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

Friday, September 11, 2009

President Snowe's Capriciousness

Despite the Obama joint session of Congress speech having moved the needle in the public for health care reform, Republicans still feel cocky that nothing's happening this year. They'll even put out phony whip counts to prove it. But if there's one reason to err on their side, it's because the moderates that have largely co-opted the debate seem destined to destroy it of their own volition.

Another Republican negotiator voiced concerns to Fox. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-ME, said there is still concern about the size of the package which is carrying a near $900 billion price tag. “Maybe we could shrink that to $800 billion or below,” the moderate senator said, citing a skeptical public with bailout fatigue and concern for rising deficits. Snowe said she is certain there will be amendments offered in committee to scale back the scope of the bill.

As for the much-touted idea of a “trigger,” a set time at which if current plans don’t provide affordable, quality care, a government-run plan kicks in, this appears to be more talk in the media than in the negotiating room. Snowe told Fox that she thinks the White House is talking about it more than senators. She would not even concede that it will be offered as an amendment, and as the Baucus plan currently stands, there is no mention of a “trigger.” Baucus even told reporters that it was not mentioned in compromise talks.

That the trigger is a non-starter in the Senate is certainly interesting. But Snowe is being completely ridiculous here. She's lowering costs just for the sake of lowering costs. This won't help people get affordable health care; quite the opposite. It won't lower the deficit because the President has asserted that the legislation will be deficit neutral or he'll veto it. She just wants to take $100 billion out of the bill for the purposes of giving herself cover for voting for it. This is despite her stated interest in improving the subsidies to those who can't afford insurance, which, um, cost money. This is just not the way to legislate:

Ideally, we'd have policymakers identify the problem, come up with a solution, and then figure out how to pay for it. Instead, we have a few too many policymakers come up with a price tag first, whether it's sufficient in solving the problem or not.... (b)ecause it just sounds better. Less is necessarily superior to more, the argument goes, for vague, personal reasons that have nothing to do with addressing the problem at hand.

I realize we're talking about a lot of money here, but the difference between a $900 billion reform package and an $800 billion package is $10 billion a year. Given the size of the U.S. economy, the federal government's budget, and the willingness of lawmakers to spend freely when it was debt-financed Bush-era initiatives on the line, an additional $10 billion a year to help Americans have quality, affordable health coverage is more than reasonable.

Making health care reform worse, based on nothing but capricious standards on what price tags sound nice is absurd.

More from the usual suspects. The only thing I can think of for this is that she has enough cachet inside the Administration that the Republicans are using her as a vehicle to create a terrible bill that everyone will blame the Democrats for passing.

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