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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Starr To Progressives; 'Chill' Public Option Only A Bait And Switch Game

Not sure if I agree with the thought processes behind the American Prospector piece but it is an interesting read nevertheless.

Paul Starr writes a piece titled "Sacrificing the Public Option", with the sub header being "Chill out, progressives. To get health-care reform through the Senate, the public option is almost certainly going to have to be dropped."

In his piece he explains the public option is more of a red herring, something to be used as a baragining chip, to be dropped eventually so that the rest of the Obamacare healthcare reform bill can be passed, thereby giving political cover to blue dog moderate Democrats;


The president and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius have been entirely correct in saying that the public option is only a small part of the reform effort. The general framework for health insurance that Democrats are advocating does not depend upon a public option. And if a public plan is enacted, it may be so compromised that it could backfire on reformers and become a high-cost alternative rather than the cheaper option that progressives are hoping for.

Because the public option has stood no realistic chance of being enacted in the form it was conceived, its main value all along this year has been as a bargaining chip. The proposal will now have served a valuable political purpose if, by sacrificing it, the White House is able to provide enough cover to Democratic senators from red states to get a bill out of the Senate Finance Committee, through the upper chamber, and into conference with the House.

He points out conservatives have focused on the public option, which we have no doubt, and that the liberals in congress insisting the public option be part of the bill is some type of game, so that when the public option is finally dropped it will look like a huge concession.

That is where I disagree with him.

If he was correct, then it all backfired because liberals, from media pundits to bloggers to Democratic politicians have grabbed onto the public option like it is their be all end all in the Obamacare package, with Harry Reid's spokesperson even going as far as to say they would consider using the archaic reconciliation to jam their version of the bill through the Congress and Senate with absolutely no bipartisan support at all.

The problem there is the blue dog Democrats and they know it.

Those Democrats were voted into mainly red states and to support an option that not only includes the public option but also raises the deficit as Obamacare would, is simply political suicide.

Starr is, at the least, being intellectually dishonest and at the most he is trying to provide political cover himself by providing an "excuse" or justification for his liberal readers as to why they should just "chill" out on the public option.

So my advice to progressives is to chill, at least on this matter. To get health-care reform through the Senate, the public option is almost certainly going to have to be dropped. Perhaps, after House-Senate conference, some version will survive; for example, if the House bill includes a public plan and the Senate bill includes health co-ops, a logical compromise would be to give states a choice between them. But if no public option survives this year, it can be enacted separately later.

Following up on that is a Wapo piece that claims Barack Obama never expected the public option to become the focus of the debate in Washington nor across the country.

But at a time when the president had hoped to be selling middle-class voters on how insurance reforms would benefit them, the White House instead finds itself mired in a Democratic Party feud over an issue it never intended to spotlight.

"I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo," said a senior White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform."

"It's a mystifying thing," he added. "We're forgetting why we are in this."

Another top aide expressed chagrin that a single element in the president's sprawling health-care initiative has become a litmus test for whether the administration is serious about the issue.

"It took on a life of its own," he said.

It took on a life of it's own because American citizens decided to read what many members of Congress didn't bother to and have been showing up at townhall meetings with their representatives, loaded for bear and prepared to fight against it.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a key Republican negotiator in the quest for bipartisan health-care reform, said Wednesday that the outpouring of anger at town hall meetings this month has fundamentally altered the nature of the debate and convinced him that lawmakers should consider drastically scaling back the scope of the effort.

After being besieged by protesters at meetings across his home state of Iowa, Grassley said he has concluded that the public has rejected the far-reaching proposals Democrats have put on the table, viewing them as overly expensive precursors to "a government takeover of health care."

All and all, the debate is still going strong and whatever purpose Starr had for telling liberal progressives to chill, it did not go over very well with some of them.

And................ yet another Wapo editorial saying the public option is "No Longer an Option."

MAYBE THE White House meant to signal that it was backing away from its commitment to a "public option" as part of new health insurance exchanges. Or maybe the hedging words of administration officials were over-interpreted on an otherwise sleepy Sunday morning in August. It doesn't much matter, because, either way, the reality is that, if the Obama administration wants to get health reform done, it's going to have to back away from the public option sooner or later -- and it's getting awfully late.

This is not a matter of ideology but of political nose-counting. The kind of comprehensive health reform that the president rightly wants -- changes that would extend affordable coverage to millions of people and help slow the growth of health-care costs -- requires 60 votes in the Senate. Democrats could muscle through some provisions with 50 votes, but a Senate rule limits how much can be done through that route. Measures such as establishing insurance exchanges or imposing new coverage requirements on insurance companies, as President Obama has been emphasizing, might be vulnerable to being stricken. And there's no way to amass 60 votes with a public option in the bill.

Read it all. Seems to be the meme of the week, trying to make liberals understand the public option might not get through in the actual bill, get them used to the idea so that when all is said and done, they won't rebel, but they will follow along like good puppies, even if they are grousing a bit about it.

No doubt the pundits are right, there will be wailing if the public option is dropped, there will be screaming, hissy fits, and come 2010, those same people claiming to have been betrayed will go right out and vote for the Democrats again.