Friday, January 22, 2010

Calvin & Hobbes and Democratic proposals to "scale back" health reform

I get a daily Calvin & Hobbes cartoon emailed to me, and this one couldn't have been more timely.  Calvin's shattered excitement - you might say hope - instantly reminded me of how I feel about Democrats' current proposals to scale back health care reform: in Rep. Anthony "Wiener" Weiner's words, to "take a step back and say, ‘What are the things people really want out of health care, the things that are popular?’ Then we could step back in and try again."

Do only the parts that are most popular?  To win the Presidency on a message of hope, secure 59 seats in the Senate, and pass a good health care bill in both the House AND Senate, only to "take a step back" at the 1-yard line -  that would be like winning 10 cents in the lottery.  In fact, based on the proposals that seem to be taking shape, 10 cents may be overly generous.

Here's what the New York Times is reporting:
Lawmakers, Congressional aides and health policy experts said the package might plausibly include these elements:
  • Insurers could not deny coverage to children under the age of 19 on account of pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Insurers would have to offer policyholders an opportunity to continue coverage for children through age 25 or 26.
  • The federal government would offer financial incentives to states to expand Medicaid to cover childless adults and parents.
  • The federal government would offer grants to states to establish regulated markets known as insurance exchanges, where consumers and small businesses could buy coverage.
  • The federal government would offer tax credits to small businesses to help them defray the cost of providing health benefits to workers.
  • If a health plan provided care through a network of doctors and hospitals, it could not charge patients more for going outside the network in an emergency. Co-payments for emergency care would have to be the same, regardless of whether a hospital was in the insurer’s network of preferred providers.
The package could also include changes in Medicare, to reduce the growth in payments to doctors and hospitals while rewarding providers of high-quality, lower-cost care. To help older Americans, it could narrow a gap in Medicare coverage of prescription drugs, sometimes known as a doughnut hole.
That first bullet is especially egregious.  Limit the ban on discriminatory insurance practices only to children?  Kissing babies is for the campaign trail, not governing.  Maybe we can include little American flags for war widows in the health bill as well.  How could that be unpopular?

The proposals listed in the Times are worse than nothing - they're a festering pile of garbage.  If that's all Democrats can muster after getting this far, if they change their votes at the last minute because they suddenly think that health care reform is not popular, it will only confirm the prevailing narrative of the party as spineless and lacking core ideals.  It may even necessitate a new level of losing beyond The Choakley.

The point is, the reason elected officials exist is so that they can do precisely what is NOT popular.  That's why James Madison and the "demi-gods" who created this country established a republic and not a democracy.

The current crop of spineless "leaders" in Congress fall somewhat short of demi-gods.  If they are the best that our brilliant Constitution can produce, well that's like winning 10 cents in the lottery.



  1. I found it interesting that there have been some polling results in Massachusetts that give evidence that many residents' dissatisfaction with the health care proposal was that it doesn't go far enough. Of course, we have to take into account 1) survey bias (liberal organization put it out) and 2) whether the actual size of this pool of voters is non-trivial. But, it's an interesting thought: the Democrats' knee-jerk decision to pull back is not only disappointing, but also may be unnecessary, misguided, and stupid.

  2. Agreed - that was one message of my post yesterday, "What's next?"

    If you want to do something, you should call your Representative and tell them how you feel - that if they back away from the bill now, you'll feel disengaged and stop supporting democrats.

    I think the problem is that politicians and the number crunchers around them have a very difficult time looking past individual numbers to see the big picture. They basically say, "this bill is unpopular, therefore, voting against an unpopular bill will increase your chances of election." What that ignores is the bigger picture - how voting against an unpopular bill is actually a cog in a larger narrative: Democrats are spineless and lack core convictions. (And that's assuming the bill even is unpopular, which as you point out, the evidence suggests frustration with the process rather than the product).

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