Saturday, October 17, 2009

Last Call

President Obama kicked the insurance industry in the teeth today, using his weekly address to go after the industry's ad campaign efforts to kill Obamacare.

In unusually harsh terms, Mr. Obama cast insurance companies as obstacles to change interested only in preserving their own “profits and bonuses” and willing to “bend the truth or break it” to stop his drive to remake the nation’s health care system. The president used his weekly radio and Internet address to challenge industry assertions that legislation will drive up premiums.

“It’s smoke and mirrors,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s bogus. And it’s all too familiar. Every time we get close to passing reform, the insurance companies produce these phony studies as a prescription and say, ‘Take one of these, and call us in a decade.’ Well, not this time.”

Rather than trying to curb costs and help patients, he said, the industry is busy “figuring out how to avoid covering people.”

“And they’re earning these profits and bonuses while enjoying a privileged exemption from our antitrust laws,” he said, “a matter that Congress is rightfully reviewing.”

The president’s attack underscores the sharp break between the White House and the insurance industry as the health care debate moves closer to a climax. When Mr. Obama took office, he and his advisers had hoped to keep insurers at the table to forge a consensus. But as the months passed, the strains grew — until this past week, when industry-financed studies attacking the Democratic plan signaled an open rupture.
It looks like the President has learned the lesson here: the insurance companies were never on the White House's side. When it became clear that this time reform could really happen, they kicked into attack mode.

Glad to see Obama is not backing down. But this legislation is out of his hands. Will the rest of the Dems in Congress get that same message? Doubtful. After all, it'll only take one net vote with the Party of No to filibuster the legislation.

Do you think the insurance companies can get one Democrat to defect? Ask yourselves this: why haven't we seen real health care reform in this country before now?

The answers to both those questions are interlocked. But Obama is playing the kind of hardball needed to win.
His signal of support for reviewing the industry’s antitrust exemption put him in league with Democratic leaders in Congress pushing for repeal or revision of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which was passed in 1945 to keep regulation of insurers in the hands of the states. Although he did not explicitly endorse overturning it, a spokesman said it was the first time he had raised the matter publicly as president.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, testified at a Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday in favor of getting rid of the exemption. A day later, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House speaker, said, “There is tremendous interest in our caucus” in such a move.
Obama has to be careful here. He's certainly upped the ante this weekend. The insurance companies will respond.

Sooner or later one side will have to go all in...or fold.

Snowe Job Part 6

Ezra Klein's interview with GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe is a real eye-opener, and if you had any hope that Snowe's interested in anything other than her own Sensible Centrist bona fides, they get dashed pretty quickly.
You were the only Republican to support the Senate Finance Committee’s bill. What do you see in the bill that your colleagues don’t?

Well, it’s hard to speak for others. Could be a philosophical difference or a policy difference. They would have liked more time, and I don’t disagree with that. In the Gang of Six, when the deadline was September 15th, we wanted to continue instead of ending at that point, but the chairman felt he had to move forward. There are a lot of issues. I said in the committee the other day I still have concerns.

You mentioned the Gang of Six. Looking back, would you consider that process a success or a failure?

It was an outstanding process. I think that if the American people had had a window into those deliberations people would have felt very encouraged. It’s a rarity today in many ways to have that opportunity to sit down with your colleagues, face to face, several days a week for multiple hours, just working through issues. It didn’t culminate in agreement, but it did establish the foundation and essence for the legislation that was ultimately reported to the Senate Finance Committee.

When Obama was elected, there was a real hope that we’d be entering a less partisan, more cooperative era. Was that an unrealistic expectation?

It shouldn’t be. I think the art of legislating has somewhat been lost here in Congress. It generally just boils down to simple talking points and soundbites, rather than really immersing ourselves in the substance and complexities of any given issue. You really have to take the time to examine all facets of it. People question that this took several months. It should have taken longer, frankly.

The rest of Snowe's answers are equally as depressing and condescending. She talks about affordability, but when Ezra Klein basically says "Look, the public option and mandates would make insurance both affordable now by driving down costs for everyone" Snowe responds with the same psuedo-libertarian "Well, government's not the answer" crap that the rest of the GOP is hiding behind.

And in the end she talks about how the discourse is cheapened because of folks like Glenn Beck, and then turns around and says the mean ol' Democrats won't listen to the reasonable, Sensible Centrists like herself. If they did, why gosh, there'd be no reason for Glenn Beck to attack. Then, she goes on to say that the kind of fundamental change that's needed for the system isn't necessary, and we just need to tweak a few things here or there...

The plan here is simple. Snowe dreams of having a grand compromise for the sake of grand compromise, not for a bill that makes health care reform a reality.

If the Dems can't figure this out, then they deserve their fate in 2010.

Rush Into The Flames

I know I reference Steve Benen's Washington Monthly blog around here a lot, but there's a reason I do so, I respect his opinion and his logic. Today for example he completely takes apart El Rushbo's WSJ op-ed (natch) where the radio gasbag plays the victim card and loses terribly by complaining that the mean old liberal dominated America is against him.
But putting all of that aside, here's the crux of the defense:

The sports media elicited comments from a handful of players, none of whom I can recall ever meeting. Among other things, at least one said he would never play for a team I was involved in given my racial views. My racial views? You mean, my belief in a colorblind society where every individual is treated as a precious human being without regard to his race? Where football players should earn as much as they can and keep as much as they can, regardless of race? Those controversial racial views?

No, Rush, these controversial racial views.

Limbaugh's record of racist commentary ... includes not only a habit of comparing black athletes to gang members but a general hostility toward black people. Limbaugh only recently suggested that having a black president encouraged black children to beat up white children -- he's also compared President Obama's agenda to 'slavery reparations,' used epithets to reference his biracial background, and compared Democrats responding to the concerns of black voters to rape."

The WSJ op-ed concludes that there is an effort underway "to keep citizens who don't share the left's agenda from participating in the full array of opportunities this nation otherwise affords each of us."

Yes, The Man is always trying to keep the white conservatives down. It's nice of this multi-millionaire who managed to avoid jail time after a series of drug felonies to explain this to us.


In all seriousness, after nearly two decades of tearing into Democrats, liberals, and anybody else to the left of him unopposed from his little on-air Jabba the Hutt dais, you think he'd develop some sort of thick skin. But no...Rush, like every other Winger out there, just can't take what he's been dishing out for years and years. And now that America has rejected his stupidity and voted the Dems into office overwhelmingly, he laments the fact that suddenly he can't snap his fingers and win the universe anymore.

The real issue is that a bunch of white multi-millionaires told another white multi-millionaire to piss off, and he's taking it out on those mean liberals like a seven-year-old throwing a tantrum.

It's pathetic. While you're at it there, Rush...dig the hole deeper. Blame Obama.

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