Monday, January 25, 2010

Pass the damn bill (#2) - Paul Krugman

This collection of items from Paul Krugman's New York Times blog--starting on the day of the Massachusetts election, when the result was not yet known but widely anticipated--adds up to an argument that requires no further commentary:

"Just do it — pass health care. Then move on to confronting the bankers."

--Jeff Weintraub

Plan B (January 19, 2010)

It sounds as if House Democrats — or at least their leadership — are prepared to pass the Senate bill if, as expected, they lose today’s special election.

That’s a shame: the House was in the process of making the bill better. But as Ezra Klein says, they should do what’s necessary — not as a matter of political advantage, although it’s probably better for them even in that sense, but because it’s the right thing to do. Imperfect as it is, the Senate bill would save tens of thousands of lives, save many Americans from financial catastrophe, and partially redeem us from the shame of being the only advanced nation without some kind of universal care.

The Choice (January 22, 2010)

So, House Democrats have a choice: do they pass the Senate bill, or do they go back to the drawing board and spend several months cobbling together a plan that’s worse in almost every dimension, generating thousands of stories about hapless Democrats — and almost surely find that Senate Republicans block the new plan, too.

Guess which way they seem to be leaning.

Maybe they’ll come to their senses over the next few days. It would be really helpful, of course, if Democrats actually had a party leader — you know, the president or someone.

One-Legged Stools (January 21, 2010)

As things fall apart on the health care front, one thing you keep hearing is the idea of doing reform in pieces — start with something popular, like banning discrimination on the basis of medical history, then do the hard stuff later.

I have another proposal: let’s save money by making stools and chairs with only one leg.

As I’ve written before, the pieces of reform are interdependent. You can’t do one or two pieces on their own. Ban discrimination based on medical history, and you get an adverse-selection death spiral, in which healthy people opt out and premiums soar. You can’t solve that without both requiring that healthy people buy insurance and helping those with lower incomes afford the premiums. In short, you basically end up with the Senate bill.

Hasn’t anyone been paying attention here?

Intimations Of Sanity (January 23, 2010)

Politico reports that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are working on a strategy that just might save health care: get the House to pass the Senate bill, while the Senate uses reconciliation — a process that avoids the need for a 60-vote supermajority — to address some of the concerns of House Democrats.

That’s very good news.

Of course, if they do this, there will be howls of protest — they’re defying the will of the 41-59 Republican majority in the Senate! This violates the spirit of the Constitution the very strange rules the Senate has imposed on itself. But I hope Democrats have learned by now that the public doesn’t know or care about such things.

Right now, the Democrats are, like it or not, the party of health reform. They can either be the party that passed reform, and at least stands for something, or the party that tried to get health reform but proved itself incompetent and weak in the process.

They need to pull this out.

Fools On The Hill (January 19, 2010)

So, will health care reform fail because a lazy candidate didn’t bother campaigning and didn’t know her Red Sox? (Yes, there were national factors at work, but Nate Silver makes it clear that a better candidate would have won easily). It’s up to the House, which can and should just pass the Senate bill.

Unfortunately, quite a few representatives seem to be in panic mode. And that’s just dumb.

First of all, the strategy of playing Republican-lite, and hoping that you’ll be left alone, has been tried — and failed disastrously. Remember 2002?

Second, David Axelrod is right: the campaign against HCR has been based on lies, and the only way to refute those lies (and stop them from being rolled out again and again) is to pass the thing, and let people see it in action. It’s too bad startup is delayed under the Senate bill — but even so, that’s what you have to do.

Finally, Democrats have to realize that politics isn’t just about where you stand on issues, it’s about perceptions of a party’s character. The rap on Dems has always been that they’re wimps — and giving in on such a central part of the party’s agenda, emerging from two years in power with nothing major to show for it, will play right into that perception.

Just do it — pass health care. Then move on to confronting the bankers.

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