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Tilting at Windmills

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December 14, 2009

LEVERAGE AND 'SOCIOPATHIC INDIFFERENCE'.... It seems as if we keep getting stuck in the same leverage loop on health care reform -- a handful of center-right Democrats and Republicans will kill health care reform if it includes a public option or Medicare expansion; progressive Democrats will kill health care reform if it doesn't include a public option or Medicare expansion.

To save this necessary legislation, the left is supposed to give in. Again. And why is it incumbent on liberals to concede? It's not because they're weak; it's because they care.

Can't liberals be just as stiff-necked as Lieberman? Sure, they could. But liberals members do have an incentive to compromise -- the tens of thousands of people who die every year for lack of health insurance. The leverage that Lieberman and other "centrists" have obtained on this issue (and on climate change) stems from a demonstrated willingness to embrace sociopathic indifference to the human cost of their actions.

It's the leverage trump-card dynamic that's been apparent throughout the debate -- the left doesn't want reform to fail; the right doesn't care. The left knows that if reform falls apart, thousands will die and millions will struggle. The right knows the same thing, but is indifferent to preventing such a scenario.

For the left, failure is not an option, because the human, political, economic, and fiscal consequences are too severe. For the right, failure is entirely acceptable, if not preferable. Both sides know what the other side is thinking.

The result is less of a negotiation and more of a hostage standoff, with Joe Lieberman playing the role of the proverbial gunman who isn't bluffing. If progressive Dems refuse to pay the ransom, Lieberman pulls the trigger and we get to spend the next decade arguing over who's to blame for what happened, while the systemic problems get worse, the human suffering expands, and the status quo bankrupts businesses, states, and the federal government.

There was a thought, early on in the process, that Lieberman was blowing a lot of smoke, but when push came to shove, he didn't want to be known forever as the man who killed health care reform. That thought was wrong.

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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Damn. This post sure would make a great commercial. How about it, Dems? Include pictures of those sick, uninsured kids. Show pictures of the lines at the free clinics. Show pictures of the obstructionists lining up and taking money from their handlers.

Posted by: Chopin on December 14, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Holy Joe's future -- a multi-million dollar "consulting job" in the health care industry -- depends on his killing HCR. It's a bribe, pure and simple and he should be grilled mercilessly about it, so everyone in America understands exactly what's going on. If he still refuses to budge, pass what reforms can be passed with reconciliation and when Republicans scream, explain to them that it's the Democrats' response to their implacable obstructionism. I'll bet the American people would cheer -- and might be more willing to elect progressives in 2010 and 2012.

Posted by: dalloway on December 14, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody with a functioning brain should shed a tear when this piece of crap finally goes down for good. Whatever marginal gains were going to be made in coverage were never going to be sustainable for long without genuine root and branch restructuring of health care to end galloping cost inflation. People who think burying this turd will mean health care reform won't be revisited for another generation are crazy. It will HAVE to be revisited, because the current system is much closer to fiscal collapse than many people realize. (That's why the insurance lobby is so hot for mandates; they see them as the best way to shore up their racket for a while longer.)

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 14, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

the lesson here - not that it needed to be learned - is that the filibuster must go.

a good bill could have been passed several months ago with 50 votes and biden....

Posted by: howard on December 14, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

We don't need Lieberman or the center-right. Everyone's dismissing reconciliation as muddled and slow, but it can't be any more muddle or slow than the current process--and would give us a bill that _worked_.

This is the path forward, far as I can tell: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/12/14/8427/3907?new=true#c3

Leverage Reid's vulnerability. Schedule a vote for an adequate, mediocre public option. And if that is filibustered, move forward on reconciliation, as described here: http://www.congressmatters.com/story/2009/11/25/1888/-Resurrecting-reconciliation

Posted by: Gussie on December 14, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, gang, I've got an idea. Why don't those on the left actually use this as their public argument. You know, mention it, talk about it in public, go around the nation and put that out in front of people ever single day. Ask questions of their opponents when they are on national talk shows.

Hey, sounds crazy, I know - but .... think about it.

[/irony]

Posted by: JohnN on December 14, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

If Joe "Knife in the Back" Lieberman can't even support a basic Democratic belief in the expansion of Medicare and will not only vote against it but will filibuster with the GOP, he does not belong in the party.

It's time for Joe to go. He should be stripped of all chairmanships, seniority and party support and I will back any politician who votes for this in the Democratic Caucus.

Posted by: Ed, Watertown MA on December 14, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

steve labonne: nice fantasy. too bad it is one. if this goes down, we aren't going to see health care touched again for another 16 years, minimum (the length between clinton's reform attempt and now).

unless, of course, the filibuster goes away.

Posted by: howard on December 14, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

For the left, failure is not an option, because the human, political, economic, and fiscal consequences are too severe. For the right, failure is entirely acceptable, if not preferable.

Let's not forget that one side claims to be the ones who believe that human life is sacred.

Every Democrat who steps in front of a camera needs to ask the Republicans (including Lieberman, Baucus, and any other DINO who is hedging on voting for cloture):

Do you believe that human life is sacred, but only until it's born? Or do you believe that corporate profits are even more sacred?


Posted by: SteveT on December 14, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman's agenda and self-preferred obituary is simple: He saved Aetna, Cigna, & UNH; Connecticut rejoice!

Posted by: d4winds on December 14, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Howard, there is no way he current system lasts another 16 years. It's on track to bankrupt both employers and the federal government within that time period. (And none of the various Senate versions of the bill have contained anything to ameliorate this even slightly.) You I'm afraid, are the actual fantaist if you think things can just go on as they are.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 14, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Reconciliation, followed by a scorched earth policy re: the interests of the recalcitrant centrists. It's not only the way to get HCR done, it's the only way to get these sociopaths negotiating in earnest on subsequent issues; this administration and Congress are effectively toast if the obstructionists win this round.

Posted by: dr. bloor on December 14, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

The satisfaction we can get from figuratively killing Joe Lieberman (or his political career) shouldn't be our primary concern. Right now, HCR is being nibbled to death by a thousand ducks. Yet its Democrats who will pay the price for its final outcome.

We need to think long and hard about the huge political price we'll pay for a bill that issues mandates while health insurance companies raise premiums. John Q Citizen will blame the Dems. Do we want this?

They want a war so let's give them a war.

Posted by: walt on December 14, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

The chanting of mobs is the future

Posted by: FRP on December 14, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I disagree. I think a lot of liberals will be happy to let health care reform die this year and really stick it to the right next year.
Keep in mind that if health reform passes this year, the number of lives it saves next year will be zero, as the reforms don't really kick in until after 2012.
And I think a lot of people would, with regret, sacrifice lives in the next couple of years to save millions more down the road.
I for one will not be helping the impotent Democratic Party next year. However if I see a party that is willing to battle for what I believe in, well, I'll stand with them.
Also, Harry Reid negotiates for a living. He should know that the moment you show you care about the outcome, you lose. He needs to act like he doesn't care if health care reform passes, even if he does. If he hasn't learned that - the first lesson of negotiation - he really is the incompetent that he has been accused of being.

Posted by: RZ on December 14, 2009 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Grayson (d) FL suggested to change the majority from 60 to 55 then the bottleneck of legislation will move along. this will undercut Lieberman, Snowe and Collins and Americans will get Health care it deserves. Simple but the Senate prefers complicated.

Posted by: MLjohnston on December 14, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Howard, there is no way he current system lasts another 16 years. It's on track to bankrupt both employers and the federal government within that time period.

Okay Steve, but who exactly is going to revisit this? The Democrats are never likely to have as much leverage on this issue as they do right now. Indeed, if they fail now, I suspect we are likely to see Republicans in charge of at least one of the chambers. What will "revisiting the issue" even mean in a circumstance that requires say 10 or 15 Republican votes? What sort of meaningful reform is likely to be proffered in a compromise with the sociopaths who are killing reform now?

Posted by: brent on December 14, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

steve: obviously we're simply throwing comments past each other, but of course the "system" is going to last another 16 years. it may do an increasingly crummy job; there may be greater discontent; fewer people may have coverage; real wages may continue to stagnate; state budgets may continue to be threatened; US interest rates may run several points higher than they otherwise would need to.

but no, the system isn't going to simply "collapse." we've seen what a collapsing system looks like: international finance, 15 months ago. that's not what's going to happen.

and without a reform of the filibuster, no one is going to want to step up and life will just get a little worse. you'd be surprised how long this can go on.

Posted by: howard on December 14, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

The "bankers" don't seem to understand this same dynamic will prevent a future bailout of "institutions" deemed "too big to fail" when they fail the next time. "Sociopathic indifference" will prevent the 60 votes from passing the next bailout, even if it means taking the rest of the economy down with them. It's reckless, irresponsible, immoral -- and it's going to happen before our very eyes. Sad.

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on December 14, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

RZ, you have a short memory if you think that will happen. Remember what happened after the insurance-industry-financed Republican party killed Clinton's health care proposal? It was hung around his neck and Hillary's as their failure, they were ridiculed for it, and it was constantly cited as proof of Clinton's ineffectiveness, which is the same thing they are slavering with eagerness to do to Obama. And the public doesn't have much respect for noble failures. Reconciliation is the way to go, followed by permanent abolition of the filibuster.

Posted by: T-Rex on December 14, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

People who think burying this turd will mean health care reform won't be revisited for another generation are crazy.

Oh, not a generation. But at least two or three presidential election cycles, our magical-thinking friend. And the system can limp along for quite a bit longer than that. Much, much longer.

Posted by: shortstop on December 14, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK
What sort of meaningful reform is likely to be proffered in a compromise with the sociopaths who are killing reform now?

I have no idea what will happen once the system really collapses of its own weight and neither do you. What I DO know is that nothing now under consideration will produce more than a minor postponement of the collapse, so we're going to get to that point no matter what happens right now. Which makes it hard for me to get too exercised about the current shenanigans. They're much more important for the political future of the Democratic Party than for any substantive policy reasons.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 14, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Just wondering what Lieberman would have to do to lose his chairmanship and get thrown out of the caucus. Campaigning for John McCain, screwing the president's prime initiative and stabbing your party's Senate leader in the back at the 11th hour doesn't seem to have done the trick.

Posted by: RZ on December 14, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK
And the system can limp along for quite a bit longer than that. Much, much longer.

It really can't, not at anything like the current rate of cost inflation.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 14, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

the lesson here - not that it needed to be learned - is that the filibuster must go.

Absolutely. And just as soon as we find 67 votes for a Senate rules change, that fucker is gone.

Posted by: shortstop on December 14, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Which makes it hard for me to get too exercised about the current shenanigans. They're much more important for the political future of the Democratic Party than for any substantive policy reasons.

Well, there are those 45K needlessly dead every year. But they're all on board with being sacrificed for the cause, so no worries there.

Posted by: shortstop on December 14, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK
Well, there are those 45K needlessly dead every year. But they're all on board with being sacrificed for the cause, so no worries there.

Who will still be dying for the next several years under any of the Senate versions, which take effect in slow motion. Care to justify that?

But why do I bother. The latest Lieberman betrayal is yet another object lesson for anybody with a brain in where the "must pass something" mentality gets you in political negotiations. Those who still don't understand this, never will.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 14, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

And just as soon as we find 67 votes for a Senate rules change, that fucker is gone.

We don't really need 67 votes for a Senate rules change shortstop. The rules can be changed, especially at the beginning of a session, with a bare majority. Lets not forget all that business about the nuclear option a few years ago.

It really is true that 50 Senators and Joe Biden can basically do anything they want with the Senate rules. They could even change reconciliation to make it more viable for this sort of legislation. Its just that Senators know that is a risky path when their chamber is as dynamically influenced by the election cycle as it is.

They could do it. They could "go nuclear." The question for them, and my own thoughts are mixed on this, is is it worth it. In any case, it doesn't seem to be a real consideration currently anyway.

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

Ezra Klein has it right:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2009/12/joe_lieberman_lets_not_make_a.html

Posted by: TR on December 14, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

RZ...

I've come to this conclusion: The only way Joe loses his chairmanship is if:

1) The net roots demand it of the Dem party. And withhold donations to make it so.
Or
2) The Dems lose the majority in the Senate.

Posted by: koreyel on December 14, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Care to justify that?

It's not so much a justification as an acknowledgment of the fact that the system isn't going to crash anytime soon. So you're willing to wait for many more years than the several years until the few decent provisions of this bill kick in, and I'm not.

brent: The nuclear option was proposed as a means of bypassing the two-thirds majority required in Rule 22 for a rules change. Yes, they can do it, but it's not, as you say, the ordinary state of things, and there's no way in hell this leadership is going to do it. I share your mixed feelings about that, especially as I strongly suspect that the GOP will immediately go nuclear when they reclaim the majority.

Posted by: shortstop on December 14, 2009 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

"the system" won't collapse for a long time if at all. What continues are the deaths and chronic illnesses and bankruptcies for individuals and families, not to any group large enough to cause real attention to be paid.
A few commentators try to point out that there's a real connection between the country's economic future and health care costs, but, much like the analysis of climate change, the argument is not gaining any traction -- it's much easier for most people to ignore what might/will happen in the future if they aren't feeling any effect right this minute.

Posted by: elisabeth on December 14, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK
It's not so much a justification as an acknowledgment of the fact that the system isn't going to crash anytime soon

That statement would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. As if any of the political horsetrading has been accompanied by the slightest thought about policy.

This detachment from reality is the same that prevents you from understanding that the "just pass some piece of crap" "strategy" has failed dismally, as anybody with a grain of sense has been predicting all along. When you allow yourself to negotiate from a position in which you reveal that you're desperate for an outcome that your opponents don't give a rat's ass about, you are guaranteed to be slaughtered. One would have though that was common sense, but that's a quality conspicuously lacking in the Democratic establishment and its apologists.

By the way, if you really want people who need help to get it now, you should be asking why the leadership has allowed this comedy to push the badly-needed renewal of COBRA subsidies to the back burner.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 14, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Joey has returned serve, the ball's in your court Reid and Obama.

Posted by: angler on December 14, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK
A few commentators try to point out that there's a real connection between the country's economic future and health care costs, but

when this is pointed out, some of the very same people also claim that the system can somehow just go on gobbling up additional trillions each decade without crunch time arriving. Odd, that.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 14, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

I share your mixed feelings about that, especially as I strongly suspect that the GOP will immediately go nuclear when they reclaim the majority.

Right. That is the worry but the flip side of it is, given the current rules, how likely is it that the Senate will ever be able to do anything substantive, that doesn't involve tax cuts or raising military spending, ever again. Honestly, I don't see any way around that problem, which is a terrible problem, other than to change the rules but I am happy to be convinced otherwise.

Posted by: brent on December 14, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Did Obama ask for future support from Lieberman when he saved Joe's Seniority in the Democratic caucus ?

He MUST HAVE, right ?

A pro9mise to back core legislation ?

He MUST HAVE, right ??

Posted by: MSierra, SF on December 14, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

when this is pointed out, some of the very same people also claim that the system can somehow just go on gobbling up additional trillions each decade without crunch time arriving.

Crunch time will arrive. But it's going to be a lot farther away than you're hoping.

Something to keep in mind: Very badly wanting Congress to do the right thing, all Americans to recognize the extent of the problem, the media to fucking acknowledge what's going on and the insurance industry to lose its financial stranglehold over the process is not the same thing as those things happening.

Posted by: shortstop on December 14, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Check out John Cole's news on Lieberman and the Dems...

To wit:

More than 80 percent of Democrats say they believe Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) should be stripped of his powerful chairmanship in the Senate if he ends up supporting a Republican filibuster of health care reform, according to a new poll.

Posted by: koreyel on December 14, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Honestly, I don't see any way around that problem, which is a terrible problem, other than to change the rules but I am happy to be convinced otherwise.

I'm not the one to do that, as I'm not convinced otherwise. I just don't think they will do it.

It's really frustrating that so few voters know about/are paying attention to the rules aspect of this. I told the third baseman this morning that in a civically functioning country, people would be rising up in the streets at Lieberman's obstructionism. I'm guessing the vast majority of Americans have no idea what he's up to and what outrageous power one senator is wielding over their lives and livelihoods.

If we're going to have a rules change, it needs to be accompanied by a massive public education campaign, something the Democrats are demonstrably terrible at.

Posted by: shortstop on December 14, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and brent, when I said I suspected the GOP would immediately employ the nuclear option upon regaining the majority, I meant I'm pretty sure they'll do it whether we do it first or not.

Posted by: shortstop on December 14, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Strip the godddamn public option, pass as much as they can, declare victory, and move on to other business. In Jan., introduce the "Joe Lieberman - Olympia Snow health care clinic act" in which funding is sought for people w/o health insurance to get basic medical care. Have the funding come from a surtax on health insurance companies. Staff the clinics with doctors, and medical students who are going to be funded with the new health care bill. Make sure the first clinics are held in CN and Maine.

Stripe lieberman of his lame chair of Homeland security, and get someone with credibility to chair - Jack Reid, Jim Webb, to be its chair.

He will defect to the R side. Fine. He already has.

Posted by: bigwisc on December 14, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Oh. And write every piece of legislation next year so that is can go through reconciliation so it will be 50+1.

Posted by: bigwisc on December 14, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman is counting on the usual douchebags to make sure "the left" is blamed for killing healthcare.

Really, "the left" that can't walk away from healthcare? It did so several times. It walked away from Nixon, it walked away from Carter, and it can walk away from Obama.

Posted by: soullite on December 14, 2009 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

12/14/09 9:19 PM

First things first Joe Lieberman needs to loose his Chairs in the US Senate: I come to this conclusion because Joe is doing work for the insurance industry almost exclusively in his current publicly held office. We already know that the insurance industry will stop at nothing to pass their version of Health-care reform because there is so much free cash involved (for them and only the insurance industry). Proof is in the pudding--Joe has gone well out of his way to contradict himself on his own past and present positions, with regard to all things related to Health-care reform. Most would agree that Joe is the definition of a smooth operator—ever notice how his one off positions are extreme but seemingly reasonable although when you compare what he actually says against other things he has previously and or just said on the same exact subject or similar topics you see the intentional use of misleading double talk aimed at the intentional abuse of the constituent. I believe Joe Liberman is a sociopath—this would explain why he was able to stand on stage with the Republican ticket McCain Plain, which ran against Health-care reform--again proof is in the pudding Joe has gone out of his way to put Americans lives at risk here domestically and abroad but specifically on the topic of Health-care reform Joe will stop at nothing to kill Americans domestically and mock those same constituents in the process. Joe is enjoying himself immensely because hurting people brings him pleasure in the form of sport and Joy in the religious sense. Apparently, killing Americans and the American economy that kills Americans through its own unavoidable trappings as it relates to illness helps Joe sleep at knight. Have you noticed that as soon as Joe got the Democratic Caucus over a barrel in the Senate it was no sooner that the dark/bag/circles under his eyes went away and in place Joe is invigorated. I personally do not want this kind of human being any where near a position of power especial when it is military related. The world will be a better place when human beings like Joe Lieberman are not allowed to screw around with US and Israeli armed forces. At this point, I fail to understand how Joe does not loose his Chairs in the Senate considering how he refuses to work on behalf of the American people on meaningful Health-care reform while caucusing with the Democratic majority in the Senate during a Democratically held majority in the House during a Democratically held Whitehouse with a very likable President who gave Congress a job to do--finish Health-care reform--almost one year ago to date noting that there has been little legislative distraction during the past year and also remembering that Arlen Specter lost his Chairs for changing party’s and that the Democrats of Connecticut did not want Joe in office so Joe changed party’s.

Posted by: TSK on December 14, 2009 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

It is not Lieberman's or any other pompous ass fault .It is a supposedly democratic system,where a majority,in essence, does not constitute a majority. Our founding Fathers really goofed that one up. But ,is it too late or impossible to fix it?

Posted by: CINQ.DOIGTS on December 15, 2009 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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