Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 13, 2010

A RECORD OF POST-PASSAGE PROGRESS.... Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has received a fair amount of pressure lately, following his stated intention to join right-wing Republicans in killing health care reform, because, as he sees it, the Democratic plan is too conservative.

The liberal Ohioan talked to Benjy Sarlin yesterday about his position, and repeatedly cited the work of Jacob Hacker, the Yale professor who was largely responsible for crafting the idea of a public option. That's an odd rhetorical choice -- Hacker has repeatedly said he wants Congress to pass the Democratic proposal. Kucinich is citing a scholar, while ignoring the scholar's judgment. Perhaps he doesn't know about Hacker's conclusion?

But this observation, related to the public option, was even more striking.

Kucinich says he doesn't buy Obama's latest argument to progressives that there will be other opportunities to improve upon the legislation once they help him pass this bill.

"Fix it later, are you kidding?" he said. "If you don't get it in the bill up front, it's not going to happen."

Now, the president really has told progressive lawmakers that Congress can return to the public option later, and incorporate the idea into this reform framework. The notion that improvements like the public option are gone forever if they don't pass immediately is foolish.

But just as importantly, it's a belief that's belied by history. Kucinich's entire approach has repeatedly been proven false.

On all of the major progressive breakthroughs from recent generations, it's not even a close call.

When Medicaid passed, for example, it did very little for low-income adults, which is now seen as the point of the program. There were no doubt progressive advocates who, at the time of its passage, feared that it wasn't ambitious enough, and that if they didn't get improvements in the bill up front, they wouldn't happen. With the benefit of hindsight, we know those fears were incorrect.

When Medicare passed, it all but ignored people with disabilities, didn't cover prescription drugs, and made no allowances for home health services. It was, at best, a limited program at its inception. There may have been liberal Dems who thought that if they didn't get improvements in the bill up front, they wouldn't happen. With the benefit of hindsight, we know those fears were incorrect.

When Social Security passed, the benefits were negligible, and the program excluded agricultural workers, domestic workers, the self-employed, railroad employees, government employees, clergy, and those who worked for non-profits. The original Social Security bill offered no benefits for dependents or survivors, and included no cost-of-living increases. There were plenty of liberals at the time who thought Dems had watered down the plan to the point where its value had all but disappeared, and that if they didn't get improvements in the bill up front, they wouldn't happen. With the benefit of hindsight, we know those fears were incorrect.

Even the Civil Rights Act, in order to secure passage, needed to drop its voting rights provision. It wasn't there up front, but it happened soon after.

Notice a pattern here? FDR and LBJ had huge electoral mandates and gigantic Democratic majorities in Congress (bigger than the congressional majorities Obama currently enjoys), but they still couldn't get everything they wanted.

There were likely liberal champions of the day who perceived the New Deal, the Great Society, FDR, LBJ, and their congressional Democratic majorities as disappointing and incompetent sell-outs who failed to take advantage of the opportunities before them, producing legislation worthy of rejection. Had Kucinich been there, he likely would have sided with conservatives then, too.

But the programs passed, and once they were in place, they improved, expanded, and became integral to the American experience. It took years and perseverance, but progress happened after the initial programs became law. We now consider their policy achievements bedrocks of American society.

"If you don't get it in the bill up front, it's not going to happen." It's hard to overstate how terribly misguided this is.

Steve Benen 11:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (96)

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Kos is right: Kucinich needs to be primaried. (I know it's too late for this year.)

Posted by: sue on March 13, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

The original Clean Air Act did very little compared to later revisions.

To pick up on the theme - although it did not do everything needed, it also proved that the world would not end if the US government got involved with air pollution regulation.

Posted by: DavidDuck on March 13, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

I tend to agree with Kucinich about the inadequacy of the HCR, as being discussed. I also tend to have an attitude toward The Obomination and especially The Rahminator. Since they told progressives to STFU, I have basically had an FU attitude toward them.

As such, I appreciate Steve's arguments in this posting. In spite of my serious misgivings about the HCR, I do hope that Kucinch will join with the (most) other members of the dumbocrap party to pass it. To do otherwise has now become a game of "Will the dems wimp out in the face of the rethugs?" If they do not pass this, the remainder of Obama's single term will be a living hell for him and for the American people.

For real change, support Feingold/Sanders in 2012!

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 13, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

funny how when you want to lynch dennis, the past is precedent; but when ya wanna talk about the Repugnants and bipartisanship, the past is oh sooo dif...

I think in the final analysis, the "trust me" stance for a public option or anything good to come out of gov't. is a real leaky proposition...even given the soc sec, medicare, and civil rights eventual fine tuning -- we do have crazies on the other side of the aisle... and in ascendency...

I also wonder if Dennis would actually do it, if he were THE vote that doomed this crappy but essential legislation...we may never know. but i do appreciate the soap opera...

Posted by: neill on March 13, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Not only does history prove him wrong, but, assuming Kucinich was right, what's he saying by voting NO?

It's clear at this point that he's NOT going to get more in this bill, even if he holds his breath until he turns blue and jumps up and down. So, in the real world, his choice is the bill we have, or no bill. He's saying he'd rather let Americans suffer the problems the less-than-perfect bill fixes so that he can spend a few more years valiantly fighting for the perfect bill? Thanks a lot, Dennis.

It's not surprising that, despite his long term in office, Kucinich hasn't really accomplished very much. He's fond of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Kucinich appears never to have heard the expression that "half a loaf is better than none."

Posted by: biggerbox on March 13, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Right good piece, here, Steve. Dennis needs to stop grandstanding and do something to help his constituents. Neither the House nor the Senate bill is adequate in the long run, but either is better than the status quo. And that's the benchmark: if it's better than the status quo, you've got to voe for it. Period.
Then you work hard to improve it. How difficult can this be to understand?

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on March 13, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

In defense of Kucinich--there is a fundamental difference between Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Civil Rights on the one hand, and the Senate health care bill on the other: All of the earlier programs were initiated as PUBLIC programs. The Senate healthcare bill is a PRIVATIZATION program, essentially codifying our jungle of for-profit health non-care.

This overriding reality makes such comparisons inappropriate and off-base. The earlier programs WERE a good start at reform. Kucinich would say--as would I--that the Senate health care bill is no start at all on reform, but rather, a step, or maybe several steps, backwards.

Posted by: Daniel Fleisher on March 13, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

if it's better than the status quo, you've got to voe for it
That should be "vote". I've got a problem with my "T" key.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on March 13, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, Kucinich's ideological blinders can't allow him to see and judge the value of pace regarding social change here in America. He doesn't see we are here, at a moment when HIS desired change can begin to be seen only if the passage of this first step takes place. He wants the whole enchilada now, and is willing to hurt and harm many a person to prove his purified point - he's a mirrored image of Republican ideologues!

Dennis, we're trying to reason with you, and remember, you are not as formidable as Billy the Mountain (nor his wooden wife Ethel)! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 13, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently, he's never heard the old warning against letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Posted by: Jon on March 13, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Does Dennis plan to give up his government health care while we all wait for the perfect bill?

Posted by: Gloria on March 13, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

I think there is an argument to be made here. Just because a bill can be improved in the future does not mean it will be--a prerequisite for that to happen is the bill has to be popular. If the bill is popular, politicians will feel encouraged to add to it; if it's politically unpopular, they'll try to gut it (think welfare reform).

So the question comes down to, is the bill as it stands now good enough that people will like it and want to build on it. I personally think so, but it's not an easy call, and I think people can reasonably disagree on this point. The fact that it has mandates is a strike against it; taxing peoples' health care plans to pay for it was a bad idea in my opinion.

Posted by: Rick Taylor on March 13, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

And for the Ralph Nader Desperate To Be On TV Award, I nominate... Dennis Kucinich.

Posted by: dalloway on March 13, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know Kucinich's reasoning, but there might be a very good case for rejecting a health insurance reform that doesn't include any public plan. As Daniel Fleisher points out above the current plan is a privatization of health insurance designed to solve a public problem with a "market" solution. If passed, it will be the camel's nose under the Medicare tent. It will make it easier to make the case for a "market" solution to future Medicare budget shortfalls. So, when Medicare is replaced with health savings accounts and vouchers, we might look back and think maybe Dennis was right.

Posted by: cnmne on March 13, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Kucinich was never a progressive, he is a demagogue and always has been. His mixed history on race and choice, and his consistent efforts to torpedo every significant piece of progressive legislation, show his true self.

Posted by: tib on March 13, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

I live right next to Dennis K's district. I beleive his heart is in the right place on this issue but his head is in the wrong place. I don't think that if this bill doesn't pass that there will be some magical opportunity to get it done in the near future. He was mayor of Cleveland once and took a stand fighting big moneyed interests and lost. In the long run it didn't accomplish anything and probably contributed to the never ending spiral of decay thats been a millstone around the neck of the city.
There's an old saying about living to fight another day and maybe someone should point that out to Dennis because in the meantime nothing is getting done to make the situation better.

Posted by: Gandalf` on March 13, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

tib has it right. Eventually, what you say about things is not nearly as important as what you do. As a Congressman, Kucinich has some modicum of influence to push us in the right direction and yet he seems always to find a reason to sit on his thumbs and not do so. A more useful idiot for Republicans would be hard to find, although Stupak comes close.

Posted by: Barbara on March 13, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

What, does Dennis Kucinich needs his health care insurance cancelled too? PTDB already, you and the Democrat clown-car are really heart set ("principled" or not) to piss people off. How again exactly does Dennis Kucinich's opposition to PTDB actually help those without medical care get insurance and a doctor visit again??! Please join the other party for obstructionism. You stupid elf..

Posted by: Troll-op on March 13, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kucinich will be running for president again, and this is how he appeals to the reliable slice of the primary electorate (now represented online by Firedoglake) who have voted for him before and will again.

He may actually believe what he says, or it may be strategic--but without the prospect of Kucinich for President races, which he clearly enjoys, it's impossible to see how he could get away with this, especially given his constituents' needs.

I agree, a primary challenge from a less blinkered progressive would really help the people in his district.

Posted by: Kevin Egan on March 13, 2010 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Look, Kucinich is a weird guy. He's always been a weird guy. I don't think he needs to be primaried, or argued with, or argued about. He's pointless. He needs to be ignored.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on March 13, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

@Daniel Fleisher:

All of the earlier programs were initiated as PUBLIC programs. The Senate healthcare bill is a PRIVATIZATION program

What about food stamps? You use those at private entities called grocery stores. Does that entrench for-profit companies as food providers, to the point where food stamps become a bad idea that shouldn't be implemented?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on March 13, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Improvements to an existing service program are QUALITATIVELY different than creating a new service program itself.

To confuse the history of incremental improvements to already existing programs with the history of creating brand new programs and then claim it's Kucinich who's being misguided is very very lame.

You Villagers and followers want to lie to yourselves that's fine; but you shouldn't ask others to believe it and then attack them for pointing out your b.s.

Posted by: Observer on March 13, 2010 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Two other prime example of the quest for perfection destroying the good were Nixon's push for national health insurance and Carter's push for a consumer protection agency.

In the first case, Nixon proposed a system that was very similar to Clinton's proposal twenty years later. The Democrats, led by Kennedy, refused to work with Nixon in the quest for a better bill, and probably also out of a distaste for giving Nixon a victory that might pay him political dividends.

In the second, liberal purists, led by Ralph Nader, led the drive to kill the proposal because they felt that the agency wouldn't be strong enough.

Imagine how different things could have been had the proposals been enacted into law?

Posted by: Dave in DC on March 13, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

> But just as importantly, it's a belief that's
> belied by history. Kucinich's entire approach has
> repeatedly been proven false.

NAFTA, don't ask don't tell, Telecommunications Act of 1996, unPatriot Act, FISA re-authorization: these were all "fixed later" all right. For the worse. So please, let's not say that there is no historical backup for Kucinich's position.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 13, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

> Look, Kucinich is a weird guy. He's always been a
> weird guy. I don't think he needs to be
> primaried, or argued with, or argued about. He's
> pointless. He needs to be ignored.

Sort of the way he was forced out of office over the Cleveland Electric Illuminating company situation, eh? Of course, 20 years later it turned out he was totally correct on that, all his critics (particularly the ones funded by the big-dollar pre-Enron utility speculators) were wrong, and his actions saved the citizens/customers hundreds of millions of dollars. But ya know, he was "weird".


Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 13, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Why does Kucinich not acknowledge that the Senate bill contains language drafted by Bernie Sanders that allows states to put in place their own single-payer programs? Or that the bill contains billions in funding for the creation of community health centers nationwide?

I'm not so convinced of Kucinich's altruism in voting "no". On the one hand, a "yes" vote brings relief from insurance company abuses. On the other hand, a "no" vote gives the green light to insurance companies to keep on keeping on with their heinous practices and to even kick it up a notch if they so please.

Given the consequences of a "yes" vote against the consequences of a "no" vote, why does Kucinich really still insist on voting "no." His "no" vote means he is voting with and for insurance companies.

Yet, in the world of Dennis and a majority of his fellow idealists, somehow this makes him more liberal than anyone else.

And unlike his fellow Dems, I haven't heard Kucinich refer once to a single person in his district who is in dire straits now whose situation would be helped by the bill. Is his district somehow the healthiest one in the entire U.S.? What justification does Kucinich have for those who, say, have diabetes and can't get insurance -- what does he tell them that justifies his "no" vote?

Toxic idealism (if it really is a case of idealism) doesn't do anyone any good.

Posted by: June on March 13, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Now, the president really has told progressive lawmakers that Congress can return to the public option later, and incorporate the idea into this reform framework.

obamafans are truly ridiculous. With 44 Senators backing a public option and the House having already passed a version of it (albeit weak and insufficient), it is only obama standing in the way of getting a public option in the bill.

Posted by: pluege on March 13, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

This is why it makes sense to include SAFRA in the HCR bill, to remove the private banks from their lucrative-but-pointless role in student lending. It's a message to private insurance that the franchise we're awarding them can(will) be limited if(when) they abuse it.

(I'd prefer a more aggressive switch to public health insurance, after the last 15 years of private failure, but will take what we can get and work for more)

Posted by: ElegantFowl on March 13, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

For the record, someone needs to get an FOIA request moving to find out the terms that Obama/Rahm struck with the health insurance industry.

Posted by: ElegantFowl on March 13, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Nice history lesson. If the Repubs were rational, they would tout this as their main reason for opposing the bill. The nose-under-the-tent argument. They're not rational (or even read history) and their motive is the Obama's Waterloo meme (history reduced to a cliche they are able to understand).

Posted by: jward23 on March 13, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Where is the tipping point?

At what point does health care stop providing enough graft and kickbacks to Republicans that they stop fighting the public option and become it's champion, as they have with Medicare?

The Republicans are fighting health care reform the way that gangsters fought the Repeal of Prohibition.

Do the Senate or House versions contain provisions outside of a public option that will do anything to reduce kickbacks to Republicans?

Posted by: phein on March 13, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Two other prime example of the quest for perfection destroying the good...

I'll try this at least one more time: the examples you give were proposals for creating *brand new* agencies.

The proposal currently on the table is to "pass the bill" and then pass another bill in the future to ... create a new agency.

There's nothing to incrementally improve upon once this bill passes because it doesn't actually create anything new.

It's just more regulation of the same already existing entities but in a different configuration.

There's no there there.

Posted by: Observer on March 13, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

When Kucinich was mayor of Cleveland, on the other hand, he insisted on sticking to his pure principles, refused to compromise with anyone, wouldn't dirty his hands by making concessions to those evil corporations, and left the city devastatingly in debt, its tax base decimated, and none of his goals accomplished.

Posted by: T-Rex on March 13, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Compare him with Sen. Kennedy, who actually had successful legislation to his credit AND promoted strong liberal principles. Or, Al Franken, who has spoken of the need to pick his spots. He did more already than K. has in regard to legislation.

It's fine to be a truthteller. But, reality has to come in at times too. His record overall in passing things makes him an easy target. And, what's so special about him? Over 200 members + the Senate oppose him, and he is special? I predict he will vote no like he did last time, get his face time on Democracy Now! and his vote won't matter.

Posted by: Joe on March 13, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

I presume that the morning after this HCR is signed into law, the euphoric people who have been screaming about the need to pass this because "does anyone realize the thousands dying because they are not insured", will, immediately, start screaming for the need to cover the millions who will not be covered by this compromised bill.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 13, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

"You Villagers"

Oh, well, cute insider blog namecalling ... we are soooo wrong!

Such self-righteousness is not too convincing.

Posted by: Joe on March 13, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Those of you who continue to insist that no bill is better than the one on offer: I invite you to stop by over at my blog, where I've posted a piece about 2 of the 30 million whose lives will be dramatically improved if they just PTDB.

Health care is currently a runaway train. This bill at least applies the brakes. It's far from perfect, but to argue that there's no value in helping 30 million people gain access to health care is just stupid.

Posted by: Jennifer on March 13, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

All of this says to me that the votes are there for HCR in the house and that a few liberals are staking out No votes because they are politically useful for them. People are competing for the pass from the leadership. Kucinich is no different than the centrist opportunists.

Posted by: tom in ma on March 13, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

A very current example: SCHIP, originally passed in the late 1990s, but was significantly expanded by Congress just last year.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 13, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Unless Steve is presenting an Intelligent Design theory, he should be willing to present credible hypothetical situations in which he would admit that he was wrong. No excuses allowed except total nuclear war.

If your plan can't withstand Republican assault(death by a 1000 cuts) or doesn't generate a PO(something people want now)within 15 years, is it a failure? 30 years?

If state programs generate national momentum will your side take credit? Are you boldly taking a stance with no possible negative consequences?

I would vote for your damn bill and hold you responsible for the consequences or lack thereof.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on March 13, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Nader for President" 2000- Florida all over again.

Posted by: robert on March 13, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

This is the same kind of nonsense that led to people voting for Nader and helping Bush get into office.

Posted by: beckya57 on March 13, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

obamafans are truly ridiculous. With 44 Senators backing a public option and the House having already passed a version of it (albeit weak and insufficient), it is only obama standing in the way of getting a public option in the bill.
Posted by: pluege

ummmm in my math 44 is less than 50, which is less than 60 which is a problem. if your number is correct, even without the threat of a filibuster, the public option wouldn't pass the senate. and if you haven't been paying attention, the only way hcr gets done is if the house passes the bill the senate already has oked.

btw, the bill if passed would be the biggest step ever by the federal government into regulating the insurance market. while technically it's not a "program" in the same sense as medicare or social security, it's still revolutionary in scope. and no, it doesn't "privatize" anything, since health insurance for most of us is done through the private market already. it ain't perfect, and it's not the system i'd want if i had my way, but it's better than what we have now.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on March 13, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

’If you don't get it in the bill up front, it's not going to happen.’ It's hard to overstate how terribly misguided this is.

Sadly, Kucinich is correct.

Remember how everybody complained that the stimulus bill was way too small to get the job done, and we were told not to worry, that they could always come back later for another round ?


Posted by: Joe Friday on March 13, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

A very current example: SCHIP...

So what's the metaphorical equivalent to SCHIP in this bill exactly?

Same for all the examples using Nixon's healthcare, Medicaid, Medicare etc.

You folks are using metaphors so perhaps you should be making the analogies more explicit in comparison with the bill before us today.

You can expand SCHIP. You can expand Medicaid. What in this bill can you "expand" to include a public option?

Posted by: Observer on March 13, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Dennis Kucinich is about as politically perspicacious as his fellow moron, Ralph Nader.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 13, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

This is not "privatization" of health care, as it has always been private up to the present. (It is simply a lost opportunity to socialize it.)

I have a soft spot for Kucinich, as from my point of view his heart is very nearly always in the right place. However, he has been a remarkably ineffective politician in terms of achieving his goals and winning people to his side. Moreover, this insurance reform is clearly a matter of get half a loaf now, or nothing for another couple of decades at least. Ted Kennedy says his biggest regret was not taking half a loaf's worth of health care under Nixon, and then working to improve it. I'll accept Kennedy's expertise here.

I was reading an account of the passage of the constitution. From Bill Bryson, Made in America, "At the time of its adoption, almost no one saw the Constitution as a great document. Most of the delegates left Philadelphia feeling that they had created an agreement so riddled with compromise as to be valueless - 'a weak and worthless fabric', as Alexander Hamilton dispiritedly described it. Fifteen of the convention delegates refused to sign it ....... Even its heartiest proponents hoped only that the Constitution might somehow hold the fragile nation together for a few years until something better could be devised." The tradition of barely acceptable beginnings evidently goes back to the roots of American politics.

Posted by: N.Wells on March 13, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

The public option in particular will be the subject of relentless progressive pressure and continuing growth in public support as it becomes better understood and is separated from the baggage of the main bill. When the question is phrased properly as a choice for people who cannot be covered by their employers and must buy insurance through the exchanges -- i.e., in many cases, people who have lost their jobs -- the public approval already approaches 80%. When they further understand the policy rationale, as a constraint on insurance company excess profits and CEO salaries, and when the remaining low-information independent voters start to realize how absurd the claim that it is a "government takeover," that public suppport will only solidify.

It will be politically very dangerous for Republicans to be on the side of the insurance companies against the interests of the people in the lowest costs possible. Democrats should be riding this issue all the way to November even if they temporarily refrain from including it in the main legislation. The Democratic mantra should be, from day one of passage, that everyone knows the public option will never go away because it's an excellent policy idea and is very popular with the people -- and has tens of millions of passionate supporters comprising most of the Democratic Party (not just "the left"), and that, accordingly, the insurance in industry, pharma and the for-profit healthcare providers, mainly hospitals, better start trying to adjust to that reality.

However, don't expect the heavily compromised Obama administration or Congressional leadership to lead the charge. That progressive passion is going to be the force that eventually, and probably long before the exchanges go into operation, makes it happen.

Platitudes and generalities about whether or not a less-than-complete piece of legislation can be "fixed" later or be subject to incremental improvement are irrelevant. You have to look at the particular forces at work on particular changes. The stars are aligned for the public option to be the first big fix, whether Obama, Emanuel, Reid and Pelosi want it or not.

Democrats nationwide -- the real centrists who actually believe in historic American values like the rule of law and a strong middle class -- are sick of Republican-lite Democrats, and are desperate for candidates who are real Democrats. Any self-professed Democrat serving now who doesn't get on board for the next round on the public option will be in serious danger of not having the chance to do so again.

Posted by: urban legend on March 13, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

With the fillibuster being applied to every bill in the Senate, the Republicans being far better organized than the Democrats (and disciplined as a caucus), and the Radical Right being much better at the attack meme than Democrats or liberals, I have to say that the chances of getting any "improvements" on this bill passed in the next 30 years are between nil and zero. In fact, bill or no bill if the Republicans can find a decent candidate in 2012 I have my doubts about Obama'a ability to keep office.

So I find this "of COURSE the law can be improved later; stop saying it can't" chant to be on the same level of obnoxiousness as Rahm's gratuitous hippie punching.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 13, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Rick Taylor: The fact that it has mandates is a strike against it; taxing peoples' health care plans to pay for it was a bad idea in my opinion. At first glance, those both seem like bad ideas, but think it through. You'd be in favor of universal public health care, right? And in favor of paying for it? Well, that would either be by a tax that everyone would pay for unless they were on the dole, or you have a mandate (think of it as a tax) plus subsidies to make it affordable to poor people. Otherwise it would be like making income tax or property tax optional, while letting everyone receive the benefits of national defense and fire & police protection. Good employer-provided health care coverage constitutes a huge slug of income that goes untaxed at the federal level, so effectively if you don't have a good health plan you are subsidizing my rather nice health care plan by making it much cheaper for me and my employer. Is that either fair or progressive? This is comparable to the way that child deductions, public education, and mortgage deductions effectively mean that childless couples, renters, and owners of cheap houses subsidize large families and owners of expensive houses. There are reasons for doing this: it's in everyone's interest to educate all of our society's children and turn them into maximally productive citizens, and a society of homeowners is likely to be better than a society full of people who rent from a few property magnates. Speaking as someone who will probably lose some parts of a real sweatheart deal over health insurance, I have to admit that taxing health insurance levels the playing field for everyone.

Posted by: N.Wells on March 13, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

I think it is overly pessimistic. Did I hear a rumor that Grayson is already working on a separate bill to institute the public option, with the intention of campaigning for it immediately after passage of the current reform legislation?

It CAN be done, but there will be resistance -- especially from Senate Democrats -- to the public option and other features that progressives want.

And there will definitely be no push for single-payer universal without a large, consistent, and effective citizens movement.

I'd like Kucinich to voice his criticisms and vote for the bill, and try to use his position to bench press for better health care reforms. I also respect his vote and don't see a need to fix on him for several days and bash on him (and, by extension, bashing progressives because they are not sufficiently obeisant to the conservative center).

Posted by: Algernon on March 13, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

"What is being offered by the Democrats is NOT REFORM. Instead, they are drumming up more costumers for the private Insurance corporations and for a system that has already failed."


...While, at the same time, putting in new regulations about what patients insurance companies are allowed to take or drop, and how much money they must spend on actual care. Among *many* other things.

So yes, it *is* real reform.

Now, you and I both know that Single Payer or a British-style nationalized system would probably be much better. But you know what? We aren't getting that. Even so, the current bill *is* a huge improvement over what we have now, particularly with the litter of new consumer protections it puts in place.

So if you have your way, people like me, who couldn't get insurance for any price (in my case, due to a nasty pre-existing condition; I'm damn lucky my husband gets good insurance from his employer) are left hanging out to dry. All thanks to unrealistic ideologues like you and Kucinich.

Just try to keep something in mind while you're ranting about how you aren't being given a pony: this isn't a political game. People are dying for lack of care, and this bill will help them.

Posted by: Shade Tail on March 13, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK


You can expand SCHIP. You can expand Medicaid. What in this bill can you "expand" to include a public option?

The exchanges, duh.

Posted by: calling all toasters on March 13, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK


Private Health insurance is NOT the solution. It is the problem.

40 Million Uninsured Americans need a Universal Single Payer Insurance and Health Care Plan --an American, yes, and social insurance program.

What is being offered by the Democrats is NOT “REFORM.” Instead, they are drumming up more costumers for the private Insurance corporations and for a system that has already failed.

Let’s not be one-sided: The Democrats in Congress and the White House have been a grand success when it comes to funneling taxpayer money into the banks, lining the pockets of corrupt bankers, fattening the military machine for senseless and perpetual wars, and providing larges for multiple rounds of “Bankster Bonuses.” All of this while millions of families are facing eviction from their homes and while these bankers grab their bonus and go on exotic vacations. These bonuses have been extracted from our nation’s public revenue and provided as a gift by corrupt politicians, by elected “mis-representatives,” by members in Congress, by folks in the White House and in the Courts - by “political leaders” who are paid-off (bribed) by insurance and banking lobbyist, by a system bagged by weapons-makers and licensed drug-pushers.

But, so far, during this current Great Depression, government money (our money) has NOT been returned. Obama’s Policy --like Bush before him-- is NOT based on sharing, money is NOT given directly to America's working people: Public Revenue has NOT made its appearance on Main Street; it is NOT handed out to impoverished Americans; it is not given to people facing eviction or hospitalization if they happen to be uninsured or have lost their job. All the TARP and all the stimulus Bailout funds have been squandered, they have been given or are being given -as a no-strings attached - GIFT to America's wealthiest individuals and to the richest corporate powers and to the largest monopoly entities.

The current policies will leave future generations of American with ever growing and unregulated premiums, with expanding and intensified economic inequality, and with generations of future debt and illness. And as our taxpayer money is funneled through Congress and through the Obama lobby, it will be wasted on their lame “Health Care” charade. We can all see what is coming our way. In the end, it will only help China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Israel who purchase our treasury notes and control the US currency through the Federal Reserve (which is neither “Federal” nor a “Reserve”). And , dear reader, you will be expected to eat the nuclear waste from the new Nuclear Power plants that Obama plans to give to the state of Georgia ( paid for, again, by the American taxpayers rather than covered with loans from private banks and investors.) All of this spending amounts to waste on top of waste with radioactive results. The Congress and the White House, the Democrats and Republicans, are playing Americans in their belief that we are a nation of suckers. The economic policies of the Federal Government and monopoly private sector are immoral, inhuman, and disgusting.

Dennis, keep fighting for real health care and real insurance reform. Don't give up, don't give in to the schemes of those who profiteer off sickness, don't give in to doomed “non-solutions” and false choices currently before the Congress. Don't be one of those compromised, lame, weak Democrats or Republicans that work day and night for the exclusive benefit the Plunder Elite or that seek to strengthen the plutocracy while destroying this country. Go Dennis!

Bruce Boyle

Posted by: Bruce Boyle on March 13, 2010 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that Kucinich supports Hackers writings does not mean that:

1) Hacker knows anything about the legislative process or how Congress works/doesn't work.

2) Kucinich's reasoning is flawed, or that he is wrong to distrust the ego-driven Senate.

I'm finding this legislation very hard to support. For over a quarter of a century private insurers have refused to insure me because I once took Lithium. Now Obama thinks reform is forcing those same chiseling bastards to take me as a customer?

Why? So they can turn down my claims by saying, "hey, this guys smokes marijuana -- we can't pay for his knee surgery!"

Without a public option, this isn't reform, just new rules for old thieves. Insurance is only a good thing when executive salaries are capped and claims are processed and paid first, and investigated later. So long as there is any kind of profit motive involved, the government can provide this service more cheaply and efficiently.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson on March 13, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

You can't "expand" the exchange to include the public option. The gov't is not an entity in the exchange.

Posted by: Observer on March 13, 2010 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK


This may sound/read like I'm being snarky, but I am not.

I've been reading the comments, and you keep coming back making points that this bill will accomplish very little or nothing.

If that is so, then why do you think Obama and the Congress are pushing it, risking so much that it might be a truly awful bill? Do you think Obama is that stupid, that blind, or naive?

I'm not anywhere near an expert on this subject, all I know is what I read on various blogs and newssites. It sounds like this bill, if enacted, could do a lot of good--ban the whole pre-existing bit, prevent people from being dropped, AND it will--according to the CBO--reduce the deficit. Those all sound good to me!

But there are people like you who insist that everyone else is wrong, including the President of the United States--who, most people have judged, is a pretty smart guy, unlike the chimp we had in office previously.

Again, I am NOT trying to be sarcastic or mean here, I'm trying to understand. Why do you think all these people--with SO MUCH TO LOSE if this bill is a disaster--are completely wrong and you are right?

And if this is such a giveaway to the insurance industry, why are Republicans so against it?

Posted by: rob on March 13, 2010 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

> Observer-
> This may sound/read like I'm being snarky, but I
> am not.
> I've been reading the comments, and you keep
> coming back making points that this bill will
> accomplish very little or nothing.

Really? I said that? Please point to exactly where, with post time and quote. Because the comments that I wrote were entirely centered on the treatment of Kucinich and whether or not it was realistic to think that there can ever be improvements over what is on the table now if it passes. But then again, I only wrote them.

> Do you think Obama is that stupid, that
> blind, or naive?

Having grown up on the south side of Chicago, and spent a lot of time in the same political environment he did in the 1980s, I thought I had Obama reasonably well figured out as a south side Chicago conservative Democrat who (like all south side activists) had learned that you eventually have to compromise with the Machine to get some of what you want. And that much has proven to be correct.

But I confess I AM baffled by his apparent need to placate, appease, and pre-capitulate to _Republicans_. Not to blue dog Democrats; much as that annoys me I can see the need for it (although even there going into a negotiation announcing your own capitulation point is utterly idiotic strategy). But he seems to have this internal need to win praise from the very same Republicans who carried out all the nation-destroying actions that you list. That is bizarre, and reeks of a person who truly has no experience in making tough decisions.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 13, 2010 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

The POTUS is for any health care bill. He said so and have been quoted as saying so. This is a matter of public record.

On the specifics, it is not the case that any of the bill proponents have anything to lose if the bill is a disaster. Most of the important aspects of the bill, such as the exchanges, will take place after 2012 (I believe it to be 2014 but don't quote me).

So, in the eyes of the public, the POTUS gets a "win" and can use that fact during his reelection campaign. The mandates to buy insurance and the effects of the tax on the middle class will come after that. Very convenient.

So the only thing the POTUS needs to worry about is NOT getting a bill now. Which is why if you want a public option, they need to NOT give him a bill. If he doesn't get a bill he still needs to figure out a way to get one done before the 2010 elections.

If you give him this bill now, then the PO opponents are simply going to say something like "let's give the exchanges a chance to work before we fix something that isn't broken yet". This will push any PO reform into at least 2024, ten years after they are created.

So I believe the POTUS is conning people, (same as with the FISA vote, closing GITMO, indefinite detentions etc.) in order to get a "win" and claim the mantle of reform for reelection.

To me this is obvious but when someone says there will be pressure to get a PO later if you "pass the damn bill" now, I ask pressure from whom? The POTUS won't touch this with a ten foot pole before 2012. Republicans and Blue Dogs will say give the exchanges a chance to work.

The public will say "i thought we already had health care reform". So there won't be any meaningful pressure on any primary or general election candidate to vote one way or the other. So any Senator right now is better of passing *any* bill. All the bad stuff will happen much later and no one will remember who voted for what and will simply blame Obama.

So, no, there is NOT much to lose for any of the bill proponents.

Posted by: Observer on March 13, 2010 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky: I think he was asking me rather than you :-)

Posted by: Observer on March 13, 2010 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

You gotta love the Obama -hating left. In their world, 44 out of 100 equals a majority, and that we should all follow a politician with no ability to influence legislative outcomes or meaningful consituency.

And then (when they're not typing out verbose, incoherent scrambles of every lefty talking point that enter their fevered brains - twice) they are wondering why they aren't taken seriously.

Posted by: brewmn on March 13, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK


Okay, now I understand where you're coming from, that's all I was wondering about.

I hope you're wrong.


Try decaf.

Posted by: rob on March 13, 2010 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

The Federal government will be providing billions of dollars in subsidies, subsidies that will give it a vested interest in seeing that price increases are kept under control. Should that not be possible under the present proposed legislation, there are always the fallback positions of: 1) including a public option in the exchanges or, 2) enacting a Medicare buy-in available to anyone of any age.
The present proposed legislation makes it much, much easier for either of those two to become reality; which is why the HCI companies are STILL spending millions to defeat this "give-away".
Failure to pass the Senate bill, and Mr. Kucinich's opposition, is short-sighted, politically stupid and morally wrong.

Posted by: Doug on March 13, 2010 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Consider this.

Obama is sounding like my father. I would ask him for a toy and he would say, "next week". Next week came and no Toy came.

Also, the insurance companies will not give up the $ 70 Billion in subsidies they will receive per year under this monstrosity, and will not give up the new 31 million customers.

Also, Clinton promised he would fix the welfare repeal for the poor in 1997. Where was the fix?

BHO promised to fix NAFTA, where is the fix? Gouldsbie went to the Canadian Embassy to tell the govt not to pay attention to his remarks.

The Rethugs are upset because they did not think of this thing themselves. now the Corporate Dems are going to reap millions of $'s from AIHP.

The time to get the PUBLIC OPTION is now or NEVER.

Posted by: annonymous on March 13, 2010 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Benen is wrong on the history. See eriposte.

Posted by: lambert strether on March 13, 2010 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

If Kucinich's preferred alternative was a realistic piece of legislation then some of this would make sense. But HR676 is a joke when examined as a serious political endeavor.

Medicare though financed via a governmental mandated insurance plan is thoroughly privatized in practice, almost all providers are private and the majority are for profit. The end result of Kucinich's co-sponsored HR 676. despite the bill sub-title would be far, far from 'Medicare for All'.

Remember that for Dennis and the Purists last summer the Public Option WAS the sell-out position. Back then it was 'Single Payer Now!' or nothing. For him to use the PO's absense as the sticking point is pretty hypocritical.

Posted by: Bruce Webb on March 13, 2010 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

In late July I suggested Sec 116 of the House Tri-Committee Bill was the key to a sucessful HCR Bill or not. With it the overall plan worked, without it not. A couple of months later I argued that although the preservation of the PO meant enforcement of a Sec 116 provision easier, the absense of the PO would not be fatal if Sec 116 was still included.

The Senate Finance Committee Chairman's Mark omitted this language and the Pelosi and Reid versions only restored it in an ineffective and temporary way. But the final compromise by the Team of Twenty reinserted it. It made an acceptable Reid compromise into a pretty good bill. Which is why AHIP was all for Reid's Bill but a week later turned against the bill as passed.

Because two or three sentences out of 2900 pages make all the difference. The unwillingness of commenters to dig down into the language of the bill and understand that outcomes can be vastly varied by small changes is dispiriting. Particularly when it comes from Purists insisting they and only they understand either the Senate Bill or HR 676. Near as I can see most of them show no signs of actually having read either.

For all the world the mind-set reminds me of Biblical literalists who seem never to have read such things as the Sermon on the Mount (hi Glenn B!) or Constitutional originalists who work from a text that exists only in their own imaginations.

Posted by: Bruce Webb on March 13, 2010 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Social Security and Medicare were good programs that were expanded; this bill is bad policy that one has to hope and pray and click heels that would later get FIXED.

Poorly thought-out article.

Posted by: Jake on March 13, 2010 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

It's too bad Kucinich isn't president and that this blog has become an official apologist for the DLC and its corporate supporters. Obama has been a disappointment. Today, he served up another dose of Bush-lite with his education 'reform' plan. He can kiss union support goodbye.

Instead of following a progressive agneda, he's backing blue dogs,like Blanche Lincoln. I guess he wants her elected to support his effort to avoid meaningful reform at all costs.

Posted by: Devildog on March 13, 2010 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

So, one of THE most progressive members of Congress, Dennis Kucinich, is now the bad guy because he, like many, see this health care bill as just a joke and giveaway to the health insurance industry?


Go read Wendell Potter, a former industry insider. He DETAILS how this bill does NOTHING other than mandate people buy crap insurance under penalty of fine or imprisonment (tax evasion).

Posted by: Michael Gass on March 13, 2010 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

@Michael Gass:

Go read Wendell Potter? The Wendell Potter who said "I would vote for it", regarding the bill on the March 5th, 2010 Bill Moyers?


Posted by: rob on March 13, 2010 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

It put his name, didn;t it? That's all he's interested in. He's become a gadfly. He'll vote "no". not out of principle, but because it will shine a spotlight on himself.

For all of his talk over the years, what has he ever accomplished?

Posted by: Saint Zak on March 14, 2010 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

I know the arguments, babe. I side with Kucinich on this one.
The bill is crap, not only for lack of PO but for FORCING Americans to BUY FROM INSURANCE COMPANIES. I could stomach all the bs in the bill but that last little morsel. I will NEVER see that as right, no matter what.

Change later? Right. I don't buy that, either. Maybe in the past we could rely on that reasoning but today Congress is a different animal. Repubs, when back in the majority (and that WILL happen) will rescind the bill or weaken it further. But I could see Congress taking that whole FORCE Americans to buy from corporations further. What next with that? Seriously dangerous precedent, that one.

Passing this bill is WRONG WRONG WRONG. No way around it. And, frankly, I trust Kucinich more than I trust that lying snake Obama.

Posted by: Terradea on March 14, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

I am going to take a wild guess and assume that all people who think Kucinich is actually progressive are men. Kucinich was adamantly pro-life -- until he wanted to run for president.

As for there being nothing to build on -- do you know how the public option was supposed to operate? As an "option" on the exchange. If there is an exchange it can be incrementally (or drastically) improved with the addition of a public option.

It's like failure is the only comfort zone of true progressives.

Posted by: Barbara on March 14, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

If men could get pregnant, you'd be able to get abortions at 7-11.

Posted by: rob on March 14, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

If men could get pregnant, you'd be able to get abortions at 7-11.

Are you kidding? If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament performed on the altar in Catholic churches!

Posted by: Blue Girl on March 14, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

If Dennis Kucinich's one vote kills this dishonest bill, then he will be voting with the majority both of the House of Representatives and of the American people. If the bill is passed, then Kucinich will be voting with the minority of the House of Representatives and the majority of the American people.

Posted by: Leo Wong on March 14, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

If men could get pregnant, you'd be able to get abortions at 7-11.

Are you kidding? If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament performed on the altar in Catholic churches!

Man, these are old and tired. The people repeating them for the millionth time never seem to get that if men could get pregnant (and women couldn't), women would be discriminating against them. The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that is relegated to second-class citizenship.

Posted by: shortstop on March 14, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

I am truly an independent that comes to this site to read the comments, I am not a Democrat. Since Kevin left, the variety in the posts has narrowed considerably, but the commenters are generally well informed and the trollage moderate enough not to destroy the threads.

With this issue, you people are completely out to lunch. Your comments and arguments sound straight from a Repub site. Outside of Cranky, you guys don't even make sense. This is your "Waterloo" moment and you feel your world slipping away, trying to "out shout" the opposition. A bill is not better than NO bill; the proposed bill is an abomination that needs to be killed.

Your entire argument resides around "this is the best we can do."; that is not a valid argument. If the change is not a good change, it is not worth implementing.

Thanks to you guys, I have written our country off; 80 years ago this country faced a crisis and the people responded, building a country that dominated the world, ecominically and militarily. The current Dems have retreated to the minimum change the Repubs will accept, instead of fighting for something that will improve our country for the next 50 years; and you all decided to cover their backs on the deal. Good job.

Kucinich is right, you all know it, but you would rather back the status quo. Way to go. This is not an issue of standing like a fool on your ideals, this is an issue of standing up when your back is against the wall, and that is exactly where we are. Any of you notice that Roberts started leaking the rumor of retiring back to the club once the Citizens United ruling was delivered? His job is done. The wealthy have closed the circle opened in the 30's and are back in control.

The only sectors of the ecomony that have grown in the last 30 years, since the great Ronnie set his majic in motion, are healthcare and finance. Finance has suceeded because they have the resources of the US Treasury to back their Ponzi schemes and Healthcare, because the demand/price curve has an infinite slope and the US Government has guaranteed the industry monopoly status. Good luck in trying to undo either of those gravy trains until Americans are working for $3/hr, again.

Just so you don't think this is just mindless complaining, my take on the current healthcare reform:

1.) Supplies millions of customers to the private healthcare industry, who could/would not participate because they could not afford it, paid for by the government, mostly by the non-wealthey

2.) Supplies millions of customers to the private healthcare industry, via mandates, who were healthy enough that they didn't think it was worth the money.

3.) Supplies some protection against insurance companies regarding pre-existing conditions. The effectiveness of these protections will depend on loopholes and future changes to the laws.

4.) Supplies some protection against insurance companies dropping your coverage. The effectiveness of these protections will depend on loopholes and future changes to the laws.

5.) May lower insurance costs through exchanges, if the industry doesn't game the system or the laws are not changed to make them irrelevant.

6.) Ossifies the insurance industry as part of the healthcare system

7.) Greatly reduces the chance that any large healthcare initiative will be passed in the future.

8.) Does not go into effect until 2013, after Obama's re-election, and I am 3 years closer to Medicare.

9.) The bottom line is that as long as health care insurance is private, it must make a profit, it has little to no incentive to reduce costs, (reduce payouts, sure, but not costs). The monopoly status granted the medical industry insures that the people will be leveraged to the maximum for payouts and Citizens United guarantees that hundreds of millions will be spent on lobbying for laws to improve the profits of the insurance industry. None of this points to the current healthcare bill being "improved" with time.

10.) In America, the only way to move healthcare from the draconian system where it is evolving, to something humane, is to move it from the private to the public sector; big money owns American politics, especially after Citzens United. You all have effectively taken public sector off the table.

11.) You Dems think passing this law will protect you in November, because the Repubs are a bunch of loons. You are wrong. The media will present the loons as normal people and validate the Repubs hysteria regarding big government making you buy insurance and taxing those of you lucky enough to have decent insurance. You will be getting hammered in November, count on it. Taking a stance that protects The People, instead of The Corporations, is your only chance at maintaining power.

For the 1st time in my life I will vote Republican this fall because the Dems are our only hope, unless a 3rd party evolves, and they need a wakeup call. The Dems need to quit acting like Republicans and start acting like Democrats.

The old HST quote is dead on:

"Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time"

Posted by: says you on March 14, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

For the 1st time in my life I will vote Republican this fall because the Dems are our only hope, unless a 3rd party evolves, and they need a wakeup call.

And then when your Republicans win, you'll get all the things you can't forgive this bill for not giving you. Or the Dems will magically "wake up," immediately retake Congress and promptly enact single payer.


Posted by: Allen on March 14, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Allen is not listening.

Posted by: Leo Wong on March 14, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I'm listening. But all I'm hearing is a total disconnect between "I want" and "I can."

Posted by: Allen on March 14, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

The dialogue was: "We want." "You can't."

Posted by: Leo Wong on March 14, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

I completely agree with Allen's description at 3:21, but the more I see these same intra-party fights week in and week out here one point has gotten clearer.

To a large degree what we have is a matter of competing forecasts of future facts, and faith in how to verify those projections. "says you," Cranky, Observer, Tlaloc, Preador and a few others say the bill will be a disaster that will throw Americans into the maw of the Insurance beast with no real reforms of the insurers and no cost containment.

We're it just Benen and other commenters (many long-timers who have earned respect and trust) refusing to accept this worst-case worldview, the "Just Say No" crowd might seem more plausible. Indeed, I might even consider the warnings still credible as checks-and-balances if they were opposed by other commenters and the majority of elected Democrats who arguably have an investment in the established order.

But the nay-sayers are not only contradicted by Obama and team, Democratic leaders in Congress (including liberals like Harkin, Durbin, and Sanders), but also people with credentials to actually know what the hell they are talking about - something we can't really know about Tlaloc, says you, et al. They haven't explained why their take is more credible than say a Nobel Economist like Krugman, or a progressive health policy expert like Jacob Hacker, or the CBO, or the Nurses Association etc etc etc.

In short, at some point the "says yous" have to ask seriously when it is essentially them against everyone, including economists, health policy experts, and leading Democrats what are the odds everyone else is wrong and the small handful of pseudononymous commenters on a blog are right? Given this entire bill requires a leap of faith on uncertain and unprovable projections of future results, if I have to place a bet I'll bet with Krugman, Hacker, CBO, a majority of Dems in Congress and a majority of Democrats in public polls -- and what appears to be a slight majority of commenters here at Political Animal, as well as my own (a) reading of the tea leaves and (b) political instinct.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 14, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Setting up private insurance precludes adoption of a PO later. The path that remains open to improve the private option (this HCR bill) is to increase the medical loss ratio to 90-plus percent. Which rat-f**c*er Elmendorf insists is government run insurance.

Obama likes it because is solves the federal contribution to health care and may dramatically reduce health care costs.

Absent any dramatic changes to the medical inflation rate the bill will cause degradation of the employer based insurance over time through the excise tax.

So ten years out HC will need reform again. This bill lays the foundation for the next reform to be tightening the medical loss ratio rather than introducing Medicare for all. Still not enough on cost control that can only come from single payer or regulated medical cost controls.

Posted by: grooft on March 14, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK


Thank you! Your comment was partly what I was trying to get at when asking Observer where he was coming from.

I'm sure I'm guilty of overly trusting the government now that "my side" is in charge, when I didn't trust it at all under Bush.

But when I see so many knowledgeable people say this bill is flawed but should be passed, and then I read comments from some bloggers whose tone is just "Anyone who wants this bill passed is stupid/a crook/a partisan hack", my natural instinct is to wonder "How the hell do you guys know so much? If you're such geniuses, why aren't you a noted authority on the subject?"

Posted by: rob on March 14, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

@Zeitgeist, @rob: Dr. Marcia Angell, Dr. Andrew Coates, Dr. Quentin Young, Joseph Siglitz, among others.

Posted by: Leo Wong on March 14, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK


Not to cast aspersions on your honesty, but I'm not impressed by unattributed attributions. If you read the comments above between the commenter Michael Gass and I, he throws out Wendell Potter's name as someone against the bill, presumably as a real piece of evidence that this bill is bad.

One Google hit later, I found that Potter is for passing the bill (and I provide a link to the interview where he says that). So either Potter is a trustworthy expert, or he isn't. Or did Obama get to him? (cue dramatic music)

Posted by: rob on March 14, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Leo Wong - I don't doubt there are some credible folks against the bill; I still think the bulk are for it (I should add that less than a month ago Wendell Potter said he'd vote for it, so add him to the 'pass the bill' ranks). But the anti's here keep insisting that it is self-evident that those of us who support the bill are corporatist sell-outs, and perhaps even - *gasp* - Republican secret agents. They don't provide the evidence, and they certainly don't explain how, if they are so clearly right, Krugman, Hacker, Potter, Harkin (who was second only to Kennedy in having health related issues as his Senate priority and legacy) would all get it so wrong. At the very least the anti's perhaps should concede that informed people in good faith may not see the world as they do. Although such a concession might make Tlaloc's head explode.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 14, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

@zeitgeist Potter and Krugman are of the "hold your nose and vote yes" persuasion. Many in Congress who insisted that a strong public option was necessary will now vote for a bill that will likely not have even a weak public option.

@rob You needn't question my honesty in this matter, since I didn't list Potter. Rob Kall quotes Potter on Kucinich: "Well so do I. I absolutely agree with him. I don't fault him at all for trying. And I think that's a worthy goal. And I hope he has success here. But he might fall short. I don't know if he's going to succeed or not... I think it's wonderful that he's trying it. I hope he succeeds. But if he doesn't succeed, that doesn't mean that this legislation should fail." So, yes, Potter is for passing the bill, but not because he thinks it's a good bill.

Posted by: Leo Wong on March 14, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Certainly Potter, Krugman, (and I for that matter) would much prefer a public option. But I'm not sure Potter is really at the 'hold your nose' level - in his Feb. 2010 interview with Moyers he readily lists a boatload of things he likes about the current bill.

There is no evidence, however, that either chamber has the solid votes for a public option. So the choice in reality is not "current bill versus public option." The choice in reality is "current bill, maybe with reconciliation side-car versus status quo for unknown length of time."

I think the number of reasonable, credible people who, given that particular choice, are saying "choose the status quo" are a very distinct minority whose arguments don't hold up well -- indeed, their arguments tend to be simply falling back on the fallacy of a choice that doesn't exist, that is, that we should not pass anything without a public option. Changing the underlying assumptions in the choice works in a Star Trek episode; not always as well in real life or the imperfect messiness of politics.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 14, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK


I simply used Potter as an example that, to me, a commenter saying "So and so is against the bill" without a link doesn't mean a lot, since people can get it wrong.

Also, to Zeitgeist's point: Many anti-bill commenters here think that those of us for the bill are stupid/crooked/partisan (take your pick).

So since Wendell Potter is a trusted authority on both sides, what's the conclusion when he says the bill should be passed? Is he stupid/crooked/partisan?

If not, then that means those of you who think this bill is bad still trust Potter, but simply disagree with his conclusions. So why can't that go for the rest of us?

Posted by: rob on March 14, 2010 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

@rob I do not consider you, Potter, or zeitgeist "stupid/crooked/partisan." I consider Kucinich a prophet without honor in his own party. Something written in 1900 suggests his role: "The radicals are really always saying the same thing. They do not change; everybody else changes. They are accused of the most incompatible crimes, of egoism and a mania for power, indifference to the fate of their own cause, fanaticism, triviality, want of humor, buffoonery and irreverence. But they sound a certain note. Hence the great practical power of consistent radicals. To all appearance nobody follows them, yet everyone believes them. They hold a tuning-fork and sound A, and everybody knows it really is A, though the time-honored pitch is G flat. The community cannot get that A out of its head. Nothing can prevent an upward tendency in the popular tone so long as the real A is kept sounding. Every now and then the whole town strikes it for a week, and all the bells ring, and then all sinks to suppressed discord and denial." -- John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation, 1900, 64.

Posted by: Leo Wong on March 14, 2010 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

How does setting up a private insurance exchange preclude adding a public option? There was private insurance around in 1965 when Medicare was passed, and Medicare itself is still available for expansion. Really, the arguments here are as bad as Stupak's continuing inanities about whether the bill funds abortion.

Posted by: Barbara on March 14, 2010 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

The question of who would vote for a (strong/weak) public option is somewhat murky. Here is one take: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miles-mogulescu/obama-durbin-and-pelosi-a_b_497359.html.

The closer we get to a vote, the less likely people will say what they really think. They make their choice and do their best to defend it. This applies to those who are for and those who are against the bill. Real thinking is seldom yes/no.

Posted by: Leo Wong on March 14, 2010 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

I've always liked Kucinich's judgment and consider him one of the most progressive liberals in congress but Can not tolerate any dem who stands with republican obstructionism. Vote against the bill if you don't like it Dennis but don't deny your fellow democrats the right to vote on the bill.

We must get our foot in the door or we will have nothing to work on at all. By his logic we should not even have Medicare because of the donut whole of Part-D.

Health care coverage is broken and doesn't need to be fixed...it needs to be replaced but the best that can be accomplished at present is getting a blueprint into law so we have 'something' to expand later.

It is no longer a matter of what is best or even good, but what is doable at this point to get our foot in the door and a direction plotted out for the future.

Kucinich is one of the BEST congress men we have. He is honest, intelligent and can't be bought. He is motivated solely by what is best for the people of this nation and I support him 100% but that does not mean I can't disagree with him or that he is always right on all the issues. I wish we had a 100 more of him in congress.

Screw KOS on wanting to rid us of this great man over a single issue. In fact congress men should be evaluated as + or - Kucinich as to how liberal or progressive or honest they are.

Posted by: bjobotts on March 14, 2010 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK



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