Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pass the damn bill (#6) - Paul Begala & Andy Stern

=> Paul Begala (January 24/2010):
In an op-ed several months ago, I advised my fellow progressive Democrats to support health care reform even if it fails to include some of their cherished goals.

Now I'm begging.

I understand and share the frustrations of progressives. They compromised before the debate even began, giving up on Medicare for all and settling for its weak cousin, a public option. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party has been everything that the reactionary wing of the Republican Party has not: open-minded, pragmatic and respectful of the views of others. The Republicans' obstinacy has been rewarded by the voters, who sent Scott Brown to the Senate as the candidate of change who promised to defend the status quo on health care. So why do I urge further flexibility? Because failure is not an option and surrender is not a strategy.

I am convinced that Democrats lost the Congress in 1994 because we failed to pass health care. And yet today many Democrats are worried that they will lose the Congress if they pass health care. They are wrong. Here's why:
[JW: Read his arguments, which make sense, HERE.]
[....] Health care is a uniquely complicated issue in Massachusetts because the state already has near-universal coverage (which Scott Brown voted for). [....] As Brown said in a debate, "We have insurance here in Massachusetts. I'm not going to be subsidizing what other states have failed to do." That's a far cry from outright rejection of health reform. In fact, if there's a lesson to be learned from Massachusetts, it is that once enacted, comprehensive reform quickly becomes broadly popular and politically impregnable. A poll co-sponsored by the Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University showed that 68 percent of Massachusetts voters support their state's health care reform -- including a majority of those who voted for Scott Brown. [JW: see here]

This is our last, best shot. Up to 40,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance. 40,000: a 9/11-size death toll every thirteen days. After our failure in 1994 it took 16 years before another president and Congress were bold enough to take on the challenge. If we fail now it won't be just 16 years -- or even 36. If we fail now, I doubt anyone old enough to read this column will live long enough to see universal health insurance.

If Democrats fail to deliver on a basic campaign promise, it will only heighten voters' anger and deepen their cynicism. But health reform that actually protects consumers and controls costs will soon join Medicare -- and the Massachusetts reform -- as unassailable accomplishments.

[JW: Which, of course, is precisely what frightens Republicans and other opponents of health care reform. Once people get this, they won't want to give it up--as Bill Kristol warned back in 1993.]
=>Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (January 26, 2010):
"Take the Senate bill as it is as the foundation to find ways whether through reconciliation or other legislative processes to try and fix the things that a lot of people think need to be fixed both now in the House and the Senate," Stern said. "I think going through reconciliation we don't have Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman to kick around anymore. So the 58 other senators get to decide something they maybe didn't get to decide the first time around because of the hostage-taking that is going on in the Senate." [....]

Stern's lament of the Democratic Party's inability to get legislative action done, even with its supermajority, was shared by his co-panelist and labor colleague, Anna Burger, head of Change to Win. [....] "If Congress does not act, then they will lose. There is no way that inaction will get us anywhere... 2010 will be a terrible election. People in fact voted for change, and if they haven't gotten change then they will go back and vote for the next change."

--Jeff Weintraub