Thursday, December 17, 2009

Failing to Move the Overton Window

I have to say that I have no idea if what is left in the Senate HCR bill is worth voting for. If it is better at the margins than what we have now. But I have no doubt that the dems utterly failed at the macro-political optics of this, absolutely failed to frame the debate through a progressive lens to start. I have no doubt that Joe LIEberman has enjoyed shoving a wedge between the party and the base that gets them elected.

Below I offer a sampling of opinion that didn't help me figure this out, and probably won't help you understand it any better either.

But one thing I know with absolute clarity. As feckless as the Dems have been in all this, we are far better off as a nation with them in "control" than with repuglicans in control. If all the Dem energy in the 2010 elections has to be focused on preventing the crazies from taking control again, so be it. That is a worthy goal. Or else these guys take over again.

John Cole: Gotta Laugh

You have to love the fact that the entire “Climategate” argument from our right-wing bloggers is based completely on a British wingnut blogger citing Russian sources. Go check out memeorandum- it is like a Wingnut Who’s Who. Even Pam Atlas shows up.

And on the other side, you have thousands of scientists.

Ehh. We humans had a good run.

Marshall: JG's Lament

From TPM Reader JG ...

I've been getting really depressed lately about politics. I was at first depressed because the public option was dying, but now I'm much more depressed because of the anti-Obama frenzy I've been seeing coming from progressives.
I don't know if these progressives are not old enough or simply have chosen to forget the year 2000, but there was a sizable disenchantment on the left with the Democratic mainstream then as well. And it manifested itself as both lack of enthusiasm for Gore and a movement for Nader. The lesson is clear -- if you're not willing to settle for a moderate and fight for a Gore, then you will get eight years of a Bush. I hate to think who that Bush could be in the next cycle.

But, but, but, Obama is so disappointing! Sure. I get it. And we should let him know it. But withdrawing support from Obama? When he has to deal with birthers, and tea partiers, and beckites, and the assorted nuts du jour? It's bound to backfire. There is absolutely no
upside to vitriol against Obama, and there is so much downside. Think of how much better off this country would be if we had a centrist, semi-corporate-friendly Democratic president from 2000 to 2008. Not ideal by a long shot, sure. But we lost so much in those years.
Another Republican future scares me.

The myth of the equivalency of the parties, that it will be easier to make things better if we let them get worse -- these are the most dangerous ideas to us at this point. It's the biggest threat to my hope, at least.

Jon Stewart recaps how we got to this point.

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I think that you can make a very valid argument that the Democratic Party does suffer in comparison to the Republican Party it it’s ability (or will) to move the Overton Window in the desired direction. For example, Bush went out and pushed a wholesale privatization of Social Security, which resulted in a debate on SS “reform” that is still going on today. On the Democratic side, we have yet to have a serious debate on single payer health care reform, or an NHS-style plan. Which means that, if/when we go to push health care reform further, we will have to start all over again prepping the soil for the debate. Democratic leadership is just not willing to go out on a limb to push the debate left, while Republicans are eager to push the debate right and settle somewhere in the middle.
Robin G.

I’d like to say that I love love love the “Manic Progressive” tag. Love.

I think everyone will calm down pretty soon, more or less. It’s just so fucking infuriating to be knifed by Lieberman and not be able to do anything about it, at least at the moment. It harkens back to the old days of 2006, when all the establishment told the progressives that, oh, no, Lieberman’s gotta be supported! Stop all the Lamont foolishness! Good ol’ Joe’s one of us!

I’m angry about the mess HCR has become, but a lot of the bile I currently feel is old, festering bitterness and anger over the fact that we tried to get rid of Lieberman, failed (with no small help from the establishment), and look where we are now. That’s what makes me see red. I’m able to take a deep breath and see that a lot of my intrinsic emotional meltdown comes from that, but I think there’s a lot of progressives who’re at the same place, but don’t realize it yet, because they’re just too angry for self-reflection.

Give it time, and some alcohol, and I really do think people will start to sort themselves out. Not that the anger will stop, but it will be more sensibly directed, rather than blind emotional flailing.

Cesca: Messin' with Lieberman

BooMan has a great idea for dealing with Joe Lieberman.

Maybe we should find out how Lieberman likes to get to work and just go park our cars in the middle of those streets each morning. You know, just because we can.

I have a serious question here: From now on, do we have to support the exact opposite of what we want in order to fake out Joe Lieberman? I mean, I know he sounds like Elmer Fudd, but now we have to outsmart him as if we're in a Bugs Bunny cartoon?

US: Public option!
LIEBERMAN: No public option!
US: No public option!
LIEBERMAN: Public option!
US: Thank you! ZOOM!

DougJ: We have always been at war with the Republicans

John seems to be burned out from all craziness, so I’m going to continue with my rant against those who say that if Democrats were Republicans they would have rammed their health care bill through, the same way that legendary Senate leader Bill Frist rammed immigration reform, Social Security privatization, and drilling in ANWR through.

The reason I don’t like the myth of the omnipotent Republican majority is that it reminds me an awful lot of the myth of super-terrorist. Let’s face it: these unstoppable Republican political leaders of yore are cut from the same cloth as the America-hating geniuses who will bust out of that prison in Illinois and roam the country detonating suitcase nukes. And that cloth is paranoia about “the enemy”.

Did Bush ram his war resolution through the Senate? Sure, but our whole system is set up to make war seem appealing. We have “news” networks that get better ratings during wars, foreign policy think tanks that are funded by defense contractors, just war “philosophies” that (I recently learned) even liberal bloggers are not allowed to mock. And tax cuts have a similar array of wealthy interests, hacks for hire, and pseudointellectual whack-a-doodle behind them.

Health care reform has a similar array of forces opposing it. Even the great Bill Frist would have trouble getting something reasonable through, trust me.

None of this is to say that the health care bill we get won’t suck or that a better a health care bill wouldn’t be smart politics. In fairness to the Hamsheristas, they were right about Joe Lieberman, right about how things would go down in the Senate, right that a bill with a public option would be better, both politically and in terms of reforming the system.

But all this DEMS ARE TEH SHITTIEST PARTY EVAH stuff is crap. And to the extent that Democrats are a shitty party, it’s because they share Republicans’ fealty to corporate interests, not because they lack Republicans’ super-human ability to pass legislation.

John Cole: What I am Saying Is Not Controversial

Some weird reactions in the last post about not being able to go back to the drawing board with Health Care reform. I really don’t think that is a really controversial observation- where we are right now, clearly our options are some version of the bill in the Senate, or no bill at all.

Anyone who thinks the House and the Senate are going to just say “to hell with it” and start over from scratch is just smoking rock. How many months did it take for a bill to get out of Baucus’s committee alone. On top of that, we would be treated to another six-eight months of teabaggers throwing things at congressmen, wildly inflated claims on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page and the op-ed pages of the Washington Post (although, in reality, those two things are pretty much one and the same these days), and so on. And then, you have to filter in that all of this would be happening in an election year, and with the notoriously timid Democrats, you have to be sniffing glue to think that the bill is going to be easier pass and more progressive. And then, assuming the House does manage to get it passed, does anyone think Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman are going to suddenly decide the public option is a good idea? If so, why? Does anyone think that the blue dogs and “moderates” are going to become less of a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries?

And then we add the other things in to account. You think the progressive base is pissed now? Well, let’s remember, that HCR has effectively sucked the air out of EVERY other piece of legislation. You want another year dealing with HCR every night, while financial reform, jobs bills, gay rights, and numerous other things simply languish? Are you smoking rock? The administration is already getting flamed because they haven’t ended DOMA by fiat, you think another year of ignoring it trying to re-do HCR reform is going to make things better with the base?

And look, I’m fully aware that many of you say this bill sucks. I have no idea why there are not even any attempts to control the costs, which was one of the two main points of health care reform in the first place, wasn’t it? Control costs, expand coverage. We sorta do the second, but seem to have completely ignored the first. Premiums are still going to go up, only now the insurance companies get to increase premiums and you are required by law to pay them. Way to make generations of young Republicans.

I look at this bill and see very little to cheer about, and I read the blogs that are very in favor of this reform. If I were in the House or Senate, I have no idea how I would vote. I’d probably try to flee the country, but not before kneecapping Nelson, Conrad, Baucus, Lieberman, Landrieu, Lincoln, and whoever decided that 60 votes was required.

So what I am saying is not controversial. It is this bill, or nothing. Take your choice.

*** Update ***

Apparently Kevin Drum already made this point the other day, as others have, I am sure.

Atrios: Except For These Wee Differences...

I feel like those more supportive of this bill are attacking anti-mandate strawmen. The reason for thinking that without a public option or similar mandates are going to be a disaster is that without competition or sufficient affordability (due to not quite generous enough subsidies), you're forcing people to buy shitty insurance that they can't afford. Mandates aren't bad in and of themselves, but they're bad if they aren't part of a comprehensive plan which is... good!


Now, the reforms moving through Congress won't produce a system as comprehensive as what the Netherlands or Switzerland has. But that's not because of the individual mandate, which actually makes a lot of sense. (Read here if you want chapter and verse on that.) That's because the subsidies and regulation in these bills aren't as generous and strong as they could be.
In other words, you're forcing people to buy shitty insurance that they can't afford. Why would anyone possibly object to that?

Paul Krugman: Illusions and bitterness

There’s enormous disappointment among progressives about the emerging health care bill — and rightly so. That said, even as it stands it would take a big step toward greater security for Americans and greater social justice; it would also save many lives over the decade ahead. That’s why progressive health policy wonks — the people who have campaigned for health reform for years — are almost all in favor of voting for the thing.

The argument about the evil of the individual mandate is,as Jon Cohn says, all wrong. It was wrong during the primaries, when Obama unfortunately used it to demagogue his rivals — helping set the stage for problems now. And it’s still wrong.

And the truth is that health care reform was probably doomed to be deeply imperfect. As Ezra Klein pointed out a few weeks ago, we’re basically in a hostage situation: progressives really, really want to cover the uninsured, while centrists whose votes are needed can take it or leave it. So the centrists have a lot of power — which in the case of Joe Lieberman means the power to double-cross and indulge his pettiness.

Now, in a hostage situation there are times when you have to just say no — when giving in, by encouraging future hostage-takers, would be worse than letting the hostages perish. So the question has to be, is this one of those times? I don’t think so, given the history: as Kevin Drum points out, health reform has come back weaker after each defeat. I’d also point out that highly imperfect insurance reforms, like Social Security and Medicare in their initial incarnations, have gotten more comprehensive over time. This suggests that the priority is to get something passed.

But what’s happening, I think, goes beyond health care; what we’re seeing is disillusionment with Obama among some of the people who were his most enthusiastic supporters. A lot of people seem shocked to find that he’s not the transformative figure of their imaginations. Can I say I told you so? If you paid attention to what he said, not how he said it, it was obvious from the beginning — and I’m talking about 2007 — that he was going to be much less aggressive about change than one could have hoped. And this has done a lot of damage: I believe he could have taken a tougher line on economic policy and the banks, and was tearing my hair out over his caution early this year. I also believe that if he had been tougher on those issues, he’d be better able to weather disappointment over his health care compromises.

So there’s a lot of bitterness out there. But please, keep your priorities straight.

By all means denounce Obama for his failed bipartisan gestures. By all means criticize the administration. But don’t take it out on the tens of millions of Americans who will have health insurance if this bill passes, but will be out of luck — and, in some cases, dead — if it doesn’t.

Smooth Like Remy: Mad At The Wrong People/Person

I have been as mad as Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and the rest of the ConservaDems in the Senate as anybody else. And I have been as disappointed in the Obama administration and their glaring weakness on pushing health care reform as anybody else. But today was actually an "aha" moment for me. As many problems as I have with those people, I am not convinced that I should have reserved some of my ire for some other folks and perhaps THEY are the ones who should have been pressured all along.

Who am I talking about you ask?

The so called progressives in the Senate.

Here is the thing, Joe Lieberman et al forced Harry Reid's and President Obama's hand at least publicly by announcing they wouldn't support cloture on this health care reform bill at various times. Now this may have been what President Obama had wanted all along as some folks are saying, hell I don't know. But I do know this. If Jay Rockerfeller or Chuck Schumer or Sheldon Whitehouse or Sherrod Brown had the guts/balls/courage, take your pick, to make the same stance and draw a line in the sand over the public option and or the Medicare buy in then we wouldn't be in this mess.

It all came clear when I saw Rockerfeller on MSNBC today and Robert Gibbs feverishly going after Howard Dean for saying kill the bill. They don't have ONE FUCKING WORD to say about Joe Lieberman, but Governor Dean, hell he's the enemy. For all of the lip service they paid to the public option and the Medicare buy in, not one, not one single solitary one of them EVER even alluded to perhaps not voting for cloture if they weren't in.

Now ask yourself a question, why is that?

Its because they know that they don't have to take such a courageous stance and all they have to do is offer a few amendments and then come out of a meeting with that "we did all we could" bullshit and folks will buy it. I mean who could challenge Rockerfeller or Whitehouse or Brown on their progressive cred?

I could, that's who.

This has been a total load of bullshit from the start. And it should have dawned on me when the only member of the WHOLE Senate Democratic Caucus who pledged not to vote for the bill without a public option was, of all people, Roland Burris. That ladies and gentlemen tells you how this game was rigged from the start. It shows you that even though they exhorted us to call our Senators and lied over and over again about the likelihood of getting a public option in, that all along they were planning on falling back when push came to shove.

And then we wonder why Republicans basically call them pussies to their face and they do nothing more than take it.

Hey, Joe Lieberman is an asshole, but at least he is a strong one. With everybody fucking with him and even his wife he still gave everybody the middle finger and said he wouldn't vote for the bill. Where is OUR asshole? A progressive asshole who is just as stubborn?

So here we are, now the White House and so called progressives in the Senate are attacking Governor Dean for speaking truth to power. They are flogging that 30 million people covered number, even though

A. The CBO hasn't scored the new bill. and

B. The CBO's earlier projection was based on people being mandated to buy coverage, not on their ability to pay for such coverage.

Basically the so called progressives are now coming out telling us all tho shut the fuck up. Well sorry, I ain't built that way.

So here is what happens now. For me waiting for midterm elections is too long. Here is what I plan on doing poste haste. The next emails I get from OFA and will be replied to with a "Remove me" email explaining that I will no longer be helping them in any way shape or form and health care reform is the reason. I will also refuse any email from the so called progressives in the Senate asking me to send money, phone bank, or organize and I will also let them know why. Basically I am cutting off anything associated with a so called progressive in the Senate and the White House until further notice.

I am also going to make sure to blog about the actual CBO score that should be out any day now and note how the numbers are invariably worse than the version with the public option in it. Because I can make a prediction right here and now, the Senate Dems are in such a rush to pass this shitty bill now that they won't even want to make any announcements about the new score because they KNOW it will be worse.

Now I am not jumping all the way off the ship, but I can tell you this much. Aside from taking potshots at Republicans which is basically my pleasure, I am not busting my ass for these assholes anymore. They feel like they don't need progressives. They think they can win elections with out us. They think they can sell us out at every turn and we will still stick by them.

They are wrong.
Aravosis: Keith Olbermann eviscerates Obama, Reid & US Senate over health care reform fiasco

The text below is only an excerpt of Keith Olbermann's Special Comment last night about the fiasco known as health care reform. You can read Keith's entire comment here.

The last year has been hard for a lot of us. Joe and I, like many of you, busted our butts to get a Democratic Congress in 2006. Via this blog, we raised over $100,000 to help the Democrats in that year alone. We were there as well in 2008 for the presidentials. At the risk of alienating a good chunk of our readership, we came out swinging for President Obama early in the primaries. With the help of many of you, we raised $43,000 for candidate Obama, and were proud to do so. For that reason, it didn't give us any pleasure having to take the White House, our White House, on through much of this year. On issue after issue we cared about, our President was on the wrong side of his own campaign promises. When the moment called for courage, for backbone, and for action, our White House was AWOL time and time again. And our leadership in Congress, especially in the Senate, wasn't far behind.

The only silver lining I can give our readers, after what has been an incredibly dispiriting year, is that for those of you, who like us, helped put this President and this Congress into office, and who have been wondering if your growing concerns about our party have been warranted, Keith Olbermann's Special Comment is about a clear a sign as you could ask for that you were not wrong, that you are not alone.

Here's an excerpt:

Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the latest version of H-R 35-90, the Senate Health Care Reform bill. To again quote Churchill after Munich, as I did six nights ago on this program: "I will begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing: that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, without a war."...

[S]adly, the President has not provided the leadership his office demands.

He has badly misjudged the country's mood at all ends of the spectrum. There is no middle to coalesce here, Sir. There are only the uninformed, the bought-off, and the vast suffering majority for whom the urgency of now is a call from a collection agency or a threat of rescission of policy or a warning of expiration of services.

Sir, your hands-off approach, while nobly intended and perhaps yet some day applicable to the reality of an improved version of our nation, enabled the national humiliation that was the Town Halls and the insufferable Neanderthalian stupidity of Congressman Wilson and the street-walking of Mr. Lieberman.

Instead of continuing this snipe-hunt for the endangered and possibly extinct creature "bipartisanship," you need to push the Republicans around or cut them out or both. You need to threaten Democrats like Baucus and the others with the ends of their careers in the party. Instead, those Democrats have threatened you, and the Republicans have pushed you and cut you out....

Mr. President, they are calling you a socialist, a communist, a Marxist. You could be further to the right than Reagan - and this health care bill, as Howard Dean put it here last night, this bailout for the insurance industry, sure invites the comparison. And they will still call you names.

Sir, if they are going to call you a socialist no matter what you do, you have been given full unfettered freedom to do what you know is just. The bill may be the ultimate political manifesto, or it may be the most delicate of compromises. The firestorm will be the same. So why not give the haters, as the cliché goes, something to cry about.
C&L: Blue Cross of California: If You're Late One Payment, We'll Drop You

As I think I've pointed out before, most of the Blues are considered to be "non-profit" in order to get certain privileges. But they are usually just parent companies for dozens of for-profit subsidiaries - with whom they contract over-priced services to earn nice, hefty profits.

We can expect more abuses (and more price inflation) if the insurance exchange makes the same mistake and treats them as actual non-profits:

One of the worst abuses of the private insurance industry is known as recission, where insurers decide to revoke the coverage of their customers for frivolous reasons. The Los Angeles Times reports today that one of the nation’s largest insurers, Blue Cross of California, has “notified [its] policyholders” that their coverage could be “immediately dropped” if they miss even a single payment:

Amid a national debate on how to make the healthcare system friendlier and more accessible, and as millions of people grapple with the loss of jobs and homes, what does insurance heavyweight Blue Shield of California do? It decides to take a key benefit away.

The company has notified individual policyholders that their coverage could be immediately dropped if they miss a single payment — or so it seems. Blue Shield says in a letter to customers that they can reapply for insurance, but with potentially higher premiums and stricter conditions.

Thankfully, a California law that mandates minimum grace periods and a decision by the company that will allow for a 28-day grace period will keep Blue Cross from immediately dropping people from coverage, as their letter threatens. The LA Times goes on to note that the the company’s pronouncement comes “after last year’s announcement that Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross agreed to pay a total of $13 million in fines after cancelling the policies of more than 2,000 Californians after they became ill.”

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