Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Talking Points Memo published the following reader comment earlier today:

Just to mention something that is obvious, but hopefully not overlooked, i.e., if this country cannot pass a bill which insures that every citizen has access to medical care, which every developed country has managed to do (and got done many many years ago), there is something very fundamentally and structurally wrong with this country.

Such an event, in my mind, would confirm that we live with a completely corrupt and dysfunctional form of government. Forty nine states, each with bicameral legislative bodies, some of which have distinguished themselves recently with unabashed levels of incompetency and cluelessness. Then, graft a federal government over that, which is also bicameral, the non-representative portion of it being filled with officials who are certifiable morons and/or who are bought and sold like whores by wealthy contributors.

Talk about a Waterloo.

This is a defining moment in our history. Do we fulfill our supposed status as a "shining city on a hill" or continue our long slow decline into a second rate oligarchy?

I am not one prone to hyperbole.

I believe this to the depths of my soul.

This is pretty much how I feel about healthcare reform as I filter of my analysis of the issue through the lens of the history of progressive movements in the United States. The most compelling reason for to vote for Democrats, donate to Democrats, and work for Democrats is that the Party represented the best shot for the implementation of progressive policy, however incremental those policies have to be sometimes.

Universal healthcare has probably been the most sturdy plank in the Democratic Party's domestic agenda for the last 60 years. The creation of Medicare and Medicaid represent two of the most substantive and important achievements of the Great Society coalition.

After decades in the wilderness, a new coalition has been forged, one that voted in record numbers, not just to repudiate the neoconservative dogma of the last decade, but to affirm a domestic policy agenda that centered on a repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the rich and universal healthcare coverage for the working and middle class.

It actually happened.

Democrats control the House of Representatives by a comfortable margin.

They hold a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the first in decades.

And there's an immensely popular and powerful leader in the executive branch that is actively working to keep the campaign promises he made and which the American people voted for.

If real healthcare reform fails - and Republicans certainly realize this - the Big Bang enthusiasm that so many people feel for this so-called new era will disappear into a black hole.

What compelling reason will I have to vote Democrat ever again if they can't deliver on the most fundamental policy promise they've made to their base constituents for the last six decades?

If Democrats can't deliver on their signature issue, what hope is there that they'll be able to do anything worthwhile on issues where there is less historical consensus?

The Blue Dog wing of the Party, in my mind, is doing everything they can to ensure they sink their own ship. If they effectively neuter or kill healthcare reform, I don't see how the Democratic Party will be very popular heading into 2010 and 2012. Given that Blue Dogs come from districts less likely to vote for Democratic candidates under favorable national conditions, how the hell do they expect to get reelected over Republicans in national conditions unfavorable to Democrats? It's not as if Blue Dogs were ascendant in the Party from 2000-2004.

Meanwhile, the Republican opposition smells blood. The 'waterloo' comment by Senator DeMint is a fairly candid way of stating the Party position.

They don't care about healthcare coverage or healthcare reform. They don't have an alternative plan because they believe that if you don't have insurance or if you have bad insurance - it's your own fault. For them, this is only about political victory.

Observe Dick Polman's discussion of GOP flack Michael Steele's latest:

Q: "Is it morally acceptable for 30 to 40 million Americans to be without health insurance?"
Steele: "I don't know if that's the consideration for politicians versus a pastor."

Q: "Do Republicans support an individual requirement to get coverage?"
Looking flummoxed, the chairman clearly had no idea what the question was about, despite the fact that this issue - whether Americans should be required to sign up for coverage as part of health care reform - was debated extensively during the 2008 campaign. Steele: "As an individual requirement? What do you mean by 'an individual requirement'? To require individuals to get health coverage? Again, that is one of those areas where there's, there's, different opinions by some in the House and the Senate on this...Look, I don't do policy."

(Translation: He does slogans, not substance.)

And then there was the piece de resistance...

Q: "Why didn't the Republicans, when they held both houses and the White House, do something substantial to address the health care issue?"
Steele: “Well, I think that, you know, there were efforts along the way."

He cited the GOP Congress' passage of the expensive Medicare prescription drug law, but then, apparently remembering that the conservatives in his party actually hate this law, he quickly added, "There's always been a debate about that particular piece of legislation." And then he took a second stab at the core question, about why the ruling Republicans did so little to address health care during the Bush years, why in essence they didn't do policy.

Steele again: "The other reality is, you know, the will to do it...There has been just a general lack of focus on this issue, by many."


This disgusting approach to civic life seems to be winning some momentum in the healthcare debate right now.

I sense that the White House understands the stakes.

I hope Senator Mary Landrieu does too.

TODAY! Wednesday the 22nd, there will be a rally at 10:00 AM outside Mary Landrieu's office at the Hale Boggs Federal Building.

500 Poydras St.

Karen Carter Peterson will speak.

I will be there.


MAD said...

Enough with the tired old talking points. Why is there such a rush to judgment on this 1000 page bill? It is because the American people do not trust Congress to legislate on this issue. Thus, public sentiment is rapidly turning against this so-called "reform", and the pols have to rush it through before we find out what is in the bill. This legislation is a scam and will be a long-term disaster, and citizens intuitively know that.

John-Christopher said...

It's Wednesday the 22nd, not Thursday!
Ms. Allen

E said...


I would support Congressional leaders suspending the summer recess to continue working on the bill.

Would you?

New Orleans Ladder said...

You are such a good blogger!
This "Waterloo" is "Bullocks Code" for: "Remember how this nearly sunk Clinton's first year in office."
I remember how after they tried "Healthcare Reform" we got HMO's and extremely managed care. I am much more of a Socialists opposed to National Socialist.
Saint Mary has Editilla absolutely tied up in apoplectic pyrolysis of incongroovient conflixion with her Stance on this important issue.
She and Vitty'cent are what we got right now to deal wit'da Exquisite Corps as we must deal with those bastads. But, I am behind y'all on this issue of national health care. I only wish it was more focused on Americans getting themselves Mo'Nationally Healthy than making it easier for them to enrich the Kafka Medicine Machine. But then again, though I have never had much use for health care myself, I will in the coming years perchance. I freaking hope Not.
I hate the way these beotches dance for the Election season.
All I care about is Hurricane season, and the rest is lucky rhythm oil and gravy on da'side.

As for E's misunderestimation of the time and date... imagine yer'self as Rod Serling's lost progeny, in a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition. Suppose then that poor E is posting in his sleep and its the adverse effect of that Solar Eclipse over here on this side of da'woild... sorta like poochin'out the other side of the psycho'telletubby balloon thingy?
I don't know... you dream, I dream, we all dream for ice cream.

Thanks youz,

Editilla said...

Sorry syntax: Socialist opposed to National Socialists. That's me.
Jus'sayin... in case your wondering.

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunately the attitude of very many people in this nation that if you're not making enough money it's only because you're lazy or incompetent and that's just tough. Moreover, the ones who believe in this strongly don't want to be taking care of (via taxes) the lazy and incompetent. Never mind that that's extreme selfishness. And Republicans tell them exactly what they want to hear and in very simple easy-to-understand words. How can Democrats counter such a party line? It essentially all depends on how much that they can invoke class warfare. The long term story in our society over the past several decades has been the wealthy elite increasing their earnings while the middle class has seen their earnings stagnate. The question is to what extent will numbers of voters accept that "us-against-the-rich" line and to what extent Congress is willing to be "traitors to their class." In depression times voters did accept it and hand a mandate to Roosevelt. In postwar times people have thought more highly of their own personal capability to take care of themselves and make enough income. Are people really angry at the rich or do they just feel like they'd like to be rich themselves and think that they can work hard enough and make that happen (and if someone is not working hard enough then they are deserving of contempt, not respect)? How can Democrats tap into that emotion (never mind the actual fact of the stagnation of middle class earnings) that people would seem to rather convince themselves instead of just trying to sell "woe is us and we need more New Deal and Great Society to ride in to the rescue?" After all the preponderance of the voters of the United States are probably somewhere right of center on the liberal left to conservative right scale. This is not really a centrist nation and definitely not a liberal nation and like it or not you have to learn to live with that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you MAD for pointing out the obvious.

E, what is your response to the fact that the CBO has determined that this bill is unsustainable? We can't afford it. Do you expect the country to tax even higher and borrow even more until we turn into a third world nation, I've never been able to pay my bills or feed my family on another persons view of morality?

I have no problems with them waiting until after summer if they can come up with a bill that is workable and doesn't rely on the government to administrate it, they've done such a great job with the post office, Medicare and Medicaid, etc.

Do you understand how poorly Medicare and Medicaid have been run, how far over budget these systems have run compared to the "projections" when they were voting on them? Do you truly believe they haven't minimized the cost of this program to the citizens?

I am tired of this moral vs evil crap everyone is trying to shovel. Could it possible be that we don't think it's a good idea not because we like to see people suffer and we are only concerned for our individual well being but because we see THIS BILL, not the intention, THE BILL as being a horrible financial fiasco.

This isn't just about healthcare E and for you to be either ignorant or naive about it is sad or irresponsible to your readers. This is about money. If it was solely about getting everyone healthcare and the Dems thought they could tax current healthcare benefits as earnings to minimize the debt incurred from this bill, but the unions pushed back and screamed bloody murder so Obama said that wasn't an option. What happened to the morality E? If everyone needs to take a bite of the poo sandwich, why are the unions getting special treatment from the "the party of the Great Society"?

E, I have seen you use plenty of common sense and skepticism in the past when it comes to politicians and the difference between their words and deeds, so I recommend you start using it and think about the ripple effect of what THIS BILL (not the intention) can do to this country in our current financial state. Would you tell a person that had 10 dollars to their name that they were immoral if they didn't go take a cash advance for $500 and give it all away to the local homeless shelter, because they weren't homeless yet?

I don't believe this can't be done, I just want it be done to where we eliminate real cost from other programs to pay for this effort AFTER we have balanced the budget and have a plan for dealing with our National Debt. Our country is being run by people that are using Daddy's Platinum card but never have to pay the bill.

E said...

Anon, that's a fairly thoughtful comment.

This post is not about the specific bill you're probably referring to in the House, as there is and should be some additional debate on the right formula of healthcare reforms and the right options for paying for it. I agree that there are some things that need to be adjusted in order to address the red flags raised in the CBO score but the basic outline is pretty damn good.

Democrats in favor of healthcare reform are having this debate throughout the House and Senate.

The problem is that the Right isn't at all interested in participating in that conversation. They either don't believe the country needs healthcare reform OR they don't want Democrats to deliver it. I haven't seen an alternative vision from the Republican side.

This post, and most of my posts on healthcare reform reflect my thoughts and fears about what the healthcare issue means for Democrats and the Left.

I apologize if that doesn't satiate some readers desire for a purely policy-driven discussion. I would refer them to other folks that know a lot more about the specifics than I do, like the Washington Post's Ezra Klein.

Anonymous said...

E, not to be contrary but if you want a discussion from those of us on the Right, and I mean the ones not being represented in DC right now, than have a discussion and pull back on the morality rhetoric.

The problem Obama and the Democrats (like you as you pointed out in your response) are experiencing is that all these conversations get twisted between what is being proposed in the political spectrum versus the IDEAL of having healthcare for everyone.

Not to mention the healthcare has tentacles running into almost every hot button topic you can think of including:
- illegal immigration
- taxes
- homeland security
- quality of care
- timeliness of care
- small business owners
- employee benefits packages
etc, etc, etc.

It is very easy for those left of center to stand up and say we should have this, it's immoral we can't do this, we are the richest country on the planet - uh, no we are not. We are hocked up to our eyeballs and are at about that point of having debt collectors calling wanting us to make a payment or they are coming to repossess.

Just like on an airplane, you put your mask on first and then help the one next to you. This is oversimplified metaphor for the fact that we are a giving people, the people on the right are not evil or immoral, just as I don't believe a woman or those that support the womans right to an abortion.

DEM: we want to pass this healthcare bill because everyone has the right to receive healthcare

REP: This plan sucks, it's filled with favors for your lobbyists and special interests and still leaves millions without coverage while breaking the bank.

DEM: Yeah, well you don't have a plan and it's immoral not to want to do this.

REP: We don't want to do this because we can't afford it, besides you wanna talk morality, your the one okay with abortion, so healthcare is good for everyone but unborn babies, that's moral?!

(This argument brought to you by my crystal ball).

See how quickly this shit slides out of control...if an honest discussion of what is needed and how to get there is what you want, lose the morality spiel, it distances those you are trying to sway and comes across as elitist and arrogant.

MAD said...

Anon makes excellent points. I would not argue that we should do nothing, but anyone would be foolish to support a bill written by lobbyists, the contents of which have not been even read by the President or by members of Congress, a bill that installs a new healthcare delivery program that is tax punitive to business, promises to strip coverage from those of us that already have it, threatens to compromise the quality or availability of healthcare options and that is fiscally unsustainable for a country rapidly spending itself into bankruptcy.
This is not about healthcare reform. Most thinking people know and understand that, and that is why we are seeing the citizen blowback that will only grow in intensity as this scam moves closer to adoption.
Take the summer recess, get the pulse of constituents of all persuasions, and see where that takes us. Isn't that the way it is supposed to work?

Middle Aged White Woman said...

Well, young white boy (if you're going to resort to descriptions of the opposition in stereotypical terms), if you are willing to pay for your insurance and you don't have a preexisting condition, why don't you already have it?

I am adamantly opposed to the mandate and the penalty, purely as an infraction upon my rights as an American. I also am old enough to recognize this debate as not being at all about "health care" reform, but only propping up an already overwrought insurance system. If you want health care, why is the right of access to INSURANCE the Democratic talking point, as in: "Q: "Is it morally acceptable for 30 to 40 million Americans to be without health insurance?" Or, "...if this country cannot pass a bill which INSURES that every citizen has access to medical care..." which is what your beloved Charity Hospital was engaged to do.

Health care needs reform. This bill is only about TARPing the medical insurance industry.

E said...

"Health care needs reform. This bill is only about TARPing the medical insurance industry."

I would prefer single-payer, myself.