Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 5, 2011

WHEN SPITE AND PATHOLOGY ARE PARAMOUNT.... They don't mean it, but congressional Republicans claim to hate the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. If their rhetoric is to be believed, the idea the GOP came up with in the first place is an un-American assault on freedom. Or something; it's hard to keep track.

As is it turns out, plenty of Democrats support the law, but are ready to deal on the mandate. This liberty-crushing, commie plot could be done away with fairly easily if Republicans picked up the phone and told the White House and/or Democratic leaders that they want to work on a policy alternative.

But they don't want a deal -- they want to complain about the provision they could eliminate if they were willing to work on a deal.

Republicans aren't likely to bury the hatchet with President Obama over the healthcare reform act, their Senate leader said Friday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), fresh off an unsuccessful vote on Wednesday to repeal healthcare reform, said not to expect Republicans to strike any agreements with the president.

"I think it's clear that this is an area upon which we are not likely to reach any agreements with the president," McConnell said on conservative pundit Laura Ingraham's radio show.

Well, it's "clear," only to the extent that McConnell and his party don't want to try to improve the law with their own ideas, they want instead to simply destroy the Affordable Care Act and maybe come up with something worse.

This isn't rational, and it's certainly not serious as a matter of public policy. Greg Sargent talked the other day about how conservatives talk about the health care law in "fervent and even messianic tones." At this point, it's not clear exactly why conservatives hate the law so much, or even whether this is still about health care. We're well past the point of reason -- the law's destruction has become, as Greg put it, a "new Holy Grail."

There's something unhealthy about this kind of zeal. Indeed, it's quite literally unproductive -- Republicans could advance their own interests, pursue their own goals, and move the law in their own direction, if they'd only be a little less unhinged.

Jonathan Chait's take on this rings true.

If this was a dispute about policy, of course, Republicans would be willing to pursue alterations. Democrats didn't like the Bush tax cuts, but if Bush had been willing to tighten up some tax loopholes, maybe lose the estate tax cuts, then they'd have been happy to entertain some alterations. While they may not have liked the law, they could surely imagine ways to improve it that could meet with bipartisan approval, especially given President Obama's professed willingness to negotiate changes. They could do so while still pursuing their preferred model of health care reform.

But the Affordable Care Act has become to the right a symbolic totem that has little to do with actual policies. Its very existence is an enduring emotional wound.... The GOP is operating not on the basis of some analysis of public policy but from a sheer pathology.

Similarly, Aaron Carroll's challenge to congressional Republicans is still out there: "If the mandate so offends you, call on your representatives to support a bill to remove it right now. It's not like there aren't other means to achieve the same incentives.... So there's the challenge. Support a fix to the mandate right now. If you won't, then you obviously aren't that concerned about 'liberty.'"

McConnell effectively answered the challenge yesterday -- he's not interested in advancing his own ideas -- delivering an important message about his party's approach to governing.

Steve Benen 11:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Look, there's no way that they want Obama, or any Democrat, to come up with something that helps the public, because then in comparison it makes the Republicans look like the angry, ignorant, vengeful, little people that they are.

And if something works, and Democrats get the credit, they know the public will see them for the angry, ignorant, vengeful, little people that they are.
So they act like angry, ignorant, vengeful, little people to try keep the Democrats from proposing and implementing anything that actually helps the public.

Hey, it's worked so far!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 5, 2011 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know why you keep carping on McConnell for apparently illogical positions. He has made it crystal clear that his highest priority is to make Obama a one term president.

Posted by: wordtypist on February 5, 2011 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are afraid that it might just work, that the American people will learn to like it.
I still would go for single payer!

Posted by: j on February 5, 2011 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

What part of NiggerCare do you not understand???

Obama wants to take our white taxpayer money to give more of it to the blacks and browns!

That is what we have convinced our bases. Therefore, that is our argument and we will stick to it, if we have to be 'politically correct' in how we word it.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on February 5, 2011 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Craven souls = those who would deny the American citizen affordable health care! McConnell, your craven soul needs a pep talk:

Your behavior is indicative of a privileged middle-aged man awkwardly coming to grips with having to sit next to a person of color on public transit, say back in 1965. Yo, we're past that, and if ACA is successful, I can see how it would definitely drive you up the wall.

After all, your ilk gave ACA the moniker Obamacare, so yes, if ACA is successful, President Barak H. Obama will live in perpetuity as that president who did a very decent thing for all Americans!

Man up McConnell, and admit your heritage of white privilege and how it is "coloring" your resistance to ACA! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 5, 2011 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

If you won't, then you obviously aren't that concerned about 'liberty.'"

It depends on what your definition of liberty is. For our Republican friends, liberty means the freedom to fuck over your fellow citizens, the more the better. That's how they can invoke liberty and simultaneously disparage equality.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on February 5, 2011 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP has clearly made their choice: obstruction and destruction. During the health care debate, for the price of a handful of Republican votes, the GOP could have basically written the bill. They could have enshrined serious tort reform, major cost controls, probably even some peanuts for the religious fundamentalists in the form of abstinence training or the like. But instead of being serious about the nation's future, they thought only about the next election, about taking back power.

It makes The Onion's story about how "all 242 House Republicans voted Wednesday to repeal the Asteroid Destruction and American Preservation Act, which was signed into law last year to destroy the immense asteroid currently hurtling toward Earth" pretty close to the truth.

Posted by: meander on February 5, 2011 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

The solution is transparently simple and could be implemented tomorrow -- Medicare-For-All. Just deduct another 90-odd bucks from every paycheck. Let the vulture health insurance companies continue to offer "Medigap" policies (consistent with ACA regulations). Never gonna happen, of course.

Posted by: jhill on February 5, 2011 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

So now the republicans want to cut all the agencies by 9%, but guess what, they only want to cut their own budge by 2%.

Posted by: JS on February 5, 2011 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP knows that one cannot be both a professional heckler and a legislator, so they opt for the former because its easier and safer then being honest and responsible.

Posted by: max on February 5, 2011 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Government can never be the answer to anything (unless it involves use of the military), per the Republican playbook.

Of course, a basic public option paid for with taxes, coupled with the availability of premium packages through the private market would work nicely... but the Republicans don't want a working program. The Republicans want rich people paying for premium services while the rest of us starve and die in the streets.

Posted by: RepubAnon on February 5, 2011 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

More political terrorism.. Of course followed by the Obama hot apple bend over (bipartisanship). When I saw the tea party policy ad I almost threw up. WTF is tea party policy? Please?!

Posted by: Trollop on February 5, 2011 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

It's clearly in Republican political interests to have a number of Obama programs that they can label as fascist big-government horrors, and that when they don't exist, they are willing to make them up, like death panels, or FEMA camps, or n-many other scary stories.

But the idea that the GOP isn't interested in talking about reality and negotiating practical solutions isn't really news, is it? We've been talking about it for months (years?) now. It's only unproductive if you interpret their interests as advancing their policy objectives, but they are clearly more interested in advancing their political objectives, power for its own sake and destruction of their enemies.

The GOP gets so much easier to understand once you can get free of that assumption that they care in any way about policy issues in the real world. They don't.

Posted by: biggerbox on February 5, 2011 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to admit it, but I think McConnell is being cleverer, and more scheming. Honestly - go down the list of likely repub pres candidates: Palin, Huckabee, Pawlenty, Hutsman, Romney, Gingrich.

Deep down, Mitch the bitch knows they are all losers. They all have major liabilities, and whoever comes out of the primaries [the race to the t parties inanities] will be so far into the loony bin that they likely cannot recover to veer to the center for the general. The only way to keep repubs at bay is to use their scorched earth policy.

Posted by: bigtuna on February 5, 2011 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

All the talk about the mandate is a waste of time or a distraction. Nobody actually opposes the mandate, it's just something that's easy to demagogue so people focus on it instead of their real issue. Republicans pretend to hate the mandate as a way of getting at anger at Obamacare as a whole (with the actual issue there seeming to be, "how dare Democrats actually succeed at something"). Lefty netroots people of a certain type pretend to hate the mandate as a way of getting at anger over the public option.

One interesting thing, and this is why I feel like it's important to try to call out mandate demagoguery despite personally having a pretty big log of posts opposing the mandate before the ACA passed, is that as onerous as the mandate is, *all the alternatives we've seen so far are worse*. It's really, really easy to find yourself out of health insurance for a couple months. Under the mandate, if this happens and you meet the "ability to pay" threshold, you're looking at something like a hundred-dollar fine the next april. But under the "enrollment period" thing being offered as an alternative, you've just been banned from getting health insurance for the next 7-12 months. So let's say something goes wrong and you need something medical urgently? Sure, just wait six months and then you can get your medical care. The personal opt-out is even better (by which I mean, "worse"), because it potentially creates a permanent uninsurable underclass. It's really easy to imagine people feeling forced into the opt-out because of a temporary ability-to-pay situation which isn't (or which they don't realize is) covered by the ability-to-pay opt-outs already in the law; these people are now completely screwed for five years, and will put a nasty strain on the system that entire period. And these are the kinds of things you have to deal with without a mandate because so many other provisions of the ACA absolutely depend on the mandate being there. Maybe it's a good thing the Republicans don't actually care about the mandate or we might see one of these horrible deals coming to pass.

Posted by: mcc on February 5, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Pathology is one way of looking at it, maybe the right one. Another way of looking at it is that Republicans are pursuing their own interests by doing this.

Why assume, given all the evidence, that they have any interest in governing whatsoever? For whatever reason, blocking government action of any sort at any level (except the purely symbolic) is the default GOP policy. There are exceptions, sure... but not many. They've moved past small-government and are heading into anti-government territory.

Waging a hopeless battle to repeal the law nevertheless prevents other actions from being taken in the Senate. Actually cooperating to change the law, even in ways Democrats would hate, would be governance, and hence anathema.

Posted by: Matt on February 5, 2011 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Well...of course the republicans don't want to replace it with anything else...they would lose a productive whipping boy / straw-man. They've had years to deal with this issue and health care in general, and have chose not to do so, except in the form of political opposition and confrontation. As usual anything that benefits the working class will always get short shrift in the republican world view. How they maintain so many state majorities and continue national waxing momentum proves the value in their propagandistic strategies and tactics.

Posted by: H.Finn on February 5, 2011 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Spite and pathology"? Of course: it's the pathology of having a 28% majority: i.e., their agenda is pretty much disliked/ignored by 72% of the populace, but is wildly popular with the bloc-voting 28% that they have to pander to to stay in office.
Congressional Republicans (fantasies of having a "mandate: aside) must know that they have little or nothing to offer the nation as a whole; so hysterically fighting and blocking whatever Obama and/or Democrats might propose is really their only strategy to avoid legislative irrelevance. Hence their obsession with the usual "hot-button" "social" issues: anything to avoid having to actually DO anything substantive....

Posted by: Jay C on February 5, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

They want to mandate retirement accounts to wall street so it stands to reason they arent actually against health insurance mandates.

Its chum for the sarahcudas and nothing more IMO

Posted by: Kill Bill on February 5, 2011 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Really? Spite is the only explanation here? Imagine if the GOP had gotten social security privatized, do you think Democrats would be working within the confines of the new system to improve it, or try to undo it entirely? Moreover, what strategy would we progressives want them to take?

Posted by: trizzlor on February 5, 2011 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

"The solution is...Medi-care for all...Ain't gonna happen." jhill @ 12:41 PM.

THAT'S just what the Republicans are worried about - it IS "gonna happen". Either the healthcare insurance market will become as tightly regulated as Switzerland's (not likely in my opinion) or else, because of continuing excessive increases in health care insurance costs, Medi-care will begin offering a "buy-in" of some sort.
I don't think simply applying stricter and stricter regulations would work in this country because the Republican Party's attitudes towards ANY regulations represents the views of just too many non-Republicans. On the other hand, a super-majority of US citizens are quite happy with SS and Medicare and how they are run.
The latter is what the Republicans are fighting; either they destroy the ACA NOW or, most likely within the next decade, Medicare will be opened to every citizen, regardless of age.
THAT'S what they're fighting...

Posted by: Doug on February 5, 2011 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

obama's sham healthcare bill is going to be thrown out by the SCOTUS that installed dur chimpfurher as "supreme leader" in 2000.

This P.O.S. legislation that confuses HEALTHCARE with and INSURANCE COMPANY BAIL-OUT will never be implemented and even if it does, will not contain costs and therefor solves nothing.

Why does dem and obama's repeated capitulation to the likes of blue dogs and repugs NEVER get mentioned here.

The outrageous one-sided posts here and flaming/deleting of any meaningful dialog really have reduced this site to a meaningless exercise in futility.

Posted by: big bart on February 5, 2011 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is the mandate is going to be the gift the Democrats gave to Republicans that will keep on giving.

Look, except for the citizens of the good state of Massachusetts, nobody in America has experienced the Mandate yet so it is easy to demagogue. And nobody will until, what 2014? And in Massachusetts, their reform law is still popular but support is dropping fast as costs rise.

What is most likely going to kill support for the mandate, and maybe the health insurance law as well, is increasing costs and dropping subsidies- both of which are almost guaranteed by our enormous debt, the hypocrisy of the Republican party and the corruption of both of our parties.

Once the costs start increasing and the politicians start throttling subsidies, the "mandated" insurance model becomes pure evil. Not to mention the fact that regulation of the insurance companies is probably going to be uneven and probably pretty crappy in most states. Couple that with corporations (where most people, including those in Massachusetts, get their insurance) using it as an excuse to dump their insurance plans (that most people are currently happy with) and you have an albatross that is going to be stuck around the Democrat's neck for a long, long time...

And the sad thing is it wouldn't have taken much to pin the Mandate on Republicans- after all, it was their idea to begin with but the Democrats just had to fall all over themselves trying to prove to the insurance industry that they were the better whore. Pathetic.

Posted by: spiny on February 5, 2011 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone else noticed how the Republican leadership has unleashed forces around the country claiming their states can pick and choose which laws they do and don't want to recognize?

Republicans basically believe the Constitution is not Constitutional! They are taking the country back 220 years to the slave period in order to relive the ratification debate.

The old adage appears to be true: those who don't understand history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. The Texas textbook review committee takes Jefferson and separation of Church and State out of the history textbooks while Virginia puts in crap about how black slaves fought bravely for the South in the Civil War. Then Arizona's state legislators claim the right to pick and choose which federal laws they will enforce.

It looks more and more like modern Republican ideology is intellectually dishonest.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on February 6, 2011 at 6:50 AM | PERMALINK

To: Posted by: Linnaeus on February 6, 2011 at 7:28 AM

On the surface, you are correct - these posts are just venting since I (and most others here) don't like screaming at the walls.

Are the Dems complicit? Again, that is at least partially right. However, what most of us here are well aware of is that Obama and the Dems had to get past a Republican stone wall. To do that, good bills had to watered down because you couldn't lose even one Dem vote. That gave the Liebermans, Nelsons, and Blue Dogs what amounts to veto power and they had to be coddled or the whole thing fell apart.

If even a few Republicans had wanted to get decent bills passed and had worked in an honest fashion, several important bills (health care, financial regulation) would be MUCH better because the petulant demands of the few could have been ignored.

But that didn't happen - did it? The stone wall stood firm and the filibuster ruled the Republican strategy.

I'd have more respect for those on the "Right?" if I saw even a hint of acknowledgment of how things have gone the last few years. There is none. I don't see any Republicans admitting that the Bush tax/spend/no oversight/run up deficits strategy was a failure and that Obama inherited a cesspool. Instead, I see "death panels", Obama wants Sharia Law, whatever comes out of Glen Beck's mouth, etc. - pure, vile, deliberately hate-filled trash passing as opinion.

You can have it, we don't want it!

The very first post on the thread nails it. Republicans don't want things Obama does to turn out well because it will cost them votes - dead on accurate. And truly sad for the country.

Posted by: Mark-NC on February 6, 2011 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

"If the mandate so offends you, call on your representatives to support a bill to remove it right now. It's not like there aren't other means to achieve the same incentives.... So there's the challenge. Support a fix to the mandate right now. If you won't, then you obviously aren't that concerned about 'liberty.'"

If the Democrats only knew how to play chicken, then they could write a repeal the mandate only bill and force the Republicans to cast a vote on it. If Republicans let the bill go through, it hurts the insurance companies, who the Republicans want to protect, and it kills the SCOTUS case and the ability for Republicans to run against the ACA. If Republicans kill the bill, then Democrats can run against the mandate being a Republican plan. Of course, the Democrats would never win at a game of chicken with the Republicans.

Posted by: blank on February 6, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

mcc wrote: "... as onerous as the mandate is, *all the alternatives we've seen so far are worse* ..."

That's not true.

Universal, nonprofit, single-payer "Medicare For All" health insurance under open, accountable, efficient public administration is not "worse" than a universal mandate requiring every American to purchase insurance from for-profit corporations.

It's better. Much better. Except, of course, for the insurance corporations.

Which is why Obama, Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership declared that single-payer was "off the table" before the "health care debate" even began, and why advocates of single-payer were systematically marginalized and denigrated and excluded from the debate, and why the public option was discarded, and why Medicare expansion was discarded.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 6, 2011 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK



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