Health care: Do liberals enjoy getting their butts kicked?

Does liberalism equal masochism? Does being liberal mean you like getting beaten up in the political schoolyard?

Democrats outnumber Republicans in America, yet in the last 41 years, Democrats have occupied the White House for only 13. The Democrats have controlled Congress for decades, and yet taxes for the rich are lower than ever. Health care reform should been a reality in 1994, but the Republicans and dissent Democrats stopped the Clinton plan dead.

And here we go again. Another butt-whumping in the making. I can understand why Republicans oppose Obama’s health care reform. It’s callous and cynical to deny health care to millions of Americans just to embarrass your political opponents, but Republicans do it because it works. What I don’t understand is why Obama is being ripped by his own party.

Think a moment. If a public insurance option can’t be passed this year with a popular Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, why will it be easier in two years or ten? Are we waiting for President Dean and Vice-President Nader?  An 80-Democrat majority in the Senate? The progressive Anti-Rapture that makes all the conservatives disappear one morning?

It’s not fair that that a few Blue Dog Democrats from states with more cows than people can block health care for millions of Americans. Blame the Constitution. It’s not fair that a few well-financed right-wingnuts dominate town halls. Blame politics. It’s not fair that giving working people access to a doctor should be such a struggle. Blame the world we live in. You can deal with it or retreat into a corner and sulk while the other side implements its agenda.

While conservatives are ruthlessly slashing health care with their swords, liberals are falling on theirs. Like fanatics with a suicide belt, they prefer martyrdom to compromise. It’s all so bipartisan; liberals relish a noble defeat and conservatives are more than happy to oblige.

Compromise isn’t fun, but it’s often the price of getting anything done instead of just talking about getting things done. I want a public option, just like I wanted to see Clinton’s plan enacted in 1994. We’ve had to wait 15 years for another chance. I like the public option, but not if the choice is between that or no reform at all. I’m 15 years older now, and I don’t have the time to wait another 15 for the perfect health care plan.

I’m far from an Obama apologist. He deserves criticism for not communicating his message, and for being so passionless. But it’s not his fault that he doesn’t have an overwhelming mandate for health care reform. A significant number of Americans oppose government health care, even if it’s for the kookiest of reasons. The Republicans may be a minority in Congress, but 40 Senators voting in lockstep are a powerful force. Even the Americans that want change are so fickle that their support can flip with the next Harry-and-Louise campaign. It’s not fair and it doesn’t make sense, but those are the cards that were dealt.

Obama and his advisors aren’t fools. If they’re suddenly willing to give up the public option, it’s probably because they realize that they may lose the health care battle. They know that if they lose that battle, the failure will overshadow Obama’s presidency and hamstring his efforts on everything from clean energy to foreign policy. Ask the Clintons about the consequences when the flagship policy of a new administration is defeated.

I don’t know whether the public option is the best option, or whether it’s better or worse than health care cooperatives. With something this huge, I’m not sure if anyone really knows, and I’m even less sure that it makes a difference. What will count is how the program is run; a poorly-administered public option would be as much as disaster as anything else.

What I do know for certain is that our current health care system is broken. It doesn’t treat many people, and it leaves many others fearful that they won’t be treated. I’m willing to take a chance on change, even if it’s not all the change that we need. At least it’s a starting point. Every great cause, from women’s rights to civil rights, had to start somewhere. It’s not a battle. It’s a long war, and sometimes  a partial success is good enough to keep the fight going.

So I’ll grit my teeth as the health insurers make money, because I know that no matter what Obama does, somebody is going to game the system and make a lot of money. But it’s better than the alternatives. Martyrdom makes for great drama but lousy health care.

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9 Responses to Health care: Do liberals enjoy getting their butts kicked?

  1. golikehellmachine says:

    I’ll agree with you, but I’ll note an irony of the whole situation; all of the Blue Dog Democrats that the party has tried so hard to promote and emphasize come at a cost. These folks would, in all likelihood, have run as Republicans had the Democratic party not worked so hard to court them and convince them that our side of the yard was much greener than the one they typically played in. It was naive to imagine that most of these Democrats (I’m making blanket statements which aren’t accurate for every single member of the Blue Dogs, but are, by and large, pretty accurate) were going to suddenly abandon the positions that they’ve run on, or change their behavior, just because they were invited to a different party.

  2. jasong says:

    “It’s not fair that that a few Blue Dog Democrats from states with more cows than people can block health care for millions of Americans. Blame the Constitution.”

    No, blame Senate Rule 22.

    In any case, there actually is a way to get it done without the Blue Dogs:

    If they want to, Democrats can pass health care reform with a public option through the Senate with only 50 votes plus Vice-President Biden. If reconciliation is not used, it is because Senate Democrats decided Senate process is more important than a public option, not because Senate Democrats were forced into abandoning the public option by Senate process.

    • Michael Peck says:

      True, but I still blame the Constitution. It gives two Senate to every state regardless of population. I’ve seen calls lately for changing that. Not going to happen, nor should it. Populous states tyrannizing the less populated ones wouldn’t be any fairer.

  3. taosjohn says:

    Well, I don’t agree with you at all.

    And I think that by and large, based on administration decisions made on the economy, foreign wars, torture, AND health care reform, Obama and his advisers *are* fools, or at least acting like same. All I’ve seen so far is one same old mistake after another being repeated, albeit by nicer folks who speak in complete sentences. They can’t even defend themselves against obvious lunatics. After all the effort, money, and emotion expended to get Obama elected, all it comes down to is a bucket of warm piss and more email solicitations. The enormity of the overall failure and missed opportunities is staggering.

    In this country we had something like 700,000 medical bankruptcies last year, and most of those people had insurance. UK, France, Germany, zero. Not one. We don’t get from where we are now to where we want to be by gritting our teeth while the bandits make a killing.

    • Michael Peck says:

      Would Obama be a less of a fool in your eyes if his health care plan is defeated? If they’re making the same old mistakes, maybe it’s because the same old situation of a well-financed, highly organized Republican attack machine.

      I can’t think of too many Democrats (Barney Frank?) who have been able to defend themselves against the lunatics. As for Obama changing foreign policy and everything else, remember that the only thing that changed last January was a new President and some Cabinet officials. The bureaucracy is still in place. You’d think a President can just snap his fingers, but he has to spend a lot of time fighting to get the government to do what he wants.

  4. fleetlee says:

    Very nice summary. I hope the death of Ted Kennedy will energize the progresssives to get together and go with Obama to get some reforms implemented while we still have a chance. I agree we cannot wait another 15 years for the “perfect solution”.

  5. scottnatlanta says:

    I can think of several solutions that would make my life easier (when it comes to insurance). 1. pay for what you want. As a single male I really dont think I need coverage for any costs relating to pregnancy, so why should I have to pay for it. 2. Before when you could get prescription drugs from Canada (big shout out to the republicans for killing off that option), it was worth the ticket price to fly up there and get your scripts filled if you have a chronic condition and the drugs where exorbitantly expensive. 3. (and this is a big one) standardize claim forms. This would reduce administrative costs on all sides with doctors and insurance companies. (and you dont have to have a public option to do that). 4. Reduce the amount of time a drug company has an exclusive on drug patents…in fact, do away with them all together. The big myth is how much it cost to bring a drug to market…well if you add all the government funding and grants perhaps. Tax payers fund most research.
    Unfortunately, lobbying and campaign cash will keep most everything off the table

    • Michael Peck says:

      Interesting points. Here’s what I think:

      1. If your insurer gave you a discount for skipping maternity coverage, they would certainly raise your rates for prostrate cancer coverage, so it would be a wash. Not to mention that a la carte health insurance could be tricky. People would tend to underinsure (“hey, I’m young and thin, I don’t need coverage against heart disease”). Then something happens that isn’t covered, and we’re back where we started.

      2. No problem with importing drugs from Canada, though I suspect that eventually the drug companies will make that option just as expensive.

      3. Standardized claim forms is an excellent idea.

      4. U.S. patent law is as broken as our health care system, but totally eliminating drug patents is too drastic. There has to be some return on investment or else we won’t have private research on pharmaceuticals (I don’t think government can or should do all drug research). Maybe a five-year patent on drugs? Twenty year patents are ridiculous.

      • scottnatlanta says:

        I dont see how they can justify raising my rate for something I am already covered for (prostate cancer). I dont support cherry picking because that is what insurance is for in the first place. I do know that it is not possible for me to ever need maternity coverage (or for that fact a woman to have prostate cancer). Young and thin it is still possible to have heart disease, so I dont support a la carte insurance, just a more tailored (aka cheaper) policy.
        As for drugs, we Americans subsidize the lower prices that other governments mandate with higher prices.
        You would be amazed at the amount of tax money that goes in to “private” research on pharmaceuticals in the form of grants, CDC studies, etc. I dont know the percentage but I believe it is above 50% (I’ll check on that later to be sure but I know it is substantial to the point that would surprise most people)

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