Friday, January 29, 2010

Answering the Beige One...

There was a quote in the beige one’s recent post that got my attention and I wanted to answer:

Mr. President, during the State of the Union address, you said that you didn’t choose to tackle the health care reform issue just to get a legislative victory under your belt. I believe you, but can you tell me how taking someone that is unemployed, or maybe is employed, but still can’t afford decent health insurance and making them buy some kind of policy from the very insurance companies that have screwed us in the past; how is this not capitulation? How do you go from the Public Option (and you did campaign on the Public Option) to trigger plans and not see that as dispiriting for the people who voted for you?

I must call up a post I made on Ft. McHenry earlier today:

Reforming Health Care is more complicated than what the beige one is making it out to be in his statement. This is why the Democratic solution doesn't fit on an effing bumper sticker. Short of ripping everything up and installing a Single Payer Plan (which is my preferred choice – but good luck getting the votes for that in either chamber), you’re going to be surprised at what choices you have to do reform the system.

And by the way, I’ll get to the beige one’s unemployed dude in a minute. But to debate his point, I have to go to the beginning.

First, you start off with the concept of Universal Coverage. At its core, this is what we all want. Of course, since you want everyone to have access to the system, you have start with ending the ban on pre-existing conditions. This is just basic. Everyone loves this. It polls great.

But, if you end the ban of pre-existing conditions, what happens? Well, sick people who couldn’t previously get insurance will jump into the system, and healthy people will leave figuring (at this point correctly) that they can just buy insurance when they need it (i.e. when they're sick). If that happens, Insurance rates don't just rise, they skyrocket. (I believe Paul Krugman referred to this as an Insurance Death Spiral). If everyone in the Insurance Pool is pulling money out of the system, the Industry can't cover all the costs.

Not won’t, can’t.

So, to keep the healthy people in the system, thus keeping costs low, you have to force the Healthy People to buy insurance (yes, force). This is called a mandate, which everyone hates, and polls terrible.

The mandate is not Insurance putting a gun to our heads, and demanding our healthy citizens. This is just how Insurance works (Auto, Home, what have you). It’s all about managing risk. You have multiple Healthy people putting money into the system covering the one Sick person who takes money out. Doing that keeps our rates lower (though not non-existent). One day, those Healthy People will get sick themselves, but there will be other Healthy people covering them, so the cycle goes on.

Now, if people are made to by insurance, well...some of those people aren't going to be able to afford it (like The beige one’s unemployed guy), so you need to have subsidies to help those who can't pay for this crap, or increased access to Medicaid to do the same. Once you've taken that step, you pretty much have the bills that are wandering their way through Congress.

The lack of a Public Option is a loss, but there are parts of Europe (I think the Netherlands, hardly a bastion of Conservative thought) that have similar systems but don't have Public Plans. It's not a disaster if Health Care Reform doesn't have one. It's just infinitely better with one. What should still pass isn't not pretty. It’s nowhere in the same good neighborhood of Single Payer (the best and truly cheapest way to fix Health Care), but given the fact that Health Care Costs will double in ten years, it’s our best shot.

And might I remind the beige one a little something about his unemployed guy. Sickness cannot tell, nor does not care when someone don’t have a paying job. If he or his family gets sick while he’s unemployed, he’s screwed, and the rest of us are going to have to cover him. At least with even the crappier Senate plan, he has options, like Medicaid.

This is also a basic sketch of the Massachusetts Plan, which also wasn’t popular when it passed, but try taking it away from them now.

All that mess...was just for one issue: Health Care Reform. Imagine that, multiplied a thousand times (given the thousand problems we have) where every Federal dollar spent has a lobby attached to it.

If I have a complaint about my fellow progressives, it is that they’re spending a lot of time with their heads up their arses, thinking everything is simple. “If he just did this, everything would work…”

No it won’t.

Leadership is never simple. Certainly not as simple as Liberals make it out to be.

And comparing everything to the New Deal?

My fellow Liberals may be many things, but experts on Roosevelt they ain’t (particularly at the Huffington Post where they quote the New Deal like it was the tablets Moses brought down from the mountain. Too bad none of them seem to a book on the the New Deal.)

I’ve been working on a project set in the Depression so I’ve been reading nothing but Depression stuff for the last year and a half. And let me tell you, the New Deal was horribly, horribly compromised from jump. In fact Norman Thomas (Socialist Party leader and Dennis Kucinich of his day, once compared the New Deal “cough drop for a case of pneumonia.” African-Americans were suspiciously left out of a lot of New Deal Programs. Farm Workers were cut out of the National Labor Relations Act just as sharecroppers were going on strike. FDR had a more favorable Congress (with an even bigger majority), but even then they bickered and guffawed about every little damn thing. The Supreme Court struck down a lot of the initiatives from the 100 Days, being about as ethical as the current Roberts Court. There were fears of open armed rebellion, not in the south, but in fuckin’ Iowa. And oh yeah, unemployment was at 25%, almost triple what it is now.

Roosevelt got some things he wanted, some things he didn’t. (He was, it is often forgotten against the creation of the FDIC). You have to look at the whole picture, and not just your imagined corner of it. It is the overall metric of FDR's Presidency that we judge him on, and judge him rightly. It has to be the same standard for Obama, or otherwise the Progressive movement is more full of shit than I feared.

Originally posted at Fort McHenry.


the beige one said...

Dude...I appreciate that you felt the need to clarify points about the current battle for health care reform. I appreciate the time you took to cut and paste from your own blog. I appreciate that you're frustrated with the things that have been coming out from the Left lately. I appreciate that we have a difference in approach when talking these issues and that you felt you needed to elucidate those points.

A couple of things I don't appreciate: a) being talked down to; and b) being told I have my head up my ass, being solipsistic or otherwise generally being insulted by someone I'd think was in my general corner.

If I have a complaint against some of my progressive colleagues, it's the propensity to treat those who don't agree with them 100% as a sort of imbecile.

I imagine, however, that this entry is typical of the approach you take to all sides, conservative or progressive, so with that assumption, I'll move on to your salient points.

I never said that my approach to talking about the issues would be pragmatic. Of the three adjectives in the masthead, "idealist" is the one that described me. As such, I feel that my job, when I can tend to it, is to point out perceived injustices and state, uncategorically, what I feel should be taking place.

I know that this opens me up to gaps in logic, and when that happens, I expect to be engaged as concisely as possible about where those gaps lay. For this reason alone, I appreciated your breaking down HCR, even if we may or may not agree on the specifics, the current reality or the desired outcome of what has been taking place.

And then we get to your rant.

Listen, man, the reason everyone brings up the New fucking Deal is because it is the last real wholly progressive policy victory in the US. You think I don't know the New Deal wasn't massively compromised? You think I don't know that the whole thing was hugely unpopular, that it faced opposition? Dude, beside the fact that I mentioned that last in my entry, I remember that shit from my high school education.

The difference is that Roosevelt had a huge structure to use as bargaining chips, so that even if the opposition took to the policy with a jackhammer, what emerged once the dust settled was still progressive movement.

I expect there to be haggling over the details, but haggling only works if the two parties involved are equally determined. How long did it take for the Public Option to go by the wayside? And do you honestly think, considering the panicked talk happening since Scott Brown won the special election, that even the compromised deal that you describe, which had already received zero votes from the Republicans, wasn't about to be scrapped for something even weaker?

Obama's speech on Wednesday, particularly the sections I describe, had some moments of leadership strewn throughout, but in order to lead, even with the veritable sea of troubles that comes with the position, it's going to require more than just talk.

At its most basic, that's what my post is saying. Also, don't give away the house just to sell the loaf of bread.

That may just be my imagined corner that I'm myopically fixated upon, but I really don't think so.

With respect,


(S)wine said...

Health care reform IS simple. Single Payer. It will never have the votes, like we all know. And so all the bullshit wrangling begins, thus making it complicated. We live in a 3rd world country, men. A country which, for decades has marketed itself as creme brulee. I have had this discussion with The Admiral before, not too long ago, in fact. Countries such as Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland come with their own downfalls but their progressive social agendas you cannot argue. And also environmental advances and progressive policy and use of natural resources...all these it's hard to criticize. When I stand by and see the kind of progressive legislation is enacted in those countries, and then see what bullshit stalemate I've lived in for the last 30 years here in the States, going on and living the last of my days here becomes quite un-attractive. I have said for a while now that this system is not for me and my family. It doesn't work at a personal and intellectual level. I can live with some evils and injustices in those other countries I mentioned (all candidates for my family's emigration within the next decade or so); but I can no longer live with ALL the evils and injustices here...and the appearance of or rather, deceitful efficiency this flawed political system tries to push on voters.

Please, let's be intelligent about debating issues among ourselves. I can get down and dirty and call people names with the best of them. When I'm reduced to the 'Yo Mama" mode, however, nothing good is learned by either side. Except perhaps a comeback that can be used in the future, on the playground.

(S)wine said...

also, i'm starting to think the reason most Liberals (regular people, now, not politicians) are all over the place and can't reach a(n) unified position is because free, independent thought radiates all throughout. there are myriad ways to go with something. intellectually, ideas are born, massaged, re-worked, they evolve, they de-volve, they are progressive, they are limited, etc. conservative, status quo thinking is basically unified in its desire to not have anything changed. ever. and since most of it is driven by religion, which itself usually has defined boundaries, black and white, wrong or right, you have consensus among conservatives. what do you think?