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September 03, 2009

Hope dies last, after common sense

Karen Tumulty:

If there had ever been any hope for real GOP support for President Obama's health care plan, it came in the form of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who has been negotiating behind the scenes for months with his good friend Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. But was getting Grassley on board ever a realistic proposition? And what does his increasing alienation from the whole process say about the prospects for health reform? Here's my story for the upcoming issue of dead-tree TIME.

Simple answers to simple questions: No, there was never any realistic prospect of getting Chuck Grassley to support healthcare reform. Grassley is a Republican and, unlike Democrats, Republicans have party discipline. Scuttling health reform is the GOP's number one priority. It should have been clear from the outset that any plan that depended on the cooperation of Republicans was doomed.


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All I want to know now, why did Obama team decide to play this game? (Clinton triangulation game?) They are eaten alive in he poll and progressive and independence are getting very angry.

Why did Obama team no coming out playing straight we want public support, but instead they are playing wishy-washy... maybe/maybe not.


This nonsense are costing Obama 6-8% approval. By mid term, he will find it tough to hold on to seats.

Amazing how loser strategy is kept at the table by DLC crews, all for money.

How naive can Obama and the dem chess players be about their adversaries in the Beltway?

The Republican agenda is known to everyone. They say it, they right it, their media jackasses say and write it. They hate government and they love the private sector/ "free market" solutions.

Hard to say what the Obama White House is thinking. On one hand, it appears they allowed themselves to be swift boated on healthcare reform. Certainly, an argument can be made that they have been blind-sighted given the scope of issues on the table. Perhaps another question is: Where do we, as bloggers and readers, fit into the grand scheme?

Lately, I have been asking: Why do we blog? What do we hope to accomplish? Why do some folks in Middle American vote against their own economic self-interest? Why do folks without health insurance still reject a public option knowing full well that they leave themselves, their children, and their families exposed? Why do Middle Americans carry the banner of plutocrats, special interests, and their lobbyists and betray themselves in the process?

I often wonder if there is more we can do. Shall we think less about self-validation and think more about outreach, education, and shaping the message? Your thoughts?

Beats me, O. I'm increasingly skeptical of grand, overarching strategies. Few of them seem to work, or if they do, they get co-opted. Progressives have been suckered by the Obama administration as badly as the Obama administration has been suckered by the Republicans. There's a haunting parable about a little girl who picks up a rattlesnake. The punchline is "You knew what I was when you picked me up." You can imagine the sequence of events that links the premise and the denouement. I've been thinking about that story a lot lately.

Yes, I feel demoralized too. Do we capitulate, play dead ... or fight back. And how?

I'd advise to fight back by countering criticism effectively. This means punching back against Palinisms, and gently refuting more substantial criticisms. I think articles like T. S. Reid's about health care in the rest of the world do a tremendous job with the latter.

You can't attack just the Palinisms. You don't want to put the other side in a position where most people on it can think, "Well, Beck and Palin are wrong, but I know there are a lot of other wonks who say the same things who the liberals can't refute" As Stentor Danielson noted a few years back, winning a civil debate is useful as a way of making the screamers feel better about themselves. Mankiw understands that; Krugman and DeLong don't.

My love may be blind, but I still hope for a worthy healthcare reform -- that is, one with a robust public option. The reprobate Blue Dogs aside, surely more Democratic legislators than a few months ago can see now that their political survival, and the president's, will require audacity, initiative, and resolve: passing a bill with the public option if need be by "reconciliation." The RW will howl (what else can they do?), but in the end we will enjoy a popular program that the GOP can take no credit for -- indeed, their opposition will hang like a stinking albatross festering on their silk ties. I hope too the president sees this; we'll see when we hear his speech next week.

"You don't want to put the other side in a position where most people on it can think, "Well, Beck and Palin are wrong, but I know there are a lot of other wonks who say the same things who the liberals can't refute."

Most of the other side fixated on keeping the government from killing their grandparents and their lingering resentment of a black man in the White House. They're not hedging their bets because liberals aren't engaging with Greg Mankiw, believe me. They've never heard of him, and if they were to learn of his existence their first thought would be, "'Mankiw,' is that foreign?"

Not that there's anything wrong with genteel debunking of Mankiw, if that's your thing. Empirically, that kind of stuff doesn't drive traffic. The number of people you actually reach with it is tiny. Again, no reason not to do it, but as a tool of social activism, there's no percentage in it.

These days, the RW think of everything in terms of socialism. Public education is socialism. Fire and police protection is socialism. Dammit, civilization is socialism.

Maybe gummint should just step aside and let all those gr8 American companies take over, cut wages, cut services, make more mega-millions for their mega-millionaires.

Think of all these missed profit opportunities: Fire, first aid, police. Think franchise.

You can corner the market on fire departments and hold your neighbors hostage.

Granny just had a heart attack? Watch as they deliver her to someone’s kitchen while a new refrigerator shows up at the emergency room, because there was a mix-up in the merger and acquisitions department.

Don’t forget: Rape kits can be turned into a profit center (just ask Sarah). When all else fails: Outsource!

The RW spouts certitudes and platitudes about dependence on government, decadence, and immorality. Whilst they forget about equality as in equal protection, equal treatment under law, equal opportunity … and yes … equal access to healthcare. But this too much socialism for wingers.

Modern economies are mixed economies. Does the RW know why? Because a little socialism keeps angry men carrying guns and clubs from beating their brains out.

Lindsay, I think you're underestimating the intelligence of most Republican activists. Mankiw may not have the profile of Krugman, but conservative polemicists read him, and try to spin their views and his views to make it look as if they align. So do Republican members of Congress - as an alternative to cap-and-trade, two Republicans proposed a carbon tax balanced by a cut in payroll tax, a policy supported by Mankiw and a few environmentalists but no other conservative thinker.

The issue here is not just Mankiw, though he's a good personification of it. There's a broader issue coming from the fact that the current Republican consensus on American health care is that a) the US has the best health care in the world, b) Medicare must not be touched, and c) cost control will reduce the quality of care. Those three propositions are both mutually contradictory and wrong on the facts, but they have successfully limited the current Democratic framing of the issue, which centers around universal coverage and cost control. Mankiw knows better than to make point b), but he's made points a) and c) and the Republicans have reason to believe they're unrefutable.

Showing that the US has a worse health care system than most if not all other developed countries can help break out of this paradigm. It's not even very radical, as polls show that Americans are divided about evenly on whether the US health care system is better than Canada's, worse, or about the same (the median respondent says "about the same," and slightly more respondents say that the US is worse than that it is better). There are already issues on which the seeds of a good counterattack have been sown - in a previous thread, I mentioned nosocomial infections, a popular beating horse for some liberal bloggers in 2003 and 2004. The Reid article I linked to in my previous comment offers a few more ways to drive home the fact that the US has substandard care even for the insured.

I think "triangulation" is a Clinton/DLC euphemism for "playing the DFHs for suckers without making it too obvious that we've played them." Rahm Emanuel (of the Emanuel/Obama administration) got his job by being the Dem version of Tom Delay, a legislative hammer and hard man who can get any job done, only smarter. So why have he and Axelrod the PR man done such a poor job of organizing and selling what will probably be Obama's biggest legislative initiative? Why have they kept the notoriously persuasive Obama nearly silent?
Because they don't want it to succeed. Because they want to keep the corporations on their side and in their pockets. Because they don't want to upset the status quo that keeps them all in $900 benchmade English shoes and silk shorts. Because they don't yet have so much control over the electoral system that they can tell us all to fuck off.
I hope I'm wrong, but as Lindsay says, hope dies last.

NoOneYouKnow, what you're saying doesn't make sense. If the Obama administration didn't want health reform, it would not try to push for it now. If the reform fails then Obama's approval rate will take a nosedive, which would give the Republicans a serious chance of regaining at least the House in 2010, and, if they find a decent candidate, the Presidency in 2012. Obama doesn't want to lose, and neither do Emanuel and Axelrod. Obama has much more to lose by trying and failing than by not trying.

Ah, well, as many times as the Democrats have been told--nicely and otherwise--that they ought to stop being Charlie Brown to the Republicans' Lucy, they still find themselves flat on their asses when the football gets jerked away.

There's only so much dignity one can maintain when getting up from an embarrassment.

I'm reminded of the line from "The Friends of Eddie Coyle": "life is hard, but it's harder if you're stupid."

If all these intrigues are the result of Emanuel trying to deny Republicans for-profit health care and Wall Street dollars in 2010 and 2012, then he's just being too clever by half, which is just another way of saying, "stupid."

Well. Whatever it is, it's time to snap out of it. This is pure political game.

1. map precise timeline between now until introduction of bill.

2. I don't think public opinion is on Repugs/DLC/corporatists side.

3. However the media is practically saturated with wackos. Effective means to predict and anticipate their move is a must. ( so far the blog has been very weak at this. Everybody is too busy moaning.)

4. Effective method to put those no backbone "moderate" senators and blue dogs in place. (frankly, they need to be removed by force or kicked out of the party.) They are sabotaging the most important democratic initiative in decades? So far I only see one major successful web initiative.

All in all, too many moaning and agonizing, not enough growling and pushing back. There is what? 2-3 months left? So plenty of time to create a coherent strategy.

Sadly, Alon, what I believe makes lots of sense. It depends on your definition of "health insurance reform." My point is that Obama and his DLC handlers want mild reform--enough to give the appearance of real reform and a legislative victory, but not so much that the status quo is overturned or even much shaken. By maintaining the status quo, Rahm & Co. can win even more "donations" from the grateful health insurance, pharma, hospital and other corporations that will benefit from the new legislation, and thus maintain the Dems in office.
I believe that's why Obama's done such a pathetic job of selling this reform so far: When the legislation is passed, the White House and its Dem friends can claim there was too much obstructionism from the Republicans to get single-payer passed, but at least they got (probably something like the insurance laws New York State already has: guaranteed issue, no recission--the barest essentials).
The Repugs can be sold as the villains, Obama lauded for doing the best he could against such 'terrible opposition', and most importantly, the corporations stay happy and shovel money at the Dems. And we on the left will have been screwed again--what are we going to do, vote for Republicans?
That's "triangulation," and in this case, it will cause tens of thousands of deaths and enormous misery, as well as needlessly cost hundreds of billions--because in our current government, those who have the gold make the rules.

But... Obama spent months implicitly backing a public option. When you contrast that stance with issues on which he's genuinely conservative, like marijuana legalization, the difference becomes clear. On marijuana, when progressives asked for decriminalization, answered with a simple rebuke: "Obama opposes legalization of marijuana." Not so with the public option. In non-progressive mind, Obama equals public option; a partial reform could still do him some political favor, but less so than full-fledged reform, and at any rate he's coming up short even on a reform without a public option. If Emanuel were the masterful schemer you think he is, he wouldn't manage to convince moderates that he's planning to impose single-payer by subterfuge while convincing liberals that he's an industry shill.

marijuana is a fringe issue. I would guess probably around 30% mild supporter, mainly in urban area. Plus there is no real corporate money in it.

National health care is 70%, but the insurance industry will fight to their last drop of blood to protect their 30$ profit margin. Plus, the overpriced insurance cost is supporting high pharmaceutical price. Which means hitting pharmas lobbying group as well. (not to mention HMO. Another Clintonian beast.)

I really think it's time to reform senate and lobbying. (but of course this won't happen ever. )

Marijuana legalization activists are as adamant that they're fighting corporate money (tobacco, painkillers, prison-industrial complex) as health care reformers.

yeah but they are not mainstream. still around 30-40%. gotta go around 50-60% Don't get me wrong, I think marijuana is harmless herb.

maybe massive web campaign would do it.

btw, the healthcare reform now seems to move again. With Baucus proposing an utter loser bill, he is definitely going to get a serious blow from democrats base. I hope he is in a lot of political pain.

Whitehouse seems ready for real initiative. I hope everybody on the web is ready. The rightwings are holding their breath for next move.

btw, wanna see the scope of scam done by big pharma? get a load of this.

The biggest money making psycho drug from the 90's turns out to be not that much more effective than sugar pill if the test is done again.

I for one think there are a lot more this type of scam. It would be interesting if somebody does actual research.

Wired is reporting that the well-known "placebo effect" seems to be increasing as time goes on. Fewer and fewer medications are actually making it past drug trials since they are unable to show benefits above and beyond a placebo. "It's not only trials of new drugs that are crossing the futility boundary. Some products that have been on the market for decades, like Prozac, are faltering in more recent follow-up tests. In many cases, these are the compounds that, in the late '90s, made Big Pharma more profitable than Big Oil. But if these same drugs were vetted now, the FDA might not approve some of them. Two comprehensive analyses of antidepressant trials have uncovered a dramatic increase in placebo response since the 1980s. One estimated that the so-called effect size (a measure of statistical significance) in placebo groups had nearly doubled over that time."

from today's Obama speech:

And I continue to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs.,-Updated!

I believe so, too. Personally I'd rather the public option weren't an option, but a default basic-care plan, on top of which people can buy private add-on insurance. Hell, some people (mainly but not just conservatives) believe the point of a public option is to create this sort of plan by subterfuge. What I've been arguing lately is only that the public option should not be a line in the sand for progressives, and that progressives should instead focus on persuading more people that single-payer can offer better quality of care than the current US system.

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