What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses
- I stand by my position that a bill containing a mandate to buy private insurance, without offering the choice of a public insurance plan, amounted to a giveaway – indeed, government-backed enslavement – to the insurance industry. So I would have voted No on the Senate health care bill if I had been in the House.
- A public option could be included in the reconciliation sidecar, but no one wants to go through the “hassle” of doing it, and they’re all pathetically pointing fingers at each other instead. If the reconciliation sidecar doesn’t have a public option and I felt that liberals might have leverage over centrists and conservatives in keeping the bill from passing, I would (threaten to) vote No. Otherwise, I would vote Yes. It’s probably not likely that liberals have much leverage on the sidecar bill, given that most of the stuff in there is what liberals want.
- The public option is a must-have and is non-negotiable, for both moral reasons (government cannot force people to be slaves to private insurance companies simply for living in America) and practical reasons (there needs to be something to keep private insurance companies from abusing their newly-acquired mandate).
- I don’t think this law is better than nothing. It’s a step that leads us down the wrong path – the path of corporatist government – and by giving insurance companies all this power up front, it’ll make it harder to take that power away in the future with a public option, to say nothing of Medicare for All. I’ve often compared it to feeding a child veggies and ice cream: parents know to tell their kids that “they can’t have ice cream until AFTER you’ve eaten your veggies.” With this law we’ve given the insurance companies their ice cream (mandate) and only afterwards are we asking them to eat their veggies (public option/Medicare Buy-In/Medicare for All). It’s not gonna happen.
· I learned a lot about negotiation strategy from this process, including something very important about the Block strategy of threatening to withhold one’s vote unless certain demands (i.e. the public option) are satisfied. There wasn’t really the righteous fury against the idea of a mandate with no public option, and a Block strategy collapses when you don’t have the passion behind it. That’s the lesson to be taken away from Bart Stupak’s successful push for his abortion issue: the will to walk away can only happen if you have the passion behind it. I think too many of us were convinced that merely saying “I will not vote for a mandate with no public option” without actually believing it, was enough. It’s not enough. You have to actually believe it and make sure others know you do.
· The liberals saying that we should pass the bill were extraordinarily unhelpful in this process, because they wanted to have it all ways. They wanted us to threaten to kill the bill if had no public option, but they didn’t want us to actually do it. And then they criticized us because our not following through on our threat made that threat meaningless. But if we did follow through on our threat, they slammed us as heartless Naderesque bastards who didn’t care about the poor uninsured people that they were about to unwittingly enslave to the insurance industry. And then we all degenerated into an entertaining but ultimately unhelpful argument about who cares more about health care. It also didn’t help that some of these pass-the-bill people were incredibly condescending and disrespectful, and were some of the same people that bashed the shit out of Nader voters instead of trying to respectfully coax them back into the fold.
- Finally, let’s keep in mind that the law that was passed is an essentially center-right, market-based – indeed, big corporate bailout/giveaway/enslavement – solution rather than some leftist “government takeover” that I and other liberals only wish it actually were. So save the “this is a progressive victory like Medicare was!!!” cheers for when we actually get a real solution like Medicare for All.
Well the Senate health care bill was passed into law today, March 23 2010, without a public option, after a grueling Sunday night vote on March 21. I stand by my earlier statement that the bill should not have been allowed to pass unless a public option is included, and that if the reconciliation sidecar did not have a public option, the Senate bill should be defeated. Since the sidecar did not have a public option, thanks in large part to general cowardice, incompetence and centrist tendencies on all sides, I would have voted No on the Senate bill.
Now the Senate is planning on passing through reconciliation a sidecar bill the House already passed. Despite this bill only needing 51 votes in the Senate, it still does not have a public option. This, despite there being 56 votes for the public option (or at least something that had a public option in it) in the Senate last November (55 now that Paul Kirk has left the Senate). They can no longer use the “there aren’t 60 votes” excuse, so at this point the House and Senate are just blaming each other. It’s pretty pathetic and their bullshit is becoming really transparent at this point.
Any one Senator can offer the public option as an amendment in the sidecar; though that would require the House to have to vote on the sidecar again. That this might be a pain in the ass for the House seems to be the only reason the Senate has against doing it. Fuck it, what do you think we pay you to do, sit around and blow bubbles? This is not an excuse. Bernie Sanders was originally going to offer an amendment but was apparently pressured out of it; now the pressure is on Michael Bennet. Read David Sirota’s entry here for more information about this ridiculous charade.
If the reconciliation sidecar doesn’t have a public option and I felt that liberals might have leverage over centrists and conservatives in keeping the bill from passing, I would (threaten to) vote No. Otherwise, I would vote Yes. It’s probably not likely that liberals have much leverage on the sidecar bill, given that most of the stuff in there is what liberals want.
There’s something that I have to say about the public option, that I said on Open Left: the public option is a must-have, and it’s non-negotiable. I’ve already explained that there’s a moral reason to this: the government cannot be allowed to force people to buy private health insurance as a condition for living in the United States. Under this legislation, merely existing in this country requires paying tribute to an insurance company or being fined by the government. If the passage of this isn’t a consequence of corporations having totally taken over our government and our democracy, I don’t know what is. Miles Mogulescu explained this concept brilliantly in his must-read piece entitled “The Democrats’ Authoritarian Health “Reform” Bill and the Ascendency of Corporatism in the Democratic Party”.
But there’s a practical side as well. The argument for the individual mandate is that it’s necessary to keep individuals from abusing the system and raising costs for everyone else. Well, without a public option, the insurance companies are free to abuse the system and raise costs for everyone else. And yet, that’s somehow okay where the lack of an individual mandate isn’t? As I wrote on Open Left:
A public option is non-negotiable. It’s necessary to hold costs down just like the individual mandate is. No one is making this point and I think it’s telling. Everyone stresses the need to keep regular people from wrecking the system by having an individual mandate, but no one cares if big corporations wreck the system in the absence of a public option.
This is what happens when a country is so brainwashed into thinking that corporations are more important than people that even its so-called liberals have conformed their thinking to that bias.
I would’ve been happy to make a deal with the liberals who clung stubbornly to the Senate bill, that if they dropped the individual mandate, I would drop my crusade for the public option. If they got to bitch about premiums going up with no mandate, I should get to bitch about premiums going up with no public option.
I want to address the argument, prevalent among those who wanted the bill passed, that this was somehow half a loaf or a foundation to build on for the future. Here’s what I wrote on Open Left:
I agree generally that we should pass half a loaf and work to make it whole in the future (0.00 / 0)
but that’s not what we’re dealing with here. This Senate bill isn’t half a loaf; it’s a poison pill. It’s not like civil rights and social security where we start with something small and keep adding to it; it’s like shooting ourselves in both feet and then hoping we can limp/crawl our way to a hospital.
If we pass it we’ll all feel happy at first but what we’re actually doing is making future efforts to improve things harder. Here’s a couple of reasons why:
1. If the Senate bill passes, everyone will say “we did it!” and ignore the issue for the rest of their days. Also, anytime anyone brings up health care ever again conservatives will just say “we already did health care”.
2. In the system the Senate bill sets up there’s nothing to really limit increases in premiums, co-pays and deductibles. This will bankrupt people and the country over time.
3. The power is all going towards private insurance companies, making us all more dependent (now by law!) on their services and strengthening their negotiating position with the government. It’ll give them more power and clout and allow them to buy their pet Senators, regulators and Presidents even more so than ever before. This may allow them ways to quietly get around or undo whatever weakened insurance reforms are still in the bill. Once this system goes into effect and insurance companies become even more entrenched, there is every reason to believe that the good parts of the bill will go away while the bad parts will stay.
4. If people grow to become dissatisfied with the system, as they may very well do, it’ll make Medicare for All or other superior, active government-based solutions politically impossible, since the system will be branded as “big government takeover!” and of course the Democrats will be near powerless to stop this branding because they’re Democrats and can’t message their way out of a cardboard box.
So no, I don’t think this law is better than nothing. It’s a step that leads us down the wrong path – the path of corporatist government – and by giving insurance companies all this power up front, it’ll make it harder to take that power away in the future with a public option, to say nothing of Medicare for All. I’ve often compared it to feeding a child veggies and ice cream: parents know to tell their kids that “they can’t have ice cream until AFTER you’ve eaten your veggies.” No parent in their right mind would ever let their kids have the ice cream first. Well, with this law we’ve given the insurance companies their ice cream (mandate) and only afterwards are we asking them to eat their veggies (public option/Medicare Buy-In/Medicare for All). It’s not gonna happen.
The kill-the-bill-from-the-left approach that I and several other liberals supported was hampered in large part because too many of those who claimed to be in that camp (like the 60 liberal House Democrats who signed a letter stating that they would vote against any bill with no public option) were not resolute and steadfast in their convictions, and thus caved to arguments about how this bill would still be better than nothing, blah blah blah. In contrast to the anti-abortion Bart Stupak coalition, who with their immovability demonstrated how hostile negotiations are supposed to be done, we didn’t convince ourselves enough in the righteousness of our cause, and this failure made it easy for our threats to be dismissed because we could be easily rolled. Had we really been more steadfast and stubborn in our belief that anything with no public option was bad, others would have seen that and would thus be forced to compromise with us rather than simply laugh off our threat and push us aside. As I didn’t learn until too late, saying something isn’t enough – you have to actually BELIEVE it. I wrote on Open Left about this:
The problem was most likely the failure of salesmanship on the idea of “public option or nothing” (4.00 / 2)
I just got off the phone with a pro-pass-the-Senate-bill friend of mine and in our discussion he made me realize a key failing of the anti-pass-the-Senate-bill side.
As the debate here on Open Left attests to, too few liberals see what this bill really is: a corporatist gift that’ll make every American a slave to the insurance industry. Only in a country thoroughly dominated by conservatives and conservative thought can the so-called liberals actually promote and defend such legislation.
As long as not enough liberals in Congress were sold on this stance, there wasn’t enough backbone behind the “public option or nothing” cause and the Block collapsed. It’s not entirely because centrists have less to lose. It’s because somewhere along the line there was a failure to properly sell and frame this issue.
We should’ve been pushing a “slavery to the insurance industry”-type line since Day One. Every time we talked about the bill we should’ve called it for what it was: a legal requirement to have health insurance. The pro-Senate bill side really outflanked us to the left on this by using the line “this bill will cover 31 million Americans.” What a laugh. The only things this bill will cover are the account balances of insurance company CEOs. We should not have allowed that side to co-opt the term “cover”.
There wasn’t really the righteous fury against the idea of a mandate with no public option, and a Block strategy collapses when you don’t have the passion behind it. That’s the lesson to be taken away from Stupak’s successful push for his issue: the will to walk away can only happen if you have the passion behind it. I think too many of us were convinced that merely saying “I will not vote for a mandate with no public option” without actually believing it, was enough. It’s not enough. You have to actually believe it and make sure others know you do.
That’s what Stupak’s side had that we didn’t. And we didn’t have that passion in part because we failed to articulate it clearly and frequently, but also in part because the pass-the-mandate side, including those of that inclination here on Open Left, kept browbeating and guilt-tripping those of us on the must-have-public-option side with constant lecturing about how people will die, blah blah blah. I equate those of you who use this disgraceful argument to those who used talk of mushroom clouds to sell the Iraq war. Fuck, you guys would probably force your sons and daughters into seedy prostitution to save a few million lives, because that’s exactly what you’re doing to me and every other American who prefers to not have their government pimping them out to an insurance industry that likes it rough.
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Which leads me to another cause of complaint: all the liberals who were not only sheep-mindedly chanting for the bill’s passage but also denouncing those who were opposing it from the left. We all know about Kos’s lunacy against Dennis Kucinich. The thing is, many of these liberals (like Kos) were all gung-ho about killing the Senate bill back in December, but now that it’s March, I guess those same people decided that it was time to get on board and work to silence the opposition with the same kind of numb-headed thuggery that authoritarian types typically use to get people to fall in line.
Again, I’ll post what I’ve already written on Open Left:
Here’s a big reason why the public-option-or-nothing strategy failed (4.00 / 2)
Interference from the pass-the-bill camp.
I don’t think the pass-the-bill camp people mean to be sell-outs to the insurance industry, though I do think that their position will lead to that whether they like it or not. And we all agree that a public option is at least nice, if not necessary. But there were two big problems with what the pass-the-bill camp was doing:
1. They were being dismissive of a major point of having a public option. I think it’s ironic that the pass-the-bill camp clings to the individual mandate, which penalizes ordinary Americans for perhaps selfishly abusing the health insurance system, and yet they’re willing to cut loose the public option, which “penalizes” (if you can call competition as such) the insurance industry for willfully and maliciously abusing the health insurance system, for the benefit of corporate profit statements and at the expense of all of us.
It should be abundantly clear that a public option is as necessary a component for cost control as the individual mandate. And yet it was the mandate, the more corporate-friendly of the two, that became non-negotiable even for supposed liberals. If you find yourself siding with corporations over ordinary Americans, can you really still call yourself a liberal?
2. They were undermining our bargaining tactics by attacking our position. If you’re at a negotiating table and you’re telling the other side that you have to have a PO or else you’ll walk away, it doesn’t help to have your buddy burst in screaming about how you can’t walk away and you have to take the crap no matter what.
All through this process the pass-the-bill camp were doing this strange dance where they were essentially saying, “It’s good that the liberals are saying it’s PO or nothing, but they can’t really believe that.” As david mizner said above, don’t get mad at us for actually meaning what we say. Not to mention that I find this whole “lie about what you’re willing to do” not only repugnant but doomed to failure. As I wrote before, not having the passion to follow through on our threat seriously undermines that threat.
The pass-the-bill crowd wants to have it all ways. They want us to threaten to kill the bill if has no PO, but they don’t want us to actually do it. And then they criticize us because our not following through on our threat makes that threat meaningless. But if we do follow through on our threat, they slam us as heartless Naderesque bastards who don’t care about the poor uninsured people that they’re about to unwittingly enslave to the insurance industry. And then we all degenerate into an entertaining but ultimately unhelpful argument about who cares more about health care.
It also doesn’t help that some of these pass-the-bill people are incredibly condescending and disrespectful, and are some of the same people that bashed the shit out of Nader voters instead of trying to respectfully coax them back into the fold.
The pass-the-bill camp needs to start acknowledging and respecting the kill-the-bill position as something more than stupid or egotistical. It’s bad enough that the Democratic establishment dumps on us dirty liberal bloggers; it’s even worse to find the same thing going on within the liberal blogosphere.
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There were tons of ugly divisiveness between liberal bloggers that I saw firsthand, and I have to say most of it was going from the pass-the-bill side to the kill-the-bill side. However well-intentioned these people were, their constant haranguing seriously undermined the kill-the-bill side’s effort to hold the legislation hostage for a public option, both by publically contradicting said efforts and by weakening the kill-the-billers’ (already-weak) resolve. Not to mention it was pretty annoying and condescending. Of course, I denounce similar cat-calling in the other direction as well.
Finally, Robert Reich and E.J. Dionne, Jr. have both written rationally and level-headedly about the heatlh care law as it is: an essentially center-right, market-based solution rather than some leftist “government takeover” that I and other liberals only wish it actually were. The usually-trenchant Dionne, however, fumbled at the end of his remarks. Again, as I wrote on Open Left:
Dionne’s column was good until the last paragraph, which I thought was stunningly generous to Democrats
But there is a simpler conclusion: Democrats, including President Obama, are so anxious to get everyone health insurance that they are more than willing to try a market-based system and hope it works. It’s a shame the Republicans can no longer take “yes” for an answer.
I was amazed at how Dionne made it sound as if this bill was some noble quest instead of a conservative, corporatist giveaway, and Democrats were anxious to use it to save the American people.
I think the more appropriate way to write this would’ve been:
But there is a simpler conclusion: Democrats, including President Obama, are so anxious to get the health insurance industry their slave market that they are more than willing to try a corporatist industry giveaway and hope it works for the insurance oligopoly. It’s a shame the community that calls themselves “liberals” can no longer take “no” for an answer.
MARCH 24 2010 UPDATE: Added the summary.