Fight fear with fear

I was listening to a fairly recent Bill Moyers Journal via podcast and his guest was Wendell Potter– insurance industry executive turned major health reform proponent.  Potter was talking about all the fear mongering from opponents of reform.  They are doing this, of course, because fear works.  It occurred to me, that supporters of reform should fight fire with fire, or fear with fear, as the case may be– especially, since facts are on their side.  What Americans need to be afraid of is what health care may look like in 10 years if the bill fails to pass, not if it does.  I'm thinking of ads, which cite all sorts of official studies, and have scare facts and images like: "XX million Americans losing their insurance every year"  "your insurance premiums rising by XX%" "losing your job and losing your insurance."  Etc.,  you get the point.  In each case, give a nice little footnote cite to a McKinsey Study, CBO estimate or something.  These ads could be scary and still totally true.  Then, of course make the point that reform forestalls this scary future.  Tie this scary future to opponents of reform.  End with images of happy people who still have their insurance because reform passed. 

Okay, I know I'm no media strategist, but it seems to me that something along these lines might actually be reasonably effective.  What do you think?

Hey NC Peeps

Shamefully, 3 of the Democrats in opposition to passing health care reform are from right here in NC.  If you live in the district of Heath Shuler, Mike McIntyre, or Larry Kissell, you know what to do– get on the damn phone and call them.  Seriously!!  Don't be afraid of picking up a phone– calls are much more effective than emails.  Here's the numbers for the DC offices:

Larry Kissel: (202) 225-3715

Heath Shuler: (202) 225-6401

Mike McIntyre: (202) 225-2731

If you call, let me know in comments and make me happy.

Tea Party compassion

Some "compassionate conservatism" in action as tea-partiers confront a counter-protester with Parkinson's disease.

Jon Chait's got an interesting take:

It's a jarring video. But it also captures the heart of what animates
the staunchest opposition to health care reform — a principled
opposition to the idea the fortunate should be forced to subsidize the
unfortunate. A person who has Parkinson's, unless he is very affluent,
is not going to be able to afford the cost of his own medical care. He
is going to need to be subsidized by healthier or wealthier people —
either by being lumped in with them in an employer-based insurance pool,
or getting government-provided insurance like Medicaid, or government
subsidies, or the enactment of regulations that force insurers to offer
him insurance at a regular price (meaning healthy people would pay
higher rates.) Any way you slice it, somebody else is going to have to
pay for his health care. But that's the kind of redistribution the right
increasingly cannot stomach.

 Is it wrong of me to hope that some of these people get stricken by diseases or accidents, over which they have no control, while they lack insurance? 

The non-committed Dems need to read this

Great Op-Ed in the Post today from Marjorie Margolies, who infamously lost her seat in a Republican-leaning district after voting for Clinton's 1993 budget.  Her advice to wavering Dems– vote for the damn bill.  Apparently, Margolies was the Democrat in the most Republican-leaning district of any House member.  Given what happened in 1994, she was very likely going to lose anyway, but because she did the right thing, she helped put the country on the economic course that actually ended up with budget surpluses (remember those?) by the time Clinton left office.


The Nuns are much smarter (and more moral) than the Bishops

From the AP (via Yglesias):

WASHINGTON — Catholic nuns are urging Congress to pass President
Barack Obama's health care plan, in an unusual public break with bishops
who say it would subsidize abortion.

Some 60 leaders of religious
orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns Wednesday sent lawmakers a
letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. It contains
restrictions on abortion funding that the bishops say don't go far

The letter says that "despite false claims to the
contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective
abortions." The letter says the legislation also will help support
pregnant women and "this is the real pro-life stance."

One cannot but wonder whether Stupak and his supposedly pro-life (that is defining life as ending at birth) minions actually really want health care reform to pass.  If they do, this would certainly seem to be adequate cover on the Catholic angle, especially as Yglesias points out, the nuns are joining the Catholic Health Association.

Public Opinion on health care

I'm pretty sure I've written before on just how problematic the polling data on health care is and how cautious one should be in interpreting it. I think the following two questions from the same poll make this point nicely (via Swampland):

From what you have heard about Barack Obama's health care
plan, do you think his plan is a good idea or a bad idea?  If you do
not have an opinion either way, please just say so.

Good idea ………………….. 36

Bad idea ……………………. 48

Do not have an opinion … 15

Not sure …………………… 1

Do you think it would be better to pass Barack Obama's health care
plan and make its changes to the health care system or to not pass this
plan and keep the current health care system?

Better to pass this plan, make these changes …  46

Better to not pass this plan, keep current system  45

Neither (VOL)
………………………………………………….  4

Not sure
………………………………………………………….  5


Got that?  There's a good percentage of people out there saying they think it's a bad bill who still want to see it passed!  I think this latter question, the ultimate "where the rubber meets the road" of the current debate should be pushed by Democrats far and wide as it clearly combats the "deeply unpopular" theme the right has been pushing.  Some might complain the question is unfair due to the "keep the current health care system," but, in truth, that's why this question more accurately gets at the issue than others I've seen.  As you know if you're reading my blog, the choice is not between this bill and some hypothetical reform you might like better; the choice is between this bill and being stuck in our rapidly deteriorating system.  I think I'll be quoting this poll result a lot.  




No Shame

I'm with Cohn on this whole deem and pass thing.  Certainly does not strike me as a smart idea politically, but Nancy Pelosi is not stupid and if she's doing it this way, it's probably because that's what she thinks she has to do to get the votes (she's not politically stupid, but many in the Democratic caucus are). That said, the level of Republican hypocrisy on this has reached truly extraordinary proportions.  Norm Ornstein (via Yglesias):

Any veteran observer of Congress is used to the rampant hypocrisy over
the use of parliamentary procedures that shifts totally from one side to
the other as a majority moves to minority status, and vice versa. But I
can’t recall a level of feigned indignation nearly as great as what we
are seeing now from congressional Republicans and their acolytes at the
Wall Street Journal, and on blogs, talk radio, and cable news. It
reached a ridiculous level of misinformation and disinformation over the
use of reconciliation, and now threatens to top that level over the
projected use of a self-executing rule by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In
the last Congress that Republicans controlled, from 2005 to 2006, Rules
Committee Chairman David Dreier used the self-executing rule more than
35 times, and was no stranger to the concept of “deem and pass.” That
strategy, then decried by the House Democrats who are now using it, and
now being called unconstitutional by WSJ editorialists, was defended by
House Republicans in court (and upheld). Dreier used it for a $40
billion deficit reduction package so that his fellow GOPers could avoid
an embarrassing vote on immigration. I don’t like self-executing rules
by either party—I prefer the “regular order”—so I am not going to say
this is a great idea by the Democrats. But even so—is there no shame

I think we all know the answer to that one. 

Under-appreciated Television

I was listening to a really entertaining Ricky Gervais interview on Fresh Air last week, and I realized it's a shame how few people have seen his terrific HBO series, Extras.  If you haven't seen it, it's well worth putting in your DVD queue.  Here are two of my favorite scenes from the show– the first is one of my favorite TV scenes ever.  Patrick Stewart is just brilliant.


And this one with Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) is terrific, too.

This also got me thinking about an also very under-appreciated show on HBO, The Comeback. Pitch black humor perfectly done. Anyway, consider giving both of these a try.

The Bishops and me

As if all the harboring of sexual predators wasn't enough, now the Catholic Church has made it their official policy to deny health insurance (and thus decent health care!) to millions of Americans.  They might want to re-read the part of the catechism about social justice.  Tim Noah's article I just linked to in my last post, links to this latest release from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, stating their opposition to health care reform over the abortion issue.  The Bishops are not stupid (oddly morally stunted, but not stupid) and they know that the choice now is not the House Bill with the abortion language the like, or the Senate bill, with the abortion language good enough for the pro-life Democratic Senators, but not the USCCB.  The choice is the Senate Bill or nothing.  The choice is expanding access to health care for millions of Americans and, worst case, depending on how you like to do your accounting, federal dollars indirectly subsidizing abortions (which, as I've discussed, they of course already do) or no health care reform..  No insurance for millions of Americans who could desperately benefit (I'll leave aside the other good policy benefits and focus on the moral aspect, which the Bishops should presumably care about).  How they can make that choice is beyond me.  Again, I'd suggest they re-read the Church teachings on Social Justice (which Glenn Beck is so afraid of), and might actually consider the words of Jesus, who sure seemed a lot more interested in helping the poor and suffering than stopping abortions.

Of course, one can argue that the bishops job is to focus on moral teachings (i.e., abortion) and not politics, but focusing on politics is exactly what they are doing here.  They are advocating for a specific political outcome– one that, if it comes to pass, will do far more harm than good to human life.  

I've decided that I'm not giving to the Bishop's Annual Appeal this year.  That's a shame, because most of the money does support the still vital Catholic mission of social justice.  But no way am I supporting an organization that is so willfully blind to the suffering they will cause in the name of the most narrow reading of morality.  I've decided my money will go to other organizations that support a Social Justice mission in North Carolina without also fighting to stop this important legislation.  I haven't figured out what those other organizations will be yet, though.  Feel free to leave any suggestions in comments.  Ideally I'd like to support the same kind of mission that the Catholic Church actually does, just without the negative political baggage.

No health care reform = more abortions

I've already mentioned the irony of the pro-life Democrats taking such a narrow view of human life, i.e., before birth, that they are willing to sacrifice the lives and health of millions of already-born Americans over an excessively broad interpretation of federal funding of the abortion.  TR Reid had a Washington Post Op-Ed, pointing out how defeating health care reform will, in addition, in all likelihood actually lead to more abortions.  Slate's Tim Noah gives it the perfect succint summary:

 If Stupak prevails, then health care reform won't pass. If health care
reform doesn't pass, then pregnant women won't get improved access to
health care. And if pregnant women don't get improved access to health
care, then there will be more abortions. In a practical sense, then,
Stupak's anti-abortion amendment (to be more precise: Stupak's insanely stubborn advocacy for his amendment) will likelier increase the number of abortions than reduce them.

Arrrghh!  It would be one thing if the pro-life objections actually made sense, but the objections are ultimately worse for human life, both born and un-born.

Failure is failure

One of the most transparently absurd things going on in politics right now is the ever-increasing insistentence by Republicans that Democrats passing health care reform will entil an electoral disaster for them (Jon Chait has been all over this on-going silliness).  Since when, exactly, should Democrats be taking strategic electoral advice for Republicans.  The clearest proof of the lie of this, though, is that at the same time Republicans are doing everything they can to stop reform from passing.  If they truly thought it presaged electoral disaster for the Democrats, they could quite easily have a few of their safe-seat members vote for passage, and bingo, supposed electoral disaster for the Democrats.  The truth, of course, is that it is failure to pass reform that portends disaster.  The always-worth-reading pair of Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann explain exactly this in TNR.  The key paragraph:

We fundamentally disagree; the surest path to political debacle for
Democrats is to fail to enact health reform, and the best way to avoid
a rout in November is to show that the party in charge can actually
govern. The reconciliation process is entirely appropriate for amending
the Senate-passed bill; in any case, the public will judge the
Democrats on the basis of the results, not the inside-baseball process.
In fact, the Democrats most reluctant to support health reform–those
from more conservative, Republican-leaning districts and states–are
the ones most likely to lose in November if health reform is defeated.

It's pretty short, though, you should take a minute and read the whole thing.  And remember, Democrats would be complete fools to take strategic advice from Republicans.   The fact that Republicans are doing all they can to prevent this should really tell you all you need to know. 

The difference between liberals and conservatives

Absolutely terrific post from Jon Chait yesterday.  You should read it in its entirety.  But, because you're already here, I'm going to excerpt the part that I think is spot-on and so important.  As you may have noticed, the Republicans version of a Congressional Intellectual (he actually sort-of knows what he's talking about and is not wildly, only modestly, loose with facts), Paul Ryan has released a long-term budget plan designed to balance the budget well into the future.  It mostly does this through dismantling Medicare in such a way that the government spends less on health care and Americans get a lot less health care.  Alas, it doesn't balance the budget because his tax plan– cut taxes for the very rich, raise them for everyone else– is a sham.  Chait nicely dissects it.  After all that, here's the essential summary:

The basic thrust of liberal public policy over the last century is
to keep in places the market system but use government to slightly
mitigate against risk–the risk of getting sick, the risk of outliving
your savings, the risk that you just won't make much money in the first
place. The downside of these policies is that, in order to mitigate the
downside risk, you also have to mitigate the upside benefit. If you're
unusually rich, you have to pay a somewhat higher tax rate than most
people. If you're unusually healthy, you have to subsidize medical care
for people who aren't. If you were able to invest well enough to cover
your entire retirement, some of your good fortune will be siphoned off
to those who weren't. The rewards for getting rich, or merely being
born rich, will remain enormous, just slightly less so than in a
completely free market.

Republicans want to eliminate these mitigations of risk. Ryan would
retain some bare-bones subsidies for the poorest, but the overwhelming
thrust in every way is to liberate the lucky and successful to enjoy
their good fortune without burdening them with any responsibility for
the welfare of their fellow citizens. This is the core of Ryan's moral philosophy

The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that
the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the
central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the
fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers.
What's telling about Ryan's program is not so much that a hard-core
ideologue like him would advocate it. It's that virtually the whole of
the conservative movement has embraced him….

The rise of Ryan is a sign that the possibilities for bipartisan
cooperation on domestic issues are, at the moment, essentially nil.
This point is obscured by the figure of Ryan, a cheerful and courteous
man who gives every sense of wanting to deal in good faith. But his
goals, which are now fully the goals of the conservative movement and
the Republican Party, are diametrically opposed to the liberal vision
of capitalism shorn of its cruelest edges. His basic moral premises are
foreign, even abhorrent, to liberals. He seems like a person you'd like
to negotiate with, but there's nothing to negotiate over. Ryan is
waging a zero sum fight over resources on behalf of the most fortunate
members of society and against everybody else.

 Exactly.  A fair reading makes it hard to argue for anything but what Chait has laid out above.

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