Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Health Reform Sham

"[O]nce the Government is going to mandate that all citizens purchase health insurance, it is preferable to provide an option to purchase a public plan rather than forcing everyone to buy from the private health insurance industry. On both policy and political grounds, a public-option-free mandate seems disastrous for Democrats."
-- Glenn Greenwald, Salon, Feb. 23, 2010
The same Glenn Greenwald who writes for Salon, as above, also was invited by the New York Times to weigh in on President Obama's 'official' health care reform proposal, the one the White House released earlier this week for the coming televised 'retreat' with interested congressmen and senators.

In the Times piece, Greenwald is tough on Obama. But it's hard not to be:
President Obama, in introducing his own health care proposal, exposed a transparent, year-long sham. White House loyalists insisted for months that the president genuinely supported a public option, but they told progressives that there could be no public option in the final bill even though more than 50 Democratic Senators supported it and even though the public option consistently polled as being very popular with Americans.

Why not? Because, they argued, the public option lacked the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, and there was simply nothing the White House could do to change that.

But the plan President Obama unveiled does not include a public option. If he were truly in favor of it, why would he exclude it from his own plan?

It now seems obvious that White House’s claim of support for the public option was a pretense used to placate the progressive base (in fact, it seems committed to excluding the public option very likely because it would provide real competition to the health insurance industry and is thus vehemently opposed by the industry and its lobbyists).
Greenwald is just as tough on Republi-nos:
The notion that Republicans might support real health care reform is an even bigger sham. What does the G.O.P. need to do to make clear that they will never, under any circumstances, help the President enact needed legislation?

They’ve all but declared their central mission to be sabotaging Obama’s agenda, particularly on health care. Voters want to see the Democrats do something meaningful with the political power they were given; they care far less about process and “bipartisanship,” which is a preoccupation among Beltway pundits and nobody else.
So, with one insufficient idea and another which has completely checked out from any governing principle except 'Get-the-President' what's an ordinary citizen, who doesn't enjoy the public health insurance options of a congressman or a senator, to do?

Glenn says:
Given that prospects for bipartisan support for health reform is nonexistent, the only sensible course is for the White House to push for and the Senate to pass a progressive bill that voters want, not the most so-called “centrist” legislation that most pleases corporatist and lobbyist interests.

If the Democrats’ claims all year long were remotely true, then robust reform (including a public option) can easily pass the Senate with 51 votes through the reconciliation process. There is no reason for Democrats to avoid that, and every reason for them to pursue it.
Jane Hamsher, who has more character than all the congressmen and senators put together, riffs off Greenwald's criticisms with "a play in two acts:"
Progressives: We want a public option!

Democrats/WH: We agree with you totally! Unfortunately, while we have 50 votes for it, we just don’t have 60, so we can’t have it. Gosh darn that filibuster rule.
* * *
[One month later]

Progressives: Hey, great! Now that you’re going to pass the bill through reconciliation after all, you can include the public option that both you and we love, because you only need 50 votes, and you’ve said all year you have that!

Democrats/WH: No. We don’t have 50 votes for that ... .The public option only polls at 65%, so it might make our health care bill — which polls at 35% — unpopular. * * *

It really is beyond belief how timid, confused, and utterly compromised the Democrats in Congress have become when confronted by hard-core corporatist Republicans who want nothing better than to eliminate altogether Social Security, Medicare, and virtually every other federal safety net since the New Deal. If they thought they could, they'd probably like to roll up Eisenhower's Interstate highway system, too.

As Duncan Black says, the Democratic analysis of this stand-off seems to begin and end with, "Can't win, don't bother trying." And, here we thought it was the Democrats who won a landslide victory last year.

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