Sunday, December 20, 2009

Last Call

Ms. "I quit being Governor cause it's hard" may have been a loser all year, but she won one thing:'s Lie of the Year!
Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest.

"Death panels."

The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn't made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.

Her assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, "Death panels? Really?"

The editors of, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times, have chosen it as our inaugural "Lie of the Year."
What made death panels such a pernicious, evil lie was because it assumed the American people weren't already being subject to faceless bureaucrats deciding if they got treatment, when your average health insurance company gets to decide that for thousands of Americans every year.

And it goes back to Jon Chait's argument from earlier in the day that the best argument the Republicans could literally come up with to oppose health care reform was Palin's homespun idiocy.  Since it was so easily annihilated by anyone who ever had experienced a family member or friend who had a denied insurance claim, the entire attack backfired.  The American people realized the Republicans were lying to them yet again, and they remembered why they voted for the other guys in 2008.

The final straw I think was the Republicans telling America the status quo was better when millions of Americans lost their insurance this year due to the insurance companies.

Let It Snowe

Maine GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe is out on Obamacare.

...nobody cares, of course.  She had her chance, but it means Republicans will line up against health care reform...every single one of them.

So be it.

Reconciling The Truth

Nate Silver makes the argument for why passing health care reform under budget reconciliation was never an option as he looks at FDL's Jon Walker's assumption that Dems should go that route.
Nor have we discussed the political fallout from using reconciliation, which in my view could be enormous:
The Bush tax cuts were popular; health care is not. Moreover, the filibuster actually polls well, so use of [reconciliation] would be unpopular. If you intersect an unpopular policy with an unpopular process, I don't know what you're going to get, but the downside risk would seem to be fairly profound -- as in, I'd take even money at that point that the Democrats would lose the House.

Also, tax cuts are a relatively straightforward application of the reconciliation process -- health care is not, and the resulting procedural debate would last weeks if not months, giving the public plenty of time to stew over it.
None of this is to say that the reconciliation strategies are impossible. They might work. But the hurdles are much more significant than what Jon has implied, and reconciliation might also "work" but produce a worse, perhaps much worse, policy outcome. Even if one were willing to ignore the political fallout, it would be a fairly poor strategy. And when the consequences for the Democrats' electoral fortunes are taken into account -- as well as their compromised ability to pass policies like a jobs bill and financial reform next year -- it seems like a very poor risk.

My impressions of the reconciliation process, just like my impressions of the health care bill itself, are formed based on a combination of extensive reading in an area in with which I'm not so familiar (Senate procedure), coupled the expertise I've developed in politics and public opinion. It's a view that reflects the "consensus" that most others who have earnestly considered the issue have come to.

Maybe my view -- the broad consensus view -- is wrong. I'm sure the kill-billers will be ready to accuse me of being trapped within the confines of Beltway conventional wisdom (this would be an odd accusation, since 538 is a completely independent blog, is based in Brooklyn rather than Washington, and does not rely to any material extent on "insider" access). But I have not seen a robust and persuasive attempt to rebut the arguments that I and others have made about reconciliation. And I think, indeed, it forms something of a crutch: a convenient excuse not to have to commit to the question of whether the Senate's bill really is worse than the status quo, and a vehicle to direct one's anger at the White House, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and the rest of the usual suspects, instead of getting beyond it and working to facilitate the best policy.

There's a segment out there of the Left that's always hated Barack Obama.  But then again, you can't please everybody.

Zandar's Thought Of the Day

This week's Bobblespeak Translations are instant classics.

I've Come To Praise You Like I Should

Jon Chait argues that the health care reform legislation would not have been possible it if wasn't for...the Republicans, who shot themselves in the foot and forced the Dems into passing a plan with no Republican support, instead of turning it into a large bi-partisan affair where all the Republicans could have gotten their cut and the bill would have been much smaller.
And so Democrats found themselves all alone. It seems to be around August when the party realized that bipartisan dealmaking was not at hand, and it had to pass a bill or face the same calamity as it did in 1994. Politically speaking, there were no good options left, but passing a bill offered the least bad option. The unified partisan front of the Republican Party forced the Democrats to adopt their own unified partisan front, something that appeared impossible as recently as this last summer. This passage from the New York Times is telling:
Faced with Republican opposition that many Democrats saw as driven more by politics than policy disagreements, Senate Democrats in recent days gained new determination to bridge differences among themselves and prevail over the opposition.

Lawmakers who attended a private meeting between Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats at the White House on Tuesday pointed to remarks there by Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, as providing some new inspiration.

Mr. Bayh said that the health care measure was the kind of public policy he had come to Washington to work on, according to officials who attended the session, and that he did not want to see the satisfied looks on the faces of Republican leaders if they succeeded in blocking the measure.
Evan Bayh! When you've turned the somnolent, relentlessly centrist Indiana Senator into a raging partisan, you've really done something. The Republicans eschewed a halfway compromise and put all their chips on an all or nothing campaign to defeat health care and Obama's presidency. It was an audacious gamble. They lost. In the end, they'll walk away with nothing. The Republicans may gain some more seats in 2010 by their total obstruction, but the substantive policy defeat they've been dealt will last for decades.
It's nice to think the Party of No lost this round, but unless improvements are made to the plan within months of passing it, it's the Democrats who are going to be in trouble.

David Axelrod's indication today that re-importation will be put back in this measure later is a start.

Right Fight, Wrong Target

Progressive action groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee are going after Senators on the left, wanting them to scuttle the bill for lack of a real public option.
PCCC sent an email to members in states with progressive senators and asks if they would support "pressuring" those senators to be stronger during the final conference negotiation period between the House and Senate.
If members say yes, it could result in a new PCCC campaign with television and online ads pressuring senators to "block any final bill without a public option."
From the email:
The House has a public option in their bill, but advocates for the Senate bill will have all the power in negotiations unless progressive senators like Russ Feingold stand up now and publicly threaten to block a final bill unless it has a public option. But when push came to shove the last couple weeks, where was Feingold? Progressive senators allowed themselves to get rolled by Lieberman -- but it's not too late to fight back.
A similar email went to members in Vermont, Ohio and Minnesota to target Sens. Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown and Al Franken. Earlier in the health care debate, PCCC went after President Obama on the public option.
Really?  We're going to dump Al Franken and Russ Feingold over the edge for not being progressive enough?

Didn't anybody learn the lessons of the 2000 election, or do we need President Palin and a Teabagger Congress to finish destroying America for good first?  Because that's the "unintended consequences" of killing this from the left.
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