If you care about health care reform, read this

A tour-de-force column from Paul Krugman today.  Basically manages to summarize pretty much every aspect of the argument on whey Democrats need to pass this health care bill now in 800 words.  Read it.

 

Columbine

I just finished a terrific (as in, in will go on my all-time favorites list) book, Columbine by Dave Cullen.  It's about what you think it is.  I found it endlessly fascinating and found it incredibly hard to put down for the past few days.  Why did the killers do it?  What were they really like?  What role did their parents play?  How did the police get it so wrong?  How did the media get it so wrong?  So many interesting questions answered in a thorough and compelling manner.  Chances are, a lot of what you thought you knew about Columbine is wrong.  I found it especially interesting to learn that Eric Harris was almost a classic psychopath (and to learn exactly what that entails).  I realize this book is not for everyone, but if the subject piques your interest, you should definitely read it.  Until then, here's a couple of great excerpts in Slate on the matter.  And, even better, an essay by Cullen (not from the book) on the lessons learned from Columbine.  Read it

Corporate-ocracy

The Supreme Court made what strikes me as a supremely wrong-headed decision today in the campaign finance case, Citizens United v. F.E.C.  I love me some free speech, but I can quite confidently claim that I do not think there is any constitutional basis whatsoever to suggest that corporations have 1st amendment protection for free speech.  The Bill of Rights is a guarantor of the rights of "we the people" embodies the social contract between citizens and government.  I think it is fair to say that corporations are not part of this social contract.  Any citizen who works at ExxonMobil can spend all the money they want and say whatever they want to influence the political process, I think it can only harm our democracy to guarantee the same rights to ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, and Coca-Cola that we guarantee to our citizens.  To paraphrase Kevin Drum– does anybody really think we need more corporate influence in our government?  My favorite quote comes from EJ Dionne, "Corporations are not individuals, as Congress recognized when it first
limited the role of corporate money in politics back in 1907.
Corporations are created by law, and they should not be treated the
same as we treat live human beings."  As per usual, Slate has great coverage of the Supreme Court and you can't beat Dahlia Lithwick

Dionne briefly takes on George Will in his commentary, and I think it is interesting to quote Will to see how obviously wrong-headed he is.  His conclusion:

The court’s decision will be predictably lamented by people alarmed by
the prospect of more political money funding more political speech. The
Supreme Court has now said to such people approximately this: The First
Amendment does not permit government to decide the “proper” quantity of
political speech.

In no way is this decision about the "proper quantity of speech."  It is about to whom the Constitution guarantees that right.  And for the record, ExxonMobil and pals can say whatever they want and put out a million press releases.  It's the spending of the money where they have a huge, democracy-distorting advantage that's the problem.

Quote of the day, number 2

From Ezra Klein's on-line chat:

Washington D.C.: With health care reform possibly failing
because House Democrats can't swallow their pride, and with the Supreme
Court decision that gives corporations more control over our
government, can you give me a reason to feel not completely despondent
today?

Ezra Klein: You don't live in Haiti?

 

Quote of the day

Ta-Nehisi Coates on liberal unwillingness to pass the Senate bill:

 If you have the numbers to pass arguably the singular liberal issue of
our time, and then refuse to do it, then why are we here?

 

It’s the people’s problem, not the Senate’s

Great post by Matt Yglesias today.  I wish I had written it.  Worth an extended quote:

And then, apparently, there’s angry liberal Raul Grijalva:

For instance, Grijalva said, why not send the Senate
individual bills that would, among other things, nix the “Cadillac” tax
or close the donut hole, pressuring the Senate to deal with each
provision separately?

“If the Senate chooses not to close the donut hole, that’s their damn problem,” Grijalva said. “They’ve had it too easy. One vote controls everything. Collectively, we’re tired of that.”

That’s pernicious nonsense. If the Senate doesn’t close the doughnut
hole, that’s a problem for seniors who need medicine. If the Senate
doesn’t force insurance companies to offer insurance to men and women
on equal terms, that’s a problem for women who want health insurance.
If the Senate doesn’t expand Medicaid, that’s a problem for poor
people. If the Senate doesn’t establish regulated, subsidized insurance
exchanges that’s a problem for the self-employed, for employees of
small businesses, and for everyone who’s nervous about maybe losing
their insurance in the future.

Absolutely nothing is the Senate’s damn problem. Senators are fat
and happy. Nothing bad happens to Joe Lieberman if health reform dies.
Nor to Ben Nelson. Nor to Kent Conrad. Nor to anyone else. US Senators
are wealthy, older individuals with good salaries, great health
insurance, and a good pension plan. Failing to pass reform does not
punish them.

Well, I guess it is useful to have such a potent reminder lately that liberals really can be just as dumb as conservatives (and, unfortunately, much less politically savvy).

Question of the day

This morning on Dianne Rehm, Dianne asked if we would be having a Senator Elect who had posed nearly nude 20 years ago if it had been a woman.  Actually, the answer is obvious, no women who had ever posed in anything similar to this could become a United States Senator.

 

 

Quote of the day

Via Kevin Drum:

Realistically, there are only two choices now: either pass the Senate
bill or else wait another 15 years for any kind of serious healthcare
reform. That's it. That's the choice.

Are liberal House members really this stupid?

This latest reported by Suzy Khimm (in Jon Cohn's blog) doesn't exactly give me a lot of confidence.  

“The House needs to be very careful about not merely rubber-stamping
the Senate bill and sending that to the president… I just don’t think
it’s wise policy or wise politics to merely regurgitate [it],” Rep.
Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told
me this morning. He added that the promise to “fix” the Senate bill
through separate legislation after the House passed it was
unconvincing. “I don’t see the side-by-side thing working both
procedurally and politically.
Instead, Grijalva proposed that the existing legislation be amended
and sent back to the Senate to pass through budget reconciliation,
which would only require 51 votes. “It could pass through
reconciliation—it just depends on how skittish the Senate is at this
point.” Using budget reconciliation
to pass the bill would be politically messy would force the leadership
to strip out many key provisions of reform, including many of the new
regulatory reforms that don’t directly affect the budget. But, Grijalva
said, it would leave Congress with “the option to deal with what the
public option presence is going to be,” calling the public plan “the
biggest deficit reducer” on the table. 

1) Is Grijalva really this ignorant?  I fear yes– we've certainly seen from plenty of Republicans that a below average IQ is no impediment to serving in Congress.  Existing legislation cannot be simply amended and sent back through reconciliation.  A large number of key reforms, e.g., no denial for pre-existing conditions, the health care exchanges, etc., have nothing to do with the budget and thus cannot go through the reconciliation process.  Does Grijalva not know this?

2) Likewise, the weak public option in the current House bill does pretty much nothing to control costs.  A stronger public option that would actually control costs does not have 218 votes due to conservative Dems who've sold out to the medical-industrial complex.  Does Grijalva not know this?

I expect that sadly, most members of Congress remain shamefully ignorant on the issue.

Read this

Dave Leonhardt on the health care bills and what the Democrats should do now.

And this:

Ezra Klein on Republicans vs. Democrats (my summary, Reps are playing hardball with Randy Johnson pitching and Democrats are playing slow-pitch softball). 

Do Democrats deserve to govern?

Not if they fail to pass health care reform.  Great quote from Ezra Klein:

For now, it's worth observing that a Democratic Party that would
abandon their central initiative this quickly isn't a Democratic Party
that deserves to hold power. If they don't believe in the importance of
their policies, why should anyone who's skeptical change their mind? If
they're not interested in actually passing their agenda, why should
voters who agree with Democrats on the issues work to elect them? A
commitment provisional on Ted Kennedy not dying and Martha Coakley not
running a terrible campaign is not much of a commitment at all.

I fear the answer posed in the question of my post is, "no."  And again, if you have any doubts at all as to whether passing health care reform is the right move for the Democrats at this point, Jon Cohn very clearly lays out the case.  If Democrats pass health care reform, they are still looking at a really tough November 2010.  If they fail to pass it, they are looking at electoral doom (and I almost want to say deservedly so, but not really because it does come back to the inane embrace of the Filibuster as a de facto supermajority).

On the Massachusettes Senate Race

Quote of the day from Josh Marshall in reference to morons like Evan Bayh backing off health care reform:

People don't like politicians who are weak and don't know what they
believe. If the bill was worth passing yesterday, it's just as worth
passing tomorrow. All the meta-politics about being for something
before you were against it, knowing what you believe or not knowing,
being able to get something done. It all comes down to stuff like this.

 Jon Chait on the Democratic panic. 

Jacob Hacker, the godfather of the public option, on the (very smart) logic of why reform should most definitely still be passed. 

Any of of the conservative Democrats who are dumb enough to think that health care reform failing is somehow actually going to be good for them (how'd that work out in 1994?) are not smart enough to deserve to be in office.

My greatest concern: millions of people who would have the huge benefit of actually having health insurance will now go without.  That sucks.  People who would deny them that health insurance in nonsensical fears of "government takeover" and "socialism" suck. 

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