A Lesson In What Not To Do
George Steph on how to properly punch hippies:
Here are the five key sets of questions they have to confront, both in the Roosevelt Room and in their consultations with Congress:
1. What is "death with dignity" for the public option? Is it better for the president to sacrifice it himself? Or convince Democratic leaders behind closed doors to come to him? Some will argue for taking the public option issue to the floor, passing it through the House and sacrificing it in conference -- but once you've gone that far, it may be impossible for House Democrats to back down. So, giving it up on the front end in some fashion is likely the preferred option.
2. How do you get the price tag down, likely to about $700 billion? At that cost the most unpopular tax increases will not be necessary. And moderates in both the House and Senate have already signaled that they can live with it at that level. Which leads to question 3:
3. Can you still make a convincing case that the country is on a path to universal coverage? What mix of phase-ins and triggers are necessary to make that case?
I can't take it. (If you're interested, 4 asks if any Republican votes other than Olympia Snowe can be gathered - even the White House knows that answer is no - and 5 queries how to do the speech, possibly with a joint session to Congress.)
Stephanopoulos is very plugged in, and so this could very well be the discussion at the White House. Who apparently have yet to figure out that forcing millions of Americans into buying crappy insurance that can only come from private industry will be so massively unpopular that, if Republicans don't repeal it, Democrats will be forced to themselves. That would be the quickest and easiest way to squander the majority possible, which at times I think is the Washington Democratic establishment's metier.
Number two is arguably scarier. Practically all of the money spent in this health care bill goes to two things - expanding Medicaid and subsidies for individuals to buy insurance. That's it. Reducing the cost of the bill either keeps more people off Medicaid or reduces the subsidies, making forced insurance under an individual mandate unaffordable. There's this notion that bloggers and progressive groups don't care about the poor, but we're not writing the bill, and kowtowing to the lunatic moderates who put a price tag above morality except when talking about war. I have understood that the coverage expansion elements of the bill were crucially important, and the same thinking that artificially lowered the stimulus cost to the detriment of state budgets and public investment would doom the coverage expansion elements.
And after all that, after assuring us that the wise course would be to ditch a public insurance option that would only exist to cut costs, and reducing the coverage expansion funds and subsequently putting the burden of universal coverage on the backs of poor people, Stephanopoulos asks, basically, "How can we lie about this to the public?"
I find it hard to believe that the White House would be so stupid as to think that making the least popular choices to the majority of Americans making under $50,000/year would be just the ticket to increase the President's popularity. Actually, just kidding, I don't find it so hard.