Right about now, there is much glee among some in the Liberal A-List Blogosphere about the recent announcement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he will send to the Senate floor a health care reform package containing the mystical “public option” that is such the rage with some liberal activists.
The fact that such a “public option” won’t be so public (since it will be mostly subcontracted private health care agencies who will create and run the “public” program much like just another form of Medicare Advantage); won’t kick in at the least until 2013 (more than enough time for a more conservative Congress to repeal it), and won’t even cover half of the people who need it most due to the “opt-out” clause for states included in the proposal….those inconvenient facts didn’t get in the way of the celebration in some liberal quarters that they were finally getting the health care reform they wished for.
In any rate, all this just became a moot point…because it looks like all this will be blocked by just enough Senators to sustain a filibuster.
While it takes just a majority vote (50 + Vice President Biden) to pass legislation, it still takes 60 votes to end cloture against a filibustering Senator….and right now, there are 39 assured Republican votes to sustain any filibuster against any HCR bill including a “public option”. And now, guess which “Democrat” has now signed up with the Repubs??
Well, actually, he’s not officially a “Democrat”, since he was actually voted out of his Senate seat by Democrats there…but that didn’t stop Dems from inviting him back into their caucus. And this is how he repays them??
Now, all the Reps need is to keep Maine Senator Olympia Snowe home, or get one more ConservaDem Senator (probably either Mary Landrieu of Louisiana or Ben Nelson of Nebraska) to commit to keeping a filibuster, and the “public option” is officially dead. Considering that both Snowe and Nelson have openly said that they are opposed to any “public option” other than one that is “triggered” in long into the future (and Nelson and Landrieu have even opposed that publically), I’d say that that is a certain lock…..unless Hart Hat Harry can pull a surprise and twist their arms a bit.
If that happens, then I suspect that we are back to this scenario for the solution to the health care debacle:
The Senate falls back on the bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee…basically, the Baucus/Snowe Big Insura Bailout with no employer mandate, a huge individual mandate to either buy up private insurance or get seriously fined (or even go to jail), a huge tax on “Cadillac” plans and cuts in average folks’ Medicare and Medicaid, and either a very weak or barely visible “triggered” public option….if at all.
Prez Obama then goes to Nancy Pelosi and the House of Representatives and says to them: “Thanks for all your efforts in attempting to get a real “public option” passed, but the Senate has spoken, and now it’s time to end the debate and rally around the best bill we can pass. Unite behind me, Dems…this is all the change I can give you”
The more openly progressive members of the House are enraged, saying that this is straight out bullshit, and that their constituencies will NEVER accept this “shit sandwich” of shoveling funds from consumers to the very health care agencies who are jacking up prices and causing the crisis in the first place. They threaten a revolt, promising to defeat any legislation short of a “robust public option” that guarantees a “real alternative” in holding doen health care costs.
(Of course, the ultimate solution that WOULD do just that — a universal, single-payer plan that would simply replace the price gougers with a publically accountable system that guaranteed decent care for everyone regardless of state or status, remains off the table and beyond the pale…the majority of the country at large supporting it nevertheless.)
Then, here comes WH Chief of Staff and former Congressional Commisar Rahm Emanuel with the hammer to be knocked on the head of the “progressives”: “Look, losers…you don’t have the fucking votes to win, but we do. Either shut the fuck up and support your President and settle for the reform that you have, and be grateful for that…or we can find a way to blame you dirty fucking hippie “Left of the Leftists” for destroying the best chance of HCR we have. We don’t need you to win in 2010 or 2012..and even if we did, do you want the Palin/Bachmann/Limbaugh GOP to win?? Oh, and be careful for that committee chairmanship or your funds for 2010 reelection or that appropriation for your favorite earmark….that can disapear really quick, if you catch my drift.”
Of course, while there will be more than the usual gnashing of teeth and open growsing from “the Left”, most Dems will back down like they normally do, and enough will support Obama/Reid/Baucus/Snowe/Ross to allow it to get through Congress by the obligatory 218-217 margin in House and 57-43 margin in the Senate (after Snowe tearfully votes to bust the GOP filibuster).
Obama gets his signing ceremony right before Chirstmas, and gets hailed by everyone for pulling off the impossible…and then promptly goes Clintonite for the usual DLC “trangulation” policy in support of the “moderate” ConservaDems/Blue Dogs against his more “progressive” flank.
The progressives, defeated and distraught over getting punked again, either withdraw from the political scene or adjust their policies to fit the new Bubba Obama strategy.
Meanwhile, once the actual “reform” details start to kick in, and people actually see what was passed as opposed to what was promised, great anger in the public ensues.
The anger plays right into the hands of the Teabagger/Beckian/Limbaughian Right and the now totally distilled GOP, who can now say that Obama’s policies are an abrupt failure and that this proves that we have to get back to the glory days of Reagan/Bush and “less government”/no taxes/no regulation (the results of such policies during the Dubya Bush years notwithstanding).
The Dems get rolled in the 2010 midterms, with the Reps gaining enough House and Senate seats to become a player again (though, due to demographics and local conditions, not enough seats to actually win outright majorities).
The Dems respond by moving even further to the Right in the classic attempt to win back the “moderates” who abandoned them, while continuing to attempt to isolate the Repubs as wingnutters, Birchers, Birthers, and Teabaggers.
The Left, of course, gets even more ignored and isolated, caught between the loss of power and the “lesser evil logic” of voting Democrat to keep Caribou Quitter and the Bachmann-Vitter Overdrive from gaining exclusive power again.
There are two ultimate solutions to this scenario:
Either the Left retreats from political action and allows Obama to reorganize the Democratic Party around center-right pillars; thusly either ensuring a weak Democratic consensus or a dramatic GOP comeback (based on whether the public polls about how unpopular and overreaching the Repubs have been in embracing the Wingnut Right are indeed true).
Or….the Left finally gets the light bulb screwed on enough to understand that the Dem “leadership” is using and abusing them, and pulls out in time to build an independent movement and even a third party dedicated to their needs and their constiuents.
A grass roots movement based on Left populist anger against Wall Street and for affirmative public solutions like single payer “Medicare for All” health care, investment in public infrastructure, public education; overall debt relief and amnesty, and a public works program not controlled by the corporate interests, could very well reap huge benefits right about now. It wouldn’t hurt to protest the dominant hold of the military budget, demand a return of progressive tax reform built on the old concept of “abiity to pay” and repealing all the regressive tax policies of the past 30 or so years; and restore the basic philosophy of individual equality and self-autonomy tempered by equal rights and collective responsibility.
Maybe we can get something out of this debacle, if we really try.
BTW…Kip Sullivan over at the Physicians for a National Health Program website (http://www.pnhp.org) has done a superhuman job of revealing all the flaws of both foundation and execution of the “public option”, and how it would have been so much better to stick with a single payer plan from the beginning. His seminal essay on how the “public option” was originally conceived and how it evolved into the clusterfuck it is now (and how it too is now being abandoned for business as usual) appears here; it is worth a read.