Thursday, August 06, 2009

Dealing with the Devil

As a progressive with an interest in bringing sanity to the health care system, I do recognize that no product of the current debate will be the way I would have done things, which is cutting the cost and improving national health by eliminating insurance companies from the decision-making process.

But as a progressive, I also detest what the president and the Blue Dog Democratic curs are doing, at least according to the New York Times and Washington Post today.

Obama basically has gone back on his campaign pledges, not so much on policy, but by allowing himself to be dictated to by the lobbyists he promised to ban from the White House. According to the Times, Obama has agreed to protect the drug industry from having to engage in any future price negotiations. In other words, the drug lords have said “we will give this much” and no more, ever, and Obama is kowtowing to them in order to claim a victory.

But what victory is it when only the bad parts of a compromise remain?

According to the Post, Senate Democrats led by industry tool Sen. Max Baucus of Montana—a state in the bottom five in hypertension, diabetes and child obesity—are shaping a sell-out that would increase some taxes on insurance companies (and raise consumer premiums) while abandoning the very centerpiece of any reform. That centerpiece is the House-proposal to create a government entity that would compete on price and quality with private insurers.

In my view, that’s a political lose-lose and an example of Obama’s delusional fantasy of bipartisanship. No more than one or two Republicans will ever vote for anything identified as an administration priority.

Bipartisanship is useful under two conditions: 1) the minority party has good alternatives and 2) the minority party votes are indispensable for passage. In health care reform, a Democratic priority for 60 years, the chances are the best ever for enactment. Democrats control the House, have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a progressive in the White House.

Is there anything wrong with going for the gold and losing a floor vote, which would expose the Republicans as the anti-people party that they are? At least Obama and the Democratic Party would have tried.

Sure, it’s tough to cobble something together that meets your policy goal and can get enough votes. But throwing out your principles for the chimera of “victory” by caving in before it is necessary is not the sign of leadership.

It is just the “business as usual” that Obama campaigned against, another proof that Democrats can be bought just like Republicans can, only at a higher cost—the one thing they have that Republicans don’t: their souls.

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