As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No, It's NOT Just About The South, Sen. Voinovich

Amazing what comes out of the mouths of retiring Republican Senators once they no longer have to depend on the base for their political survival:

Too many conservative senators like Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are to blame for the GOP's downfall, one of their retiring Republican colleagues complained Monday.

"We got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns," Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) told the Columbus Dispatch. "It's the southerners."

Voinovich, a native Clevelander who retires after the 2010 election, continued after the southern elements of the GOP.

"They get on TV and go 'errrr, errrrr,'" he said. "People hear them and say, 'These people, they're southerners. The party's being taken over by southerners. What they hell they got to do with Ohio?'"

Markos sez that this is largely factual, that the interests of the South do not match the interests of the country and a political party overcome by regional elements will inevitably have problems. But I think Voinovich is being a bit too clever here. What has he really stood up to his party about over the last several years? He temporarily blocked John Bolton's confirmation. That's about all I can think of.

Indeed, if you look at Jim DeMint's solution for health care, it doesn't have a regional bias, but reflects the standard conservative talking point about the free market.

DeMint offered the usual line on health care: free markets will solve all. And he pushed especially hard for letting insurance companies sell across state lines, which he claimed would make insurance affordable for everyone.

This is a teachable moment; I think it helps get at the heart of what’s wrong with free-market approaches [...]

The reason we have restrictions on interstate sales of health insurance is that a number of states regulate insurers. In particular, some states have a form of community rating, which basically says that insurers can’t deny you coverage or charge extremely high premiums if you have a preexisting condition. And community rating will be unsustainable if individuals can buy insurance from out of state; insurance companies in states that don’t have community rating will cherry-pick the healthy, good risk people, leaving the community rating states with only the highest-cost people.

Now, you might say that’s fine: if you’re a bad risk, you don’t get insurance. But politicians never say that in public, because most voters feel that their fellow citizens shouldn’t be denied health care. So the way this is always presented is that effective competition will make insurance so cheap that everyone can afford it [...]

So when you hear people like DeMint — or conservative economists — preach the wonders of a market-based health care system, bear in mind that this is what it would look like: an America in which nobody who has ever had a major health problem, or had a minor health problem that for some reason bothers the insurance company, can get coverage. Believing that it would turn out otherwise is the triumph of ideology over experience.

DeMint believes unfettered markets can cure health care, when they cannot. But would that be at odds with the approach of the Business Roundtable, or the Chamber of Commerce or any of a dozen or more think tanks?

Southerners may have a different style than a George Voinovich, but they are all selling the same policies. Maybe the Southern rump does it with a little more flair and a lot more religion. But they fundamentally have a conservative set of mantras, and they don't deviate. Sen. Voinovich wants to deflect blame for the failure of these policies, but we shouldn't let him.

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