Obamacare

Obama: I Hope My Obvious Attempt At Political Theater Will Not Be Labeled "Political Theater"

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What does President Obama hope to accomplish with his planned bipartisan health care summit? He says that it will give Republicans an opportunity to share their ideas, and perhaps facilitate a more inclusive, bipartisan approach to reform. But given that the White House has displayed little interest in doing anything other than making small tweaks to the current proposal, it looks an awful lot like a calculated opportunity for Obama to attempt to remind the American people about all the wonderful reforms that he has in mind for the country while Republicans sit across from him with their arms crossed, shaking their heads in stingy, angry opposition. In other words, as far as I can tell, what he is proposing is political theater rather than substantive discussion. 

Sock puppets are underused in political theater.

As if to confirm this understanding, Obama said today that he intends for the summit to be substantive discussion and not political theater

Now, as political theater goes, it's a half clever plan. On one hand, polls indicate many Americans would have preferred to see Obama work with Republicans on health care reform, and this gives Obama an opportunity to seem earnestly post-partisan. 

On the other hand, there's some interesting political science work that argues—fairly convincingly, I think—that what the public is most interested in is not bipartisan discussion, but bipartisan agreement. When it comes to major legislation, the public wants to feel safe in the knowledge that Republicans and Democrats both think it's a good idea. But the problem for reform supporters is that Republicans are unified against the plan and Democrats have spent the past year squabbling about how to proceed. The result, as pollster Mark Blumenthal put it, is the view that "Republicans all hate it, and the Democrats cannot agree what to do, so how good can this proposal be?"

Now, Obama would probably take some GOP dissenters if he could get them. But at this point, that's not going to happen, and he knows it. So the point of this bipartisan summit is actually to play up the two parties' disagreement. Given that disagreement over the bill is likely a large part of what caused public opinion on the bill to dip so low, I'm skeptical that a summit that highlights that disagreement is likely to help Obama's cause all that much. 

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  1. Yes, I suspect that the point is so they can talk about “all the good things in the bill”, while demanding that Republicans explain why insurance companies shouldn’t be forced to take people with pre-existing conditions.

    It’s intended to be a showcase for proposals already in the bill that as David Axelrod claimed, people don’t know about.

    Any time a Republican says anything Obama will slap it down saying it’s stupid and wrong and all the experts agree it wouldn’t work.

    In other words, no serious discussion. Just dismissals and “what else you got?” “Look at all the goodies I have”.

    1. And? Nobody can claim the GOP has a real healthcare reform plan. They obviously don’t care about the issue, or they would have mentioned it during one of their long stretches of control of the government in the last 40 years.

      It’s clear to everyone paying attention that they have one goal: destroy Obama’s top domestic agenda for political reasons.

      Would be nice for these simple facts to be given some space in between all the disinformation the GOP has been putting out in its attempt to kill the legislation.

      1. I hate Republican’s but if they can destroy this pig that would unconstitutionally require me to purchase insurance from a giant insurance carrier (why are you for this again Tony?), then I am all for it. I don’t care if they are doing if for political reasons. End result works for me.

        1. My ideal bill would create medicare for all, but I’m for piecemeal reform if it leads in the right direction. Anything called reform of course requires a mandate, though I’d prefer people’s health not be considered a commodity at all.

          1. …I’d prefer people’s health not be considered a commodity at all.

            Then find a way to make doctors and nurses have unlimited time, and hospitals and clinics have unlimited resources. Until that happy day, health care is a commodity, whether you like it or not. One way or another, we’re going to have to ration* health care, because there isn’t enough to give everyone as much as they’d desire.

            Apparently your preferred solution is to make health care captive to politicians’ decisions. Given their history of grandstanding on the stupidest issues and complete inability to say “no” to anything that might get them reelected, I don’t have any idea why this is something you’d want. Just wait until the progressives’ ox is gored by a GOP administration making a decision on health care they don’t agree with, like banning abortions under single payer.* Something like this will happen at some point, I can guarantee you; you’ll whine about those backwards Republicans, and never think that maybe, just maybe, you should never have allowed such personal decisions to become captive to politicians’ whims.

            The only alternatives I see are “first come, first served,” which just doesn’t make sense, or a free market. Of those three alternatives, a free market in health care will provide the most equitable distribution while improving care, so in twenty years the poorest would have health care surpassing what they would have had under any government system. If you want to salve your conscience, fund some version of Medicare for the poor; better yet, donate to a charity providing health care to the poor (maybe even while paying taxes towards Medicare, if you just need government intervention).

            Basically, you cannot give out a “right” to health care, because there is a limited supply; my using it means there’s less for you, and vice versa. This doesn’t happen with things that are true rights; my use of free speech doesn’t mean there’s less free speech for you to use, for example. You can’t hand out rights to limited goods. Health care is a commodity. If you want to argue about the most equitable way to distribute it, we can argue about that, but don’t tell me that it’s just too important to be left to the market. It’s too important to not be left to the market.

            * Wouldn’t ever happen, for any number of reasons, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about.

            1. There’s a limited supply of guns. Do you believe I have a right to own one or not? There’s a limited supply of land. Do I not have a right to own property? Food is also limited, and I believe people have a right to enough food to survive on. Besides, healthcare really isn’t a limited resource. Subsidies can fund doctors’ training and hospitals and whatever you please.

              It is too important to be left to the market, yes. The market doesn’t determine what a society values (though it may indicate it). I believe universal access to basic needs such as healthcare is more important than satisfying the free market gods, and that government exists for the very reason that certain things society demands are not provided for magically from market interactions. The market would never give us freedom of speech. It would most likely end up stifling it. And it’s never gonna give us universal healthcare, because improving the bottom line of health insurance providers and treating the most people in the best way are not the same thing. We need healthcare that abides by the values of doctors, not shareholders.

              1. There’s a limited supply of guns. Do you believe I have a right to own one or not? There’s a limited supply of land. Do I not have a right to own property?

                You have the right if you buy it. If you said that people had a “right” to guns and then made the government buy everyone a gun, I’d be against that. Same with property. Having the right to not have the government take something away from you isn’t the same thing as the “right” to have the magic government fairies give something to you.

                Besides, healthcare really isn’t a limited resource. Subsidies can fund doctors’ training and hospitals and whatever you please.

                So what are we going to give up to fund health care? Because the government can print all the money it wants, and there’s still going to be a limited amount of resources. Those doctors and nurses that are paid for with subsidies aren’t free; they very well could be doing something else. Something that might or might not be more productive, but we’ll never know if we mandate what we think is best for society.

                The market doesn’t determine what a society values (though it may indicate it).

                If it doesn’t have the government putting its thumb on what the government thinks important, it damn well reflects what society values. You can tell me that society values teachers and social workers all you want; the fact that we pay athletes and entertainers millions of dollars tells me that that’s what we really value.

                The market isn’t some thing separate from society; it’s the sum of the decisions that people make on what they value. People will buy more of what they value, and that will signal to others to provide more of that good or service. If people value health care, then they’ll buy health care, and it will be worth students’ time to go to medical school or nursing school to get those skills.

                I believe universal access to basic needs such as healthcare is more important than satisfying the free market gods,

                I do too; that’s why I want a free market in health care. This isn’t a case of “there should be a free market just because”; I’m saying that a free market will provide better health care than some health care “reform” cobbled together by politicians who have concerns that have nothing to do with what I want.

                Your solution will lead to the deaths of thousands of people a year, but those deaths will be invisible, the people who die because of the treatment that wasn’t developed or because the treatment was too expensive, never having been subjected to the price discipline of a free market. I’m not advocating a free market because of principle; I’m advocating it because it’s better. Better for every one of those poor people you care about. And the worst thing is that if single payer goes into effect, all those lives that might have been saved or improved by the solutions developed by a free market will not be, and those statistics are impossible to count. So yeah, to me single payer health care is pretty much the worst thing ever; millions will die, for a solution that won’t even work as advertised. It’s the sort of thing that horrifies me when I really think about it.

                …and that government exists for the very reason that certain things society demands are not provided for magically from market interactions.

                Yes. Health care isn’t one of them. There’s no free rider problem; it isn’t as if my buying health care means that you also get health care automatically. The mechanism of the free market exists to distribute limited resources as society wants, as revealed by their actual decisions. And somehow, I think that people value health care, which means that they’ll buy it. Which means that more resources will go towards providing health care . . . which will get better as patients demand treatments that work, and refuse to pay for treatments that are too expensive. And pretty soon, you have health care that is much closer to universal than single payer would be, and provides better care to boot. And best of all, the system would serve the needs of the patients, not politicians or insurance companies or doctors or anyone else.

                The market would never give us freedom of speech. It would most likely end up stifling it.

                Maybe, maybe not. There are arguments on both sides. I tend to agree that the market might not provide me with freedom of speech; that’s why I support a right to freedom of speech, protected by a government that actually respects my rights. And that’s exactly why health care isn’t a right. The free market would do a perfectly good job of making sure that people get health care, meaning it’s not a right that needs to be defended by government.

                And it’s never gonna give us universal healthcare,

                Just like it won’t give us enough for everyone to eat. Oh wait, it did exactly that. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t people who go hungry in America, but it’s not because there’s not enough food. For that matter, remove government price controls and tariffs and I guarantee you that more people would be able to afford enough to eat. And the ones who remain can be taken care of by charity, either governmental or private. If the government had been as involved in the agricultural industry as it is in health care, I can guarantee you that we wouldn’t have enough food. And people like you would be arguing that we needed more government intervention, or that the “right people” weren’t in charge. Or blaming the pathetic vestiges of a free market that would remain for all the problems of the system.

                So no, the free market will never give us universal health care. But it’ll give us cheap and effective health care, just like it’s given us cheap and effective food, to the degree that the problem is that poor people are eating too much. Can you imagine a world where the problem is that health care is almost too cheap and effective? I can, and single payer doesn’t lead to it.

                …because improving the bottom line of health insurance providers and treating the most people in the best way are not the same thing.

                They sure as hell aren’t. But what we have is only the pale ghost of a free market. The system we have now is like having insurance pay not just for catastrophic damage to your car, but oil changes, gas, and everything else to do with your car. And your employer pays for the insurance, and you have to pay whatever the insurance company they decide to go with charges. And you never see the price, so that $20 oil change becomes $50, and you’re stuck paying the extra. Not directly, because you’d object to that, but in dribs and drabs, and then you have people complaining about the cost of auto insurance.

                Now, you think letting the government into that equation is going to help? With senators mandating that you buy oil from their state, and the religious right insisting that you not be allowed to drive to the liquor store, and the progressives saying that you should only be allowed to use fair trade gasoline . . . and because they’re all paying for it, they all have a say. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to run the auto insurance industry? Why, everyone would have all the auto care they needed!

                We need healthcare that abides by the values of doctors, not shareholders.

                Firstly, you’re wrong. We need health care that abides by the values of patients. They’re the ones who ultimately are in charge, and the ones who are footing the bill. And they’ll be the ones who have to actually live with the consequences of their health care decisions (or not, as the case may be), and so they should be the ones actually making the decisions. Doctors can advise, but in the end the patient is the one whose values should be served by the system.

                Secondly, single payer won’t get you anything like health care that abides by the values of doctors. It’ll be health care that abides by the values of politicians, and that’s a losing proposition for all the reasons I listed above.

                1. I agree with everything you said except I don’t really understand what you mean by this:

                  “I tend to agree that the market might not provide me with freedom of speech; that’s why I support a right to freedom of speech, protected by a government that actually respects my rights.”

                  The right to free speech implies that you have the right to use any means available to you to communicate your message, not that the means has to be provided to you by someone else. You can say what you want, but no one has to listen to you or let you use their website, newspaper, publish your book, stand on someone else’s property with a bullhorn, etc. That would make it a positive right or entitlement, just like Tony’s right to “own guns or land” that someone else is forced to give to him.

              2. Unless the free lunch is a shit sandwich.

            2. You missed the key feature of markets. Price signals direct resources towards medical services that are most in demand by consumers. As expressed by consumers “voting with their wallets”. The market is a much more accurate expression of popular will than the political process, since it isn’t mediated by grandstanding moralizing hypocrities with guns. Computatinally speaking, comparing a democratic voting process with the market is like comparing an abbacus to a mammalian nervous system.

      2. …whereas the Democrats who support the legislation are motivated only by the altruistic desire to make sure everyone has health care. Which is why it’s paid for by taxing the health care plans of everyone who ISN’T onionized.

        1. Which begs the question, if getting the government involved in healthcare is such a panacea why aren’t the Unions for it? DNC sock puppet Tony doesn’t have an answer for that. Give him some time he can prob scrabble some nonsense together from over at Huffpo and be right back.

      3. Hey Tony. Here’s why we don’t want this shit:

        Rasmussen: 75% Angry at Gov’t Corruption

        http://www.rasmussenreports.co…..t_policies

        1. Alos this:

          Rasmussen: Americans Reject Keynesian Economics

          http://www.rasmussenreports.co….._economics

      4. Republicans did mention health care and introduce several bills durning their times in control.

        Btw, from 1955-1980 Democrats were the majority in both houses of Congress and had the Presidency quite a few times. 1987-1994 they again had both houses of Congress, with the Presidency for one term. In fact, Democrats have had control much more often the Republicans.

        1. Republicans give lip service to all sorts of things. Then they get in power and serve as little more than money launderers for their corporate puppeteers. They don’t care about healthcare reform, and they have never indicated that they have. And the modern incarnation of the party is so zealously antigovernment that they describe any attempt at reform as a socialist plot.

          1. damn. I hate it when I agree with Tony.

          2. Any health reform supported by republicans would probably just be more statist (and possibly socialist) bullshit, no matter how antigovernment they claim to be.

            (That doesn’t make democrat health reform proposals any less socialist.)

      5. or they would have mentioned it during one of their long stretches of control of the government in the last 40 years.

        Forty years? What a weird number to pick. What is required for “control of the government,” then, just the Presidency?

        Republicans did do a few things, including HSAs (which I approve of) and the Medicare drug benefit (which I do not, though the Democrats’ plans were worse).

        The Republicans did also propose some other plans, but they were filibustered against by Democrats, just as happened on Social Security.

        Very well then, Tony, you should welcome this political theater.

  2. As someone recently pointed out, Obama is willing to talk with the Iranian regime about nuclear weapons and terrorism without preconditions, but he won’t talk with Republicans about healthcare on the same terms….

    1. Not to mention the moderate Taliban.

      1. huh ? I thought Obama wasn’t going to negotiate with the Republicans. Oh ? you mean THOSE moderate Taliban.

        Sorry

        Continue

  3. The Republicans can go into this “discussion” and agree to every one of the Democrats’ healthcare reform proposals but add the requirement of tort reform, and be assured no bipartisan legislation will see the light of day.

    1. true. republicans will still vote against it.

      1. Possibly. But it wouldn’t even get far enough for them to have to.

      2. Perhaps, though they might get Grassley or Snowe or others to vote for it. However, they would lose more Democratic Senators than they could possibly gain Republicans if they tried to restrict the trial lawyers.

        Scum like John Edwards have a lot of pull in the party.

  4. “Whe the fuck you think you’re fistin’ here, bitch?!”

    1. “You see this, Mr. President Obama? This is you. You’re my cute little sock puppet byotch. Oh, you don’t like that do you? Oh yeah? Well, you’re gonna like it! You better learn to enjoy it, bitch!”

  5. I mentioned this in another thread, but this administration is transparent in an entirely different way than advertised during the campaign.

  6. Of course the photographer framed the photo so that we wouldn’t Dick Chenny with his hand up George’s ass.

  7. When it comes to major legislation, the public wants to feel safe in the knowledge that Republicans and Democrats both think it’s a good idea.

    Hey, I’m trying to eat my lunch here!

  8. Sock puppets underused? Psshaw! What exactly is Rahm Emanuel?

    1. Rahming speed!

    2. Retards are not puppets. Using them that way is cruel.

      1. We prefer to be called “hand-advantaged.”

  9. It will be political theater if Republicans can’t be bothered to show up with 2 cents in their pocket. They’ve been uniformed in opposition regardless of the substance of any proposals, which is why the only idea they have is “tort reform.”

    Quick, somebody draft a Republican health plan!

    1. That is the Democrat talking point, yes, but it’s a lie. There are several Republican proposals out there, covering more than tort reform.

      1. As in the Paul Ryan proposals.

        Which was immediatly denounced and dismised by the democrats.

        1. I thought teabaggers were against Medicare cuts.

          1. Who are the “teabaggers”?

            Friends of yours?

            In any event, Ryan’s proposal doesn’t cut Medicare for anybody who is currently on it or anyone 55 and older. They are all grandfathered into the old system and the changes would apply to all the younger people.

      2. Well then they’ll have the opportunity to present them to the public. Win/win.

        1. The administration hasn’t really shown itself to assume good faith or to be willing to consider the possibility that they’re wrong.

          1. The administration couldn’t care less about whether their actions or ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It seems more likely that assuming as much control of the economy as possible is the end, regardless of the effects. Those who disagree with that are just in the way, principled or not, and were easier to ignore before the supermajority was lost.

            1. bwahahahahaha!

              socialism! argh

        2. Right. That’s why Obama would be willing to go on, say, the O’Reilly Factor with no knowledge or control of what questions will be asked or followed up on.

        3. No, win/lose, or possibly win/win/lose.

          Republicans will present a few poll-tested popular ideas like tort reform, Obama will do his typical “oh, I understand you” and make it at least sound like he agrees with the ideas, and then those ideas will never, never, never be incorporated by the Congressional Democrats.

          President Obama may do well by the Clintonian triangulation, but he’s setting up his party for a fall.

    2. I’ll draft one. Let’s see…ah yes, here: Free (not as in me statist, me hand out other people’s stuff for free to my political constituencies) markets.

    3. My plan:

      1. Get rid of the tax deduction for employer provided health plans.

      2. Repeal McCarran-Fergeson

      3. Require insurance companies to keep covering patients for existing conditions if they got them while covered by employer-based insurance and subsequently lost their jobs.

      4. DON’T require insurance companys to cover people with known prexisting conditions. But DO require the insurance company to show in civil court that a claimant intentionally concealed a pre-existing condition before a claim is to be denied.

      5. Loosen medical licensing and medical school entry requirements from numerical limits controlled by the AMA, to standardized tests. Anyone who passes the tests should be allowed to become a doctor.

      6. Deregulate many prescription drugs and home tests, so that individuals can treat themselves for simple illnesses.

      7. Loosen regulations to allow corporations such as pharmacies to open in-store clinics run by nurse practitioners.

  10. “Given that disagreement over the bill is likely a large part of what caused public opinion on the bill to dip so low, I’m skeptical that a summit that highlights that disagreement is likely to help Obama’s cause all that much.”

    But Barry – I’m-not-an-ideologue Obama actually will try anything other than changing the substance of what he’s trying to do.

    Becuase he actually IS an ideologue.

    1. But Barry – I’m-not-an-ideologue Obama actually will try anything other than changing the substance of what he’s trying to do.

      He’ll make it sound like he understands the Republicans and really sympathizes. Nothing will happen with the bill, though, and at the very least it will backfire on the Congressional Democrats and perhaps the President.

      The President needs to learn that you can make everyone think that you’re on their side once you’re actually governing and have to make decisions.

  11. Promising a free lunch always wins over no lunch or make your own.

    1. Unless the free lunch is a shit sandwich.

  12. Given that disagreement over the bill is likely a large part of what caused public opinion on the bill to dip so low, I’m skeptical that a summit that highlights that disagreement is likely to help Obama’s cause all that much.

    I think you misunderstand what Obama’s cause is here. He knows the health care bill is doomed — at this point he’s just trying to make the GOP look bad in preparation for the November elections.

    While I wouldn’t call this a “brilliant political move” as one of my colleagues did earlier — since the media’s willingness to distort and lie for Obama makes him the equivalent of a guy with a machine gun battling a guy with a paring knife — it does present problems for the GOP.

    1. The GOP has had the easy life of the opposition politician – no need to put forth comprehensive proposals, which inevitably piss somebody off.

      Obama is kind of calling their bluff, here. Although it wouldn’t be too hard for the GOP to come up with a set of principles to guide health reform, and make that the topic of the meeting. This meeting isn’t going to go into any depth anyway.

      1. Adopt Cato’s plan.

    2. it does present problems for the GOP.

      They’re Stupid, but this is an easy problem. They’ll just talk about tort reform and a few other poll-tested ideas.

      The President has been benefiting from his claim that the Republicans don’t have any ideas. They just need to present a few that sound good but the Congressional Democrats will never go for. That would ruin Obama’s political claim.

  13. Obama really screwed himself over by not taking charge early on and following through on all his blustery campaign pledges for transparency.

    By allowing Pelosi and Reid to run the entire show in the smoke-filled back rooms with no republicans there, he wrecked any pretense of serious bipartisanship.

    The clip of him making the broken C-Span promise eight times is devastating, and the dog and pony show won’t fool many people.

  14. What comes around .. goes around …

    Mr. Bush Obama has reacted by railing against Democrats Republicans for obstruction – as if Democrats Republicans are duty-bound to breathe life into his agenda and, even sillier, as if opposing a plan that the people do not want is an illegitimate tactic for an opposition party.
    Rather than accept defeat and consider alternatives, Mr. Bush Obama is becoming even more feckless as public and political opposition mounts. On Tuesday, in a lame ploy to draw the Democrats Republicans to the table, he …

  15. Tony,

    Rahm Emanuel was talking about you a just a few days ago. Did you catch the story?

  16. Republicans showing up to this Obama circus is every bit as stupid as the arguments above urging them to.

    Hasn’t buying insurance across state lines been proposed by several? Guess what, it does not meet the Obamateria of promoting his nationalization of health care and putting insurance companies out of business proposal.

    His whole fucking premise is ‘lets meet and tell me how we can pass what I want, no matter how much you and your constituants don’t want it.’

    Don’t give us this shit that the Republicans haven’t proposed anything, they have. It just isn’t what B. Hussein Obama wants.

    Don’t give us this shit that this is going to be any sort of fair hearing. This is a bigger ambush than the Kennedy/Nixon debate and it doesn’t look like the Republicans are falling for it, for once.

    1. There is still time.

  17. hungerforurbrand There is still time.

  18. Obama would probably take some GOP dissenters if he could get them?

  19. Obama would probably take some GOP dissenters if he could get them?

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