Did Progressives Even Know What Was In the Health Care Reform Bill?


As I noted last week, since Joe Lieberman forced Democrats to ditch the Medicare buy-in compromise, some of the most intense opposition to the health care bill has come from the left. And as lefty opposition to the bill has intensified, something incredibly frustrating has happened: progressive criticism has come to mirror the criticism that's come from market-oriented skeptics.

So now we're in a bizarre situation in which Democracy for America, which formed out of the remnants of Howard Dean's presidential campaign, is urging Democrats to kill the bill and saying things like "the bill doesn't actually "cover" 30 million more Americans—instead it makes them criminals if they don't buy insurance from the same companies that got us into this mess." And DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas is launching attacks against the plan because it too closely resembles the Massachusetts plan — and is thus likely to share its problems.

Here's the thing: None of this is news. I've said as much myself for months, as have basically all of the policy-savvy critics of the bill. Yet the liberal left is only now airing these debates — after the bill is more or less done.

What does this mean? I see two possibilities: The most likely is that progressives are latching on to these criticisms because they're now so angry that they're ready to do anything to kill the bill — including admit what they had to have known all along, which is that these criticisms actually have a lot of merit.

The second, while less likely, is more disturbing: Many progressives who backed this bill throughout the year had no idea what was in it. They hated Republicans, heard endless public-option hosannas from their leaders, and believed they'd found a way to start the move toward single payer.

My guess is that, for the most part, they did know, and simply ignored the criticisms they're now making in hopes that they could bargain their way toward a plan that they hoped would stick it to the insurance companies and put the country on the path to single payer. But still, I wonder how much they actually understood the bills they supported: The versions of the bills supported still had insurance mandates (which would've resulted in lots of people buying private insurance) as well as all of the problems that the Massachusetts plan had. And the addition of the Medicare buy-in or the sort of public plan they could've actually gotten — ie: the kind in which payments aren't tied to Medicare rates — wouldn't have invalidated any of these criticisms (indeed, according to CBO, the negotiated-rate public plan would've been a minor force in the insurance market, as its premiums would've been slightly higher than private premiums). In other words, the criticisms they're lobbing toward the bill now still applied to the versions they campaigned for.

I'll admit I find it at least a little bit amusing to see the left fighting over these criticisms, but it's also incredibly frustrating to see them come at such a late date. At this point, it's basically academic; the bill is all but a done deal. Where were these criticisms when they might've mattered?


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  1. Suderman is bucking for a fiction award. Too bad that he’s such a shitty writer, fiction or not. How about a lying right-wing asshole award?

    1. Which part is innacurate, Morris?

      1. This part: “progressive criticism has come to mirror the criticism that’s come from market-oriented skeptics.”

        That’s certainly not the port-side critique at all. They’re pissed off because the government anchluss hasn’t gone far enough, not because market mechanisms are being squelched.

        1. “That’s certainly not the port-side critique at all. They’re pissed off because the government anchluss hasn’t gone far enough, not because market mechanisms are being squelched.”

          Huh? Except that it has been the “port-side” critique these past few days.

          I mean, you’re right, in the strictest sense: The bill now lacks something they wanted. But Suderman’s post explicitly addresses that, arguing that its inclusion would not have changed the merits of these current arguments.

          You may disagree with that argument, but you have to at least address it if you’re going to contest the basic point.

          1. I refer to Howard Dean’s broadside against the bill. Dean had no qualms about mandating coverage, but had a cerebral hemmorage when he found out that those being compelled to purchase insurance wouldn’t be lining up at Dr. Barack’s Medicine Show to do so.

            IOW, he’s fine with subverting the market, as long as it brings the sheep into his fold for shearing.

            1. Well, fair enough. But I know in my own ventures through DailyKos and the like over the weekend, I saw plenty of raw anger at the notion of mandates, per se.

              It was the point of being startling: I initially figured I was missing some basic pivot in their argument, some nuance that would make it make sense. But no — the more I read, the more it was clear many of these folks were arguing against the idea of mandates themselves. (“I can’t believe they’re trying to force Americans to purchase insurance,” etc.)

              It was weird.

              1. I’d find it hard to believe that the Kossacks were unaware of the mandate, but it’s certainly possible. I’m betting they were more torqued about at Lieberman for scuttling the public option and such.

              2. Well, when you support a tax-payer funded system, you of course fail to see the mandated part of that. It’s only bad if you have to hand your money over to a corporation.

                1. In fairness, that’s because people figure you’re paying taxes anyway, so why shouldn’t it fund something worthy instead of the unworthy stuff they complain about?

              3. I believe there are a significant percentage of leftists who do not understand the full import of their side’s rhetoric. “Universal Coverage” sounds nice to them but they don’t quite twig on to the fact that to get there you haveto force people into health insurance because there are some people who voluntarily forego coverage. I think these same peopl don’t realize that “single payer” carried out logicall would mean that you would be prevented from paying for health care yourself.

              4. I think a lot of people trusted the public option to keep costs down, so that they felt like no one was going to have to buy anything they couldn’t afford. Now with no public option, they’re realizing what sort of games this bill plays with poor peoples’ financial stability.

          1. Morris? Say what???

            Read Howard Dean’s tirade again. He doesn’t give a flying fuck that people are being forced to buy health insurance, he’s pissed off that they’re now going to have to buy it from those mean old insurance companies and not the sainted Central State.

            Like I said: The “progressives” are upset at the relative lack of market-crushing provisions here, not any surfeit of them. Give them single-payer or the public option, and they’d be like hogs in slop.

  2. But still, I wonder how much they actually understood the bills they supported

    I’d say, at least as much as they actually understood what their favorite candidate for President planned to do.

    1. What sort of insane “progressive” (or politician, for that matter) thinks they are going to make healthcare more affordable by taxing “medical devices”? Is there some sort of terrible free market “greed” among makers of motorized wheelchairs that they think that will alleviate? Is the idea that even though the tax raises the costs of motorized wheelchairs, they’ll have all this tax revenue they can then use to buy them for people who need them?

      Normally I can at least glimpse the supposed logic behind leftist thinking, but this one totally escapes me.

      1. Most of the big ticket medical devices are capital used by hospitals, etc., so “progressives” figure, hey, an opp’ty to tax capital and spend the money on consumers, yay! Meaning they think they’re forcing businesses to make less money off their customers.

        1. I would pay money to see Pelosi and Barbara Lee walk the streets of Berkeley and explain to the people in motorized wheelchairs how this tax is actually in their own best interests. (Berkeley has a politically active disabled community.)

      2. It isn’t to raise money, it is a sin tax. If you tax cripples more, you will have less cripples! Market economics 101.

        Think of the money the system would save if we could reduce the amount of malingerers via this wonderful tax.

        Actually, I think the medical devices they are really after are stents and artificial hearts and the sort. The wonderful thing about this proposal is that it got both of our lefty senators from the great state of MN to come out against a tax. MN has a lot of high end medical device firms, and while Franken may think it is good to soak the rich, he doesn’t mean our rich.

    1. Cue Alice Bowie?

  3. You’re just phoning it in now, Morris Edward.

    What’s wrong? Worn out from ringing that bell all day in the cold?

    1. More like worn out from “flipping that ‘NOW RENTING’ arrow around all day”

  4. The second, while less likely, is more disturbing: The progressives who backed this bill throughout the year had no idea what was in it. They hated Republicans, heard endless public-option hosannas from their leaders, and believed they’d found a way to start the move toward single payer.

    I find this more plausible than the first possibility, because I cannot believe the progressives were as clever as Suderman wants to believe.

    1. Right on, OM.

      I find it plausible that *no one* really appreciates the legislative monstrosities coming out of DC these days.

      Anyone who has not tried to peruse this stuff — read it and weep.

    2. Agreed.

      I find it much more plausible that they had no idea what was in the bill, given, especially, that we’ve been talking at length about it’s length and the fact that not even an executive summary has been available.

      They just didn’t CARE what was in it as long as it came with a public plan.

  5. “Did Progressives Even Know What Was In the Health Care Reform Bill?”

    What difference would that make? So long as you can *call* it a “workers’ paradise”, the starvation, terror and murder are irrelevant.
    It says “Health Care Reform Bill”, doesn’t it? Any progressive is down with that.

  6. Here’s the thing: None of this is news.

    Progressives,liberals,Dems really are stupid when it comes to politics and current events.
    Perhaps “uninformed” is a better word.My college educated (many with graduate degrees) co-workers all thought they were getting free medical care not anchored to a particular employer.

    The smartest,most well read knew the magical rainbow pony-shit only came from the “public option” pony.

    They are equally oblivious/misinformed about everything else political.

    1. It’s a lot like their views on other cultures, SIV. They don’t have to actually know anything about other cultures, they just have to have a warm, wooly feeling about them to be considered broad-minded and cosmopolitan. Similarly, having the proper attitudes about politics makes them instant experts.

      1. “They don’t have to actually know anything about other cultures…”

        And they’re ahistorical. Which is one of my own biggest peeves with the typical progressive: They don’t acknowledge that their prescriptions mark dramatic, fundamental shifts in America’s underlying principles.

        They don’t, because they can’t — they have no grasp of the bigger picture. To the typical 25-year-old progressive mind, “universal health care” didn’t exist before now simply because we were too backwards, or too stingy, or just never got around to it, or some other arbitrary circumstance. They don’t understand that it’s actually because the idea was in fundamental conflict with America’s defining principles of liberty and self-reliance. An idea like universal health care wasn’t merely rejected or overlooked; it wasn’t even up for consideration.

        That’s why you get all the “we’re the only civilized country in the world that doesn’t…” crap. Their ahistoricism doesn’t allow them to see the full picture, to accurately understand WHY this country was different, and that it was meant to be.

        If they could, they could at least make an honest argument about it all: “Well, the time has come to move away from the principles of liberty, because” etc.

        Now, the very, very smartest among them certainly understand what’s going on — they are aware this is part of a very conscious, longterm project to move the country from its ideological foundation and transform it into something different. They know it’s been underway for a century. But the rest, even the ostensibly “bright” ones, basically function as useful idiots for the cause.

        1. To recast my long comment into a short version:

          The typical progressive doesn’t understand that the notion of equality trumping liberty is actually a departure from the established American convention. They just take it as a given that “universal health care” is some next, imminent step on our path.

          Because of that, they skip right past what should be one of the burdens in their argument: justifying why the old principles shouldn’t apply — justifying why liberty should be trumped.

          Instead, they actually carry on as if conservatives and libertarians are the ones with the burden of justifying. Why we’re the ones content to let people sit around uninsured — to even, gasp, die. They never understand when we try to explain that “no, no, the argument doesn’t start there! It starts back here — there’s other stuff that has to be debated first.”

          And so it’s “you’re cold and uncaring,” not “you’re starting from different principles, the ones that already happened to be in place and thus demand that I confront them before moving ahead to the people-are-dying part.”

          (OK, maybe not the short version after all. Just the sort-of shorter one.)

      2. his experience must be false bc it is different from your experience. thar be your logic. quite devastating.

        1. rawr, replied to the wrong comment. meant for that dumb ass below.

    2. Odd, I have never met a person with a graduate degree that believes anything that the government pays for is “free” and de-coupled from taxes.

      I think you are just straw-manning.

      1. I’ve never asked the question in those specifics, but I certainly know many who, in spite of all evidence, believe an equal good from the government will be less expensive than the alternative.

        1. In spite of what evidence?

          The only evidence that matters is that every other advanced nation on earth has universal coverage…and spends a hell of a lot less than we do. How can you argue the exact opposite of what the facts indicate, then claim that it is your opponents that are arguing against the evidence.

          The proof is in the pudding – single payer = cheaper.

          1. “The proof is in the pudding – single payer = cheaper.”

            Only with explicit and/or implicit rationing and the US subsidizing their R&D

            Not to mention the rest of the worlds healthcare ponzi schemes are also insolvent as well.

          2. First of all, the proof is not in the pudding; the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. And this pudding tastes like shit.

            And since when is “cheaper” the goal of health care? If that’s all you want, I can can get you from A to B with a lot less hassle.

      2. “Free” as in the government “managing” current per capita health spending to get some Scandinavian Socialist outcome.They trust “experts” to figure it all out and think their input through taxes and employer/employee paid insurance premiums will,in the worst case scenario,be the same, but likely substantially less once the profits are taken away from insurance companies and Big Pharma.

        Magical rainbow pony shit Chad, you know what it tastes like: RAINBOWS!!!

        1. Thanks, now I have to go throw my Skittles away.

      3. Odd, I have never met a person with a graduate degree that believes anything that the government pays for is “free” and de-coupled from taxes.

        Really? You’ve never heard someone arguing that the multiplier is so enormous that stimulus spending will “pay for itself” and not raise taxes? Same with house energy repairs, cash for clunkers, etc.?

        It’s the Left’s version of the Laffer Curve, and certainly some people with a graduate degree have said it directly to my face. A dear friend of mine who was in my mathematics PhD program, for example.

    3. magical rainbow pony-shit

      Shouldn’t that be unicorn-shit? 😉

      1. These people have college degrees ss.
        They don’t believe in unicorns,but free ponies,that’s a different animal.

  7. Where were these criticisms when they might’ve mattered?

    Oh, Suder-Man, what a naive question. Partisan fucks only give a shit whether their team wins, not what they win.

  8. I still want to see what comes out of the Senate/House reconciliation process. This ain’t over.

    1. It was over as soon as WalMart, the insurance industry, the pharma industry, and everyone else decided they could pump their bottom lines (and their bonuses) much more by muscling in for a place at the hog trough than by fighting for the freedom of their employees and customers.

  9. I think we will get to single-payer from here. Once all the “healthy” people are forced to pay in they’ll want to get their money’s worth in the form of $30k in annual benifits. The insurers won’t be able to raise premiums fast enough, and the solution will be medicare for everyone.

  10. I think the removal of the public option caught progressives by surprise, because their attention was directed at the rainbows in Copenhagen. I hate to be a progressive these days…lol.

  11. Third possibility… this has all been for show and at some point in the near future some of the dems who are looking at tough fights in upcoming elections will ‘ride to the rescue’ and get one of the liberal parts re-inserted into the bill.

    1. This alternative seems pretty likely. “You want tires on that thing? Well, we’ll get ’em on there next year when the cost won’t show up.”

  12. dems who are looking at tough fights in upcoming elections will ‘ride to the rescue’

    They’re already gone.

  13. Sigh. If anybody feels like getting more depressed about all this:

    “Washington (CNN) – Support for the health care reform bill that Democrats are pushing through the Senate has risen six points since early December, according to a new national poll, and although a majority of Americans still oppose its passage, only four in ten agree with Senate Republicans that the bill is too liberal.

    “The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, released Monday, also indicates that President Barack Obama’s approval rating has experienced a similar six-point rise.”


    1. It still 56% against. Rasmussen says almost the same thing, but they didn’t see the drop to 36% that CNN did, only a drop to 38%.

      1. ?

        Which “drop to 36%”?

        1. From the link:

          According to the poll, 42 percent of Americans, based on what they’ve read or heard about the bill, support Senate Democrat’s legislation. That’s up from 36 percent in a poll conducted December 2-3. Nonetheless, a majority of people questioned in the survey, 56 percent, oppose the bill.

          From what I can tell, only CNN saw a decline to 36%, which then allowed them to trumpet a rebound to 42% a couple of weeks later. Rasmussen only saw a drop to 38%, then a slight uptick to 41%, something likely within the poll’s margin of error.

  14. I’ll admit at the outset that while I don’t believe in unicorns, I do tend to think that piles of shit are ponies in hiding. Having said that, I don’t think the Reid bill is gonna sail through the House. There are Dems in the House with a lot of gripes about it, some liberal and some conservative. Add to that the average representative’s ego and natural disinclination to be seen as a rubberstamp for the Senate..I think we might see some more sturm und drang and the more we see, the worse the chances of passage.

    The Senate is nowhere near in danger of flipping. Individual Dem House members, on the other hand, are looking and feeling vulnerable. If you’ve now got people on the left and people on the right hating this piece of crap, some House Dems are bound to start getting nervous.

    Ponies, people. I’m tellin ya, there are ponies areound here.

  15. I recall when NC PIRG sent a bright-eyed college student over to plump for the public option – or more specifically, to call and lean on our respective representatives because it was “absolutely essential” to hold the insurance companies accountable, and generally important to the whole process overall. And, of course, how “the insurance companies were spending millions to stop reform.”

    I had a fun time carefully explaining to her the many objections I had to the current legislation, focusing on key points a left-wing idealist like her would most likely respond to – in particular, the fact that the mandates were effectively a giveaway to insurers (and in fact, how this was really the only takeway outcome they desired from the bill). I even spent a little bit of time explaining how other, better alternatives for reform existed, like allowing for interstate insurance competition, HSAs, etc.

    All of this of course just rolled right off of her. “Sure it’s a flawed bill, but we have to pass something!

    Well now, here you go. And now, just all of the sudden the lefties have found such a fatal flaw – tellingly, only now when the public option is dead (for the time being). One wonders how loud the screaming would be had things come out the other way.

    Meanwhile, perhaps this will come as a lesson to our progressive friends: be careful what you wish for.

    1. Presumably they could’ve passed a bill making all health care to be delivered by veterinarians, paid for by cans of clam chowder, with Ground Hog Day off, and it’d’ve been hailed because it was, after all, reform.

  16. Imagine if a bill was before Congress to repeal the laws against marijuana and also raise taxes by 0.5%. I expect Reason and most libertarians would support the bill, as the first part is much more good than the second is bad. But if the legalizing marijuana part of the bill was removed, then you’d turn against the bill because what was left was something you don’t like.

    That’s how liberals feel about this bill now. They were shutting up about the parts of the bill they didn’t like because they really liked the public option.

    1. No doubt true, but the sound of all those liberal hearts breaking is just about the only fun thing for me about the bill at the moment. But I foresee lots more fun as details of the bill come out. Pelosi will be getting plenty of earfuls once her congresscritters find out exactly what they voted for.

    2. Right, but then they were calling opponents of the bill racist a few months ago.

      Even though they knew that many of it’s opponents were making the same arguments they are using now.

  17. If the government passed a law telling Americans at what temperature they must keep their houses it would cause a war.
    (I can picture temperature police busting into houses with thermometers)
    Yet, tell Americans what kind of “health care” they need and many of them are okay with it. Weird

    1. If the government passed a law telling Americans at what temperature they must keep their houses

      Stay tuned, Bobster.

      But your point is well-taken.

    2. It’s because so many think things are out of their hands already. They can’t control when or to what degree they get sick, and their choices about what to do about it are already limited. With the thermostat they have complete and direct control.

    3. If the government passed a law telling Americans at what temperature they must keep their houses it would cause a war.

      Uh, and how is this different from telling you to wear a motorcycle helmet, or wear a seat belt, or not smoke in your car, or leave that stupid little safety tag hanging on your extension cords, or use flourescent light bulbs, or not water your roses on certain days, or . . . well, you get the idea.

  18. The fact that the Republicans are unanimously against it makes it worse for progressives. If this passed with some Republican votes, they could assuage their cognitive dissonance by saying that the giveaways to insurance companies were the only way to get evil Republican votes.

    If, say, the Democrats had 59 votes in the Senate and the result was a substantially similar bill that somehow got Sen. Snowe on board, then the left would just be able to blame Sen. Snowe for everything that they didn’t like. Even though Democrats would rightfully share some blame.

    Here, though, they have no excuse. It’s a gigantic corporate welfare bill, and it’s possibly the most party-line vote I’ve ever seen in the two houses of Congress combined.

    1. I have yet hear a republican say, this bill, if passed, will be repealed when we take both houses of Congress.

      They want health care reform too. It’s easy for them to get what they want while letting the dems take the heat for it. It may not be exactly what they want but they figure they can make their changes after the dems lose Congress.

      1. I have yet hear a republican say, this bill, if passed, will be repealed when we take both houses of Congress.

        Rep. Joe Barton said that. Others too, that’s just the first link I found. However, I’m afraid that they won’t have the numbers.

        There’s no chance of that before 2012. They need 60 votes in the Senate, a House majority, and the Presidency to repeal this.

        It’s far easier to stop something when it starts than to repeal it. That’s why the argument of “punish them for one cycle to make them reform” has such weaknesses. One two-year period of total control can result in changes that will never be erased.

        1. Ok, that’s one.

          Good for Barton.

      2. Also note that the bill contains a Senate rule change saying that it’s out of order to consider repealing parts of the bill. Of course, the Senate could repeal that rule change first.

        1. Of course.

          What is constructed by law, can be deconstructed by law.

          If they repeal the law, it repeals the Senate rule change too. If they can.

    2. After all, it’s partly modeled from a republican’s health plan. Mitt Rommney’s

      1. True. One reason why he can’t run. He still won’t admit his failed.

        1. His running problems are more than his failed health care. It’s more about his religion. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he never admits failure. We’ll get the it’s not perfect and we can fix it type of talk. Which is part of my point with republicans and health care. I would like to see all of the republicans unify behind Bartons repeal statement. But I can’t help to wonder if Barton is serious or if it’s just talk to get elected. Maybe we’ll get the chance to see.

  19. Also note that the bill contains a Senate rule change saying that it’s out of order to consider repealing parts of the bill. Of course, the Senate could repeal that rule change first.

    Since the rule change wasn’t adopted with a 2/3 vote, it can be repealed without a 2/3 vote. IOW, its meaningless.

    Besides, my recollection is that the Senate’s rules have to be re-adopted at the beginning of each two-year Congressional session. Meaning that the next set of rules could leave out this provision, get adopted, and hey presto, its gone.

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