people who favor single-payer are willing to accept the public option as a compromise measure, and if it's enacted and starts to look better than the product the private insurance companies offer, it could grow. But this will only happen if the public prefers it. All the insurance companies have to do is compete successfully.

Posted by: Joe Buck on December 5, 2009 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Lieberman lead Lamont out the gate in the general election and his victory(50% to 40%) was due to very strong support amongst Republican (70%) and strong support amongst Independents(54%).

The black face incident may have cost Lamont votes from Independents but since Lamont lost by 10% he would have needed 27% more of the Independent vote to close the gap. I doubt that the black face incident caused that much of a swing in the independent vote.

If the black face incident had any impact on the outcome it didn't show-in Lamont's black vote (63%). Now it may have been higher had it not been for the black face, but he still would have needed 125% of the black vote to close the 10% gap. That ain't goin'a happen.

So there is no evidence that Hamsher did Lieberman a favors. She only harmed her own reputation with the black face picture.
All number come CNN exit polling.

Posted by: veblen on December 5, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Look, Lieberman and his wife have been in bed with big Insurance for many years. He's not going to do anything to bite that hand..au contraire, he will fight to the end for the interests of his masters. He always has. Always will.

In a just world, guys like Lieberman would be put in the stocks for 90 days, so we could mock them, then tarred, feathered, and--to paraphrase the much-missed Dr. Thompson--put on a raft and send out on the japanese current.

Lieberman is a contemptible piece of shit. Always has been. The fact that he has as much power as he does tells you everything you need to know about how fucked up our political system is.

Get rid of the damned Senate, and many of our problems would just disappear. A Unicameral legislature would make this a far better country almost immediately. Couple elimination of the senate with an increase in the number of representatives to really give one-man-one-vote representation, and California and New York would run the entire country, and, I submit, that would be a very good thing all the way around. The South could finally just go pound sand, which is what they should have been doing since the end of the civil war...dicks.

Posted by: LL on December 5, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

The conspiracy theorists may be a bit confused.

There is a small group of Senators who (probably correctly) feel that single payer is the system that makes the most sense.

The thing they should worry about (and perhaps there is some concern over this other plausible outcome) is that a public option becomes single payer as the money hungry private health insurance company chase away all but the healthiest, most profitable patients. As the private firms scramble and claw for this limited pool, they will undercut each other in every way they can to deliver profits to their shareholders. This will, perhaps inevitably, cause cost cutting that damages the programs they offer such as failure to pay legit claims, lots and lots of hoops to jump through, betrayal via recission, etc.)

It is quite possible that very healthy patients will be temporarily unprofitable, get cut by private care, become cured, and become just as profitable but will swear off private health care forever. These patients will lower costs of public care allowing the public option to be only slightly more expensive and free of many hassles and worry. The small price differential will lure even more healthy people to take the reliable public option rather than save a few bucks and deal with bean counters at corporate headquarters (private "death panels"). A vicious cycle producing a handful of private companies providing deep discounts to the few people who they think won't cost them anything. (single males 18-28).

Every one of our key strategic allies, you know... Socialists... have more or less adopted single payer. We either choose idiots as our favorite world partners, or they're not so dumb.

If we evolve as they did, private health care will abandon basic care and offer packages of supplemental care that will cover new age medicine, experimental care, elective and cosmetic surgery, and maybe eyeglasses and orthodontics. This is not such a bad way to make profits, but nothing like the mother lode they can bring in if they can screw the sick and force them into back into private care to soak up cash after the emergency room stabilizes their condition.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on December 5, 2009 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Well, of course it's true that many progressives hope this is the first step towards universal single-payer health care. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

But it isn't a conspiracy. It's not like, if this bill passes, Holy Joe will wake up one day with a government-run, single-payer health care system fully in place. Further steps toward reform will require more bills, more lobbying, more Congressional hearings and votes. Joe will have plenty of opportunities to vote against single-payer; he doesn't have to do it now.

Of course, he's not looking for logical reasons -- he's looking for pretexts and excuses. Thank you, Connecticut, for giving us another term of this bitter egotist.

Posted by: jvwalt on December 5, 2009 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Israel has maintained a system of socialized health care since its establishment in 1948, although the National Health Insurance law was passed only on January 1, 1995.

All "developed" countries in the world except the United States have some form of universal coverage. Costa Rica has a better overall health care system than we do.

Gee, Joe, I can't imagine where the idea for a public option came from.

I am really starting to hate Connecticut.

Posted by: karen marie on December 5, 2009 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

A correction to my last post.

To close a 10% gap you need a 5% shift in votes. Hence the above percentages needed to change the outcome should be halved.

However, a 13.5% swing in Independent voters is still unlikely to have been due to the black face incident.

The needed swing in black voters would be 62.5%, but Lamont already had 63% of the black vote so there weren't 62.5% more black votes to be had.

My conclusions still hold.

Posted by: veblen on December 5, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

The Whore of Bridgeport is a man of principal and the interest it draws when properly invested.

Posted by: montag on December 5, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

since Lieberman fails to make sense month after month on healthcare reform, it could be that he actually doesn't know the difference between single-payer and the public option.

Posted by: julie on December 5, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Just a quick linkage. Aetna featured in a separate entry as the poster child of bad insurance companies is based in....Hartford Connecticut. Someone should ask Joe about it.

Posted by: Objective Dem on December 5, 2009 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

"It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can't afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies . . .

I submit that you've failed in your efforts, Senator Lieberman. Time for you to resign.

Posted by: Doug on December 5, 2009 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

@ veblen: Thanks for looking up the facts. I have an anti-Hamsher bias, so even though she and I both dislike Lieberman, I think her tactics are counterproductive. But in that specific case they might not have been sufficiently counterproductive to make a difference.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on December 5, 2009 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Joe Lieberman: "I oppose the public option because 'twas brillig, and the mome graths have outgabe. Got a problem with that?"

Posted by: Ohioan on December 5, 2009 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK
Lieberman's "conspiracy theory," in other words, is bunk.

Ah, but it's perfectly aligned with Republican talking points about a "government takeover" that they've been using from the beginning. So it finally shows clearly whose side he's on.

Posted by: Redshift on December 5, 2009 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Here's #8, which is the actual reason. He's pissed off at liberals over the Lamont run, and this is his revenge.

Posted by: Steve Simitzis on December 5, 2009 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Every time I hear or see Joe Lieberman, even the mention of his name, I have a violent bout of diarrhea. Just thinking about this piece of shite gives me the shits. I think I should sue Joe, piece of shite that he is, and maybe the state of Connecticut. Can I do that? Can I file a civil suit against Joe Lieberman because he makes me physically ill? After all, he keeps appearing in public knowing that most Americans have the same reaction that I do. I think that shows intent. Can we all sue? Can we start a movement in which those of us who are literally of figuratively sickened by the very existance of this man (and who isn't?) can file a lawsuit? Of course, inciting an eruption of excrement isn't currently a crime, but can't we use this to set a precedent? What judge or jury could look at him and not have the same reaction. In the future, it will be possible to commit either a misdemeanor (when you make someone a little ill) or a felony (dysentery)Lieberman. The man will finally gain the recognition he so richly deserves.

Joe gives me the shits. There really is nothing more to say. How many other Americans have to suffer this same fate?

Posted by: Broken Arrow on December 5, 2009 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

How exactly does the government providing not for profit insurance cause actual competition in the for profit insurance marketplace? The government option can and will go as far into the red as it wishes every year. Look at every other government program, they all do. That's not competition by an logical person's definition.

Posted by: claude on December 6, 2009 at 2:50 AM | PERMALINK

It is really incredible to think that we Democrats basically elected this demagogue to the VP in 2000.

Posted by: bob h on December 6, 2009 at 6:33 AM | PERMALINK

"The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected [to Congress]."
Will Rogers

Posted by: Marc on December 6, 2009 at 7:49 AM | PERMALINK



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