Matt Yglesias on the the failure narrative:
What Clinton tried didn’t work, in other words, so Obama’s trying it another way. Now the United States Senate looks reluctant to pass a comprehensive plan, so people think Obama is making mistakes. But looking back at American history, it’s not only Clinton who failed to accomplish comprehensive health-care reform—his effort joined reform charges by FDR, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter on the ash heap of history. Johnson, arguably the most accomplished legislator in American history, was too scared to try and brought us Medicare and Medicaid instead. It defies plausibility to suggest that president after president after president is blundering or inept. Rather, we should just admit the obvious—people keep trying and failing to reform the health-care system because reform is hard to do.
It’s hard because most people already have health insurance. It’s hard because the segment of the population most likely to worry about health care—senior citizens—already benefits from a generous Canadian-style system. It’s hard because the people worst-served by the status quo are also the people least likely to vote. It’s hard because the interest-group pressures—not just from insurance companies but also doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, vendors of medical equipment, and labor unions who’ve already secured generous benefits for their workers—are intense. It’s hard because the issue is complicated and it’s hard because we don’t have one “health-care system” that can be reformed; instead, the population is segmented into a series of very different situations.
All of this is very true. And there’s one other important obstacle: the Kristol doctrine that Republicans should oppose health care reform under a Democratic president because Democrats would get too much political benefit out of it. This is exactly why it would be idiotic for Democrats to punt on this. The same goes for immigration reform, by the way. Democrats have a choice between continuing to play ReaganBall, a game in which they will always be at a disadvantage, and changing the rules once and for all.
That’s weird – your link to the Daily Beast article automatically prompts me to print the article. Anyone else experiencing this?
By the way, I agree with both the excerpt you quoted, and your analysis.
Bad Horse's Filly
This is exactly why it would be idiotic for Democrats to punt on this. The same goes for immigration reform, by the way. Democrats have a choice between continuing to play ReaganBall, a game a which they will always be at a disadvantage, and changing the rules once and for all.
What you said.
Also: I’m not in the camp of panicking about this yet. I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating – candidate Obama showed time and again he was playing a whole different level of chess (3 dimensional IMO) while the rest of us are playing checkers. Nothing makes me think President Obama has changed his game. He’s five steps ahead on this, we just can’t see it yet. Meanwhile, the GOP continues to demonstrate their skill at tic-tac-toe.
So Obama can’t fail, only we can fail Obama. Is that it?
Yglesias is an illiterate fucking retard – ‘It defies plausibility’ try implausible and you have his entire argument.
Did Nixon, Carter, Eisenhower, Pierce, Lincoln, Hayes et al run on health care as the most imprtant issue? Obama did.
He has a Democratic House and Senate. If he doesn’t get it done, it’s failure.
Salon ran an article: http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/08/22/nhs/
on one family’s experience of the UK health care system. Among the letters was a gem by a commenter named LondonLad, which I have to share. Apologies for the bad formatting; I suck at html:
“For some reason the graphic that accompanied this article caused me to twig why we in Britain and countries throughout Western Europe at least have government funded health services.
We have all at some time during wars had the shit bombed out of us from the air.
I’m not talking about some poncy one off like 9/11 that sent you lot off like a herd of hysterical mustangs but serious sustained long term bombing campaigns from properly organised enemies.
During such times people had to co operate and help each other in order to survive. The bombings from the air were a constant reminder of how equal the beggar and the king actually are.
I think that experience helped change our particular societies so that the citizenry took it as read that the introduction of some sort of universal health care system of course should be introduced.
To be honest some of us think with regards health care you Americans are a bit backward and ever so slightly naff.
I therefore think that a sound course of action would be for old adversaries like the Royal Air Force, the Luftwaffe the Russians and the Japs to come and bomb seven shades out of shit out of America for as long as it takes for you guys to come to your senses.
Apparently some of you are fast learners, so the experience shouldn’t need last more than a year or two for it to have the required salutary effect.
After which I’m sure you would all agree that an American National Health Service would in fact be in order then you’d go and build one that no doubt would become the envy of the world.”
Democrats live for ‘idiotic’.
on an issue they were, in large part, elected on, the Blue Dicks and their pathetic enablers are tripping over themselves to send the whole caucus over the edge.
Or education, or consumer protection laws, or public transportation, or anything else that would benefit the citizenry at large, as opposed to a few big-biz execs.
Thanks, this is a nice relief from the no bill signed in July = Democrats intrinsically incapable of governing Douthat meme. Although if Douthat wants to be an idiot and keep piling that on, that (essentially) the political future of the Democrats depends on passing a health care bill and making it a good one, I wouldn’t mind that being a message that the Blue Dogs hear a lot.
Presidenting is hard. Didn’t Dubya use that excuse too?
That’s weird – your link to the Daily Beast article automatically prompts me to print the article. Anyone else experiencing this?
I went with the printer-friendly version. The lay-out was much nicer.
You assume Democrats have the balls to lead. The last 25 years speaks otherwise…and this is coming from a man who will NEVER vote Republican.
Fucking finally. Democrat spine sighting on reconciliation:
Seems like they might be serious. Perhaps using this as a stick will force the Blue Mutts and even some GOPers to reconsider voting against health care reform. If not, fuck ’em; pass a good bill with 50 plus Biden. I suspect that if Obama and Reid really are serious and do this, things will look more “bipartisan” by the time the actual vote comes along.
your link to the Daily Beast article automatically prompts me to print the article. Anyone else experiencing this?
Yes. It’s because of the /p/ at the end of the link.
I don’t know if Obama’s 3-D chess skills are going to win us the Magical Unity Pony that rides through Congress to inevitable victory. The GOP opposition might be full of fear mongers and morons, but their industry backers are no fools and have been successfully beating down reform for generations.
So a lot of the Obama “failure” may be just that. I have no doubt that Obama floated the “kill the public option” idea to gauge exactly how serious people felt about it. And I imagine he might have regrets about taking single payer off the table so soon. 3-D chess is hard. And while bills have worked quickly and relatively painlessly through committee, it’s worth noting that Baucus and Conrad were trying to get out ahead of the White House on health care reform before Obama’s Presidential votes were even finished being counted.
There are a lot of players in this game and a lot of money on the table. But we’ve come farther than we’ve come since Clinton, and there are a lot of softball problems this legislation can hit out of the park. I think we’re getting a much better deal with Obama than we’d have received from a President Bayh or a President Reid or even a President Pelosi or Frank. Obama has his eyes on the prize, at the least. I don’t think he’s the type to sell out inches from the finish line.
@wilfred: But the flaw in your statement, is that somehow the Sente and Congress are unified in passing any sort of legislation. They are not lock-step. Some of them are even immune to arm-twisting.
Hence, the phrase, getting Democrats to unite together on one issue is like “trying to herd cats”.
Well, I hope he is, but the campaign is not a good comparison. Obama was not “playing a whole different level of chess”; he had the balls to say what most of the American public was thinking. His whole appeal was that he DIDN’T give the impression that he had some secret plan that we couldn’t see; it was that he was saying some completely obvious shit. But it was obvious shit that the rest of the candidates wouldn’t say, because they were too nervous about what David Gregory or Chris Matthews or Tim Russert or Sean Hannity would think.
Exactly my point. This is what got people so energized about Obama; it looked like he was calling bullshit on that – well, bullshit. And this is what the Democrats in Congress seem to be trying desperately to throw away.
Matt’s been a leader of the capitulation caucus on this one. He’s written post after post arguing that progressives should be thrilled if anything comes out of this process.
I’m still waiting to see him write an unapologetic argument for universal health care.
One other factor: Every, and i mean every, single person reporting or commenting on health care has, and will continue to have, private insurance. Not one talkign head, not one think tanker, not one university professor, not one editorialist, not one reporter needs the public option.
Without sharing the visceral fear of many Americans without insurance or with minimal insurance, there is no urgency to call out the lies from the GOP. Hence, no push toward reform
By way of analogy, when the commentators shared the visceral fear of many Americans following 9/11, there was no urgency to call out the lies from the GOP. Hence, the push toward war.
Douthat talking about the failure of health care reform; Yglesias talking about the failure of health care reform. Sounds like the whole stinking Village thinks health care reform is going to fail. That can mean only one thing: health care reform is going to happen! (Once we hear from Bill Kristol that it is going to fail we’ll know its passage is secure.)
There are some strong liberal Senators. Persuasive, from big, populous states. I have to ask, where the hell are they?
Obama aside, why let the most conservative Democrats in the Senate define the Party?
I feel as if they want credit for eventual passage, and complaining rights if it’s a bad bill, but won’t take any risk.
I simply don’t understand why Joe Leiberman can make it to Sunday shows to do his droning commentary, and people with actual ideas they want to promote just decide not to show.
I don’t know: is it completely unheard of for these people to work together? Say the liberal caucus in the House teams up with a few sympathetic Senators and go national, with a half-way unified message? They’re grown ups, and they’re actually drafting the legislation. Presumably they can act independently of Obama.
Throw Congress off their comprehensive government health care plan and let them scramble for shitty, expensive insurance on the private market.
You’d have serious public option legislation in a year, with plenty of Repigs. Get the short-sighted “It’s not a problem until it’s MY problem” crowd on board.
There are actually two great dangers to be avoided:
One is to fail this year to pass major health care reform legislation.
The second danger would be to allow the most conservative Democrats to allow the Senate Finance mini-committee sextumvirate to turn the bill into an insurer-subsidizing, user-screwing bill, or a “bonanza” as insurance executives are calling it.
If we can manage to avoid both dangers, liberalism may have a fighting chance again in this country.
It will require Democrats to think about some period of time longer than the next several months or even the next year, but if they pass decent health care reform, the GOP will have a very, very hard row to hoe with this 30 years of Reaganism shit any more.
Democrats have a choice between continuing to play ReaganBall, a game in which they will always be at a disadvantage, and changing the rules once and for all.
I think it’s a mistake to analyze this just from the Democratic side of the fence. If I were an honest to goodness conservative, I’d be miserable today.
The best case scenario (from their perspective) is a pyrrhic victory – “winning” the health care battle by being on the side that is in favor of maximizing Medicare (for those eligible) while doing everything and anything to prevent wasteful spending from being curtailed.
That’s not much of a “win”
Arabs have a saying: “Camels are expensive at one cent if you don’t want a camel”.
Diehard reform opposers can’t be herded. Everyone else can be negotiated. Some people are good at negotiating. I don’t see Obama as that kind of person. In my opinion, his immediate cave-in on single payer was amateurish, stupid or indicative that he, too, had to play ball.
Similarly, the public option tease. Sorry, looks like amateur night to me.
With reconciliation re-entering the conversation, I remain optimistic that good health care reform will be enacted.
Trying to look around the corner, I’m hoping immigration reform will be next.
The alignment is perfect. “Independent” voters strongly favor balanced reform. The teabagger fringe won’t have the Rove operation around anymore to tamp down craziness. Nothing less than
racial purity NO AMNESTY! will be tolerable. Where sane Republicans are unlikely to denounce the birthers, getting too out there on immigration will be impossible. I’m doubtful a bill can be passed at this point, but the symphony of racism and wingnuttery will be brilliant.
Maybe not so much with the formatting.
I’ll pray for the ability to better navigate WP as well as the edit option’s swift return.
Somebody buy this man a pint, he has a point.
A social democrat is a former conservative whose entire society has been mugged by history. Upper and middle class white Americans have no freaking idea how lucky they are to have been born into the society they were blessed with. Death panels my ass – try asking somebody from Russia, Central or Eastern Europe, anywhere in Western Europe that was either attacked by or ruled by Fascists (the real kind), the Near East, the Middle East, Mexico, Central and South America, or just about any part of Asia or Africa you care to name, ask them what a peachy keen tea party it was, back in the day.
They can tell you a thing or two about freaking Death Panels. The real kind with actual bloody great piles of bullet ridden, bombed, burned or starved to death corpses.
Funny how societies which have gone thru that seem to put a higher priority than we do on taking care of their citizens, rather than spouting glibertarian nonsense.
And I imagine he might have regrets about taking single payer off the table so soon.
At this point, I think it’s likely that a substantial number of the low-information Townhall voters might receive the suggestion of dropping all this complicated public option stuff in favor of allowing people under 65 to buy into medicare as a sensible compromise.
And yes, I know it’s more radical than what’s currently being proposed. Too. Also.
@BFR: No, but just wait until those of us on the other side face the choice between no health care reform or “an insurer-subsidizing, user-screwing bill”. I think that choice would be far more horrible (let’s hope it doesn’t come to that).
@jenniebee: Medicare for all America!
Great political slogan, and conceptually it would be a much easier sell. The financing, of course, would be a nightmare, which is why, I presume, it has never been on the table.
@wilfred: I don’t agree. I can understand what you are saying, and where you are coming from.
Single-payer would not have passed. At all. You can decipher that from all of the craziness swarming the “public option”. Eventually down the road, we will get single-payer. But in the current social and political environmnet we are in, single-payer would have been DOA.
I know, but how do you get them to do it? They’re not big risk takers, clearly.
It’s already easy. The choice is gone. They pass a lousy bill or no bill, they lose. They have managed to set this up so they potentially lose either way, leaving taking a risk much more appealing. One would think.
They’re a mystery to me.
Single-payer might not have been passed, but at least this August we could be talking about how Jesus-weeping terrible that is, and then coming back in September to “compromise” in the form of a “public option,” with the wingers of course still calling it Jesus-weeping terrible. Still, Medicare For All sounds pretty good to me.
Yglesias is the “liberal” version of Douthat – a gasbag who makes shit up, but mostly just likes the sound of his own voice.
I have no doubt that rational righties forward his articles around just to laugh at him.
None of the previous presidents who tried to implement HCR were facing a situation quite like this one, either: our manufacturing base is deserting us due partly to high healthcare costs. Our uninsured are rapidly growing from 15% of the population to probably 50% in another ten years (if some projections are to be believed). Our healthcare costs are higher than any other nation and our outcomes are dropping dramatically. Our hospitals are going bankrupt and so are our citizens.
Frankly if we don’t do it this round we will HAVE to do it in another 3-5 years because the system is now on the verge of COLLAPSE. Memo to Democrats: this is what centrism gets us, you stupid conciliatory fucksticks. A system that cannot be reformed because it’s impolite to call out catastrophastic FAILURE until it’s so obvious that it’s smiting us between the eyes.
@Legalize: It really doesn’t matter what socially beneficial legislation would be up for resolving right now, as long as Barack”The Magic Negro with a long uncircumcised schlong” Obama is behind it, Jesus-weeping, rapture, and somehow Krik Cameron would all make it seem terrible.
@jwb: the corporate politics would be a nightmare, for certain, but it’d be a lot cheaper than trying to establish something new. Keep in mind that the administrative infrastructure (including the software development) would only have to be expanded if Medicare were to serve more people; there wouldn’t be a need to invent a new one from whole cloth. So the time to market would likely be much shorter. The institutional knowledge would be there from the start, so it’s much less likely to experience the kind of brand new system kinks you’d expect from something like the public option (it’s a rule of life: nothing new ever works right right out of the box. This is why you don’t buy a car in its first model year.)
I’m ashamed to admit this, but I flicked on Geraldo’s show for five minutes the other night. He had Ann Coulter and Al Sharpton on talking about health care. The first thing that struck me funny was the fact that Ann Coulter no longer sounds like the craziest conservative talking head on television, even though she was going through the usual BS talking points. The second thing that made me think the world was going crazy was the fact that I agreed with a point from Al Sharpton. Paraphrasing him: If the Republicans care so much about health care reform and doing it right, why didn’t they do something about it during past Republican presidencies or in the last eight years when they were in power?
Basically, we know Republicans don’t really give a shit about health care reform or the American people having equal access to medical care and will do and say anything to make the issue disappear for another ten years.
Giving that we’re inches from having full blown OK Coral style shoot outs in front of Congressional Town Hall meetings over
that scary black President“socialized” health insurance, and the debate on policy has boiled down subsidized abortions for illegal immigrants and death panels for your grandmother, I simply can’t bring myself to believe pushing a single payer plan would have been less difficult.
On the flip side, I can’t imagine how any form of moderation will bring the debate back into sane territory. Short of passing the Give the GOP Whatever the Hell It Wants And Apologize For It Act of 2009, nothing is going to make it through Congress that the Republicans won’t throw a shit storm over.
Medicare Plan D.
A $500 billion dollar ten year program designed to convert tax payer dollars into massive subsidies for the already highly profitable pharmaceutical industry which went entirely unpaid for and has been a massive drag on an already underfunded Medicare program.
That’s your GOP health care reform. Suck on it.
@kay: I don’t know. I guess you’d do about what every decent liberal and progressive organizer is doing right now, just more so.