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Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Roadblock to Reform Gets Torn Down

Senate healthcare bill rolloutThe Senate's version of healthcare reform is finally ready for prime time. Considering that this was supposed to be ready in August, I'll withhold my applause on that point -- there's showing up to school tardy and then there's showing up late in the afternoon. It was the Senate who was the footdragger here; Pelosi was willing to keep the House in session during the August recess, but when Harry Reid caved and shut off the lights in the Senate, there really was no point in doing it. We all know what happened after that; the town hall shriekers made a big stink and an embarrassing spectacle of themselves, completely dissipating any momentum either chamber had. Forget two steps forward, one step back; August's progress to regress ratio was one-to-one.

Still, here we are. We (assuming they can pass it) have got a bill. Like anything that's the product of months of horsetrading, wrangling, and compromise, it's an imperfect bill. Writing for The Atlantic's politics blog, Max Fisher does a good job of collecting legitimate criticisms of the bill and, by legitimate, I mean that the words "IT'S OUT OF CONTROL SOCIALISM, LIKE HITLER'S GERMANY!" don't appear anywhere in the post. I won't rehash it here, since there's no reason for me to rewrite an already good post, I'll just cite the criticisms and leave it to you to check them out.

Still, like the House bill before it, the Senate's version is not the bill. Both pieces of legislation will go to conference committee, be melted down into some sort of legislative alloy of both, and returned to each chamber for a final vote. Unless a provision is in both bills, there's no guarantee it'll make it out of committee. Believe it or not, all this stuff that's been happening for most of this year could reasonably be called the start of this whole process. It's just the hardest part.

One feature of the Senate bill that's going to cause problems for people looking for reasons to oppose it is the score by the Congressional Budget Office.

Sam Stein, Huffington Post:

A preliminary Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate health care legislation finds that the bill will cost $849 billion over the next decade while covering 94 percent of eligible Americans, a Democratic leadership aide told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

The aide would still not get into the bill's specifics -- including whether it would include a public option for insurance coverage and what tax mechanisms would be pay for it. The aide did, however, say that 31 million currently uninsured Americans would be covered under the legislation. The bill would also lower the deficit by $127 billion over the next decade -- "going further than any other bill" -- and by $650 billion during the decade after that, according to the aide.

Cutting the deficit by $777 billion over the next twenty years kind of blows a hole in that whole "deficit-buster" argument. Obstructionists who oppose the bill simply to oppose the bill just got a little roadblock put up in front of their argument. And many of these people are named Joe Lieberman, as the following FOX News transcript of his reaction to the House bill shows:

LIEBERMAN: A public option plan is unnecessary. It has been put forward, I’m convinced, by people who really want the government to take over all of health insurance. They’ve got a right to do that; I think that would be wrong.

But worse than that, we have a problem even greater than the health insurance problems, and that is a debt -- $12 trillion today, projected to be $21 trillion in 10 years.

WALLACE: So at this point, I take it, you’re a “no” vote in the Senate?

LIEBERMAN: If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote because I believe debt can break America and send us into a recession that’s worse than the one we’re fighting our way out of today. I don’t want to do that to our children and grandchildren.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein asked a question anyone who interviewed Lieberman should've asked, "What's the mechanism by which the public option increases the national deficit?"

Because that's not so obvious to people who know what they're talking about. Klein explained:

This has been Lieberman's standard argument for the past few weeks, but he has not, to my knowledge, explained how it works. Every analysis of the public option I've seen has concluded that it will reduce federal, and consumer, spending. Indeed, the stronger the public option is, the more it reduces the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a public option paying Medicare's rates would save the government more than $100 billion in the first 10 years, and more after that.

Lieberman, of course, knows all of this. He just thinks you don't, because -- like his ideological twins across the aisle -- he works under the assumption that you're an idiot who'll believe anything he tells you to believe. Until the media starts asking questions other than "tell me why you oppose this bill," he's probably going to keep saying the same thing, despite the fact that it's been proved untrue at least twice now. Someone has to follow up, to probe, with, "now wait a second, the CBO score..." or he's going to keep pushing this lie any time he can get himself in front of a camera or a microphone.

Lieberman's not the only one doing this, he's just the first and best example that popped into my mind. We've got two bills, we've got CBO scores for both, but these people still get away with launching the same BS. I wish I could blame FOX News, but it's rampant. FOX should be the only place where this crap flies, not one of the many places. The media laughed at Mohammed "Baghdad Bob" Saeed al-Sahhaf as he told obvious lies while standing right in front of the contradictory truth, but if Joe Lieberman does practically the same thing, some anchor with blowdried brains will nod solemnly as if this was the wisest and most reasonable thing anyone ever said.


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Photo source: New York Times


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