Sunday, August 09, 2009

Because the Insanity Won't Ever End Part VI

Guess this has to be discussed sooner rather than later, when the pre-packaged riots are hammering at the meeting doors in your own backyard.

Three different sources I suggest reading about this current - and for all intents ongoing-since-1946 - fight over health care reform. First, from Steve Benen at Washington Monthly, the big question "Why?":

...what do conservatives want out of the health care debate? "Wingnut, smash" isn't an especially compelling answer.

B.A. is right about the broad benefits for Americans. Some of Rush Limbaugh's listeners are one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Some Michele Bachmann voters can't get coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Some Glenn Beck viewers will see their insurance companies drop them when they need their coverage most. Many of Bill O'Reilly's fans already enjoy the benefits of government-run health care. Some RNC donors may want to start their own business, but can't because they can't afford to pay the monthly premiums. Some of the same people who attended "Tea Parties" in April saw the insurance for themselves and their families disappear after they lost their job.

There's nothing partisan or ideological about this -- everyone is getting screwed by the status quo. We're all paying too much for too little. A huge chunk of the country is uninsured, underinsured, or uninsurable, and the system is blind to how you voted in the last election.

Now, this is not to say that the Democratic proposals are flawless; they're not. But what's striking about the opposition to reform -- at least the loudest opposition to reform -- is that the right has chosen to completely ignore the actual flaws in the plan(s) and focus on imaginary, delusional nonsense. (ADDED NOTE: for example this meme about Death Panels being set up to euthanize the elderly and genetically infirm.)

So why are far-right activists so apoplectic? Why would people who stand to benefit from health care reform literally take to the streets and threaten violence in opposition to legislation that will help them and their families? President Obama supports an approach to health care reform that emphasizes competition and choice, doesn't increase the deficit, and wouldn't raise middle class taxes ... and conservatives are comparing the plan to the Nazi Holocaust?

B.A.'s confusion is understandable. I don't get it, either...

Benen tries to examine the protesters, identifying five different groups: The Greedy (a small group who profits from the broken system, and the ones by the by paying for all the protesters to get bussed in); The Partisans (politicos more obsessed with political victories than doing the right thing, basically they want Obama To Fail even if it means the nation suffers); The Tin-Foil Hats (the crazies terrified of anything they think of as 'foreign,' 'Socialist,' what have you, basically the Birthers who care more about Obama's birthplace than the REAL F-CKING WORLD); The Dupes (the great uninformed who believe whatever the other groups say, no matter the lies being told to them, basically anyone watching FOX Not-News); and the Wonks (the five or six conservative reformers who actually have some ideas on health care reform but of whom no one is paying any attention, basically people you haven't heard of because no one invites them onto the Sunday talk shows - the Wonks don't yell enough).

Benen's examination of the groups shows that the opposition is mostly the Partisans riling up the Dupes and the Tin-Foilers while the Greedy foot the collective bill: that it's not really rioting in support of anything, it's simply rioting for the sake of intimidation and a belief it would weaken Obama and the Dems come the 2010 Midterms.

The second link is to David Frum's article, followed by a third link to Digby's Hullabaloo response to Frum:

What would it mean to “win” the healthcare fight?

For some, the answer is obvious: beat back the president’s proposals, defeat the House bill, stand back and wait for 1994 to repeat itself. (ADDED: The Partisan view)

The problem is that if we do that… we’ll still have the present healthcare system. Meaning that we’ll have (1) flat-lining wages, (2) exploding Medicaid and Medicare costs and thus immense pressure for future tax increases, (3) small businesses and self-employed individuals priced out of the insurance market, and (4) a lot of uninsured or underinsured people imposing costs on hospitals and local governments.

We’ll have entrenched and perpetuated some of the most irrational features of a hugely costly and under-performing system, at the expense of entrepreneurs and risk-takers, exactly the people the Republican party exists to champion.

Not a good outcome.

Even worse will be the way this fight is won: basically by convincing older Americans already covered by a government health program, Medicare, that Obama’s reform plans will reduce their coverage. In other words, we’ll have sent a powerful message to the entire political system to avoid at all hazards any tinkering with Medicare except to make it more generous for the already covered.

If we win, we’ll trumpet the success as a great triumph for liberty and individualism. Really though it will be a triumph for inertia. To the extent that anybody in the conservative world still aspires to any kind of future reform and improvement of America’s ossified government, that should be a very ashy victory indeed.

Frum seems to be operating under the illusion that the Republicans will be blamed for this, which I think is unlikely. Obama will be held responsible for the failure, just as Clinton was. it will be seen as a failure of legislative tactics ---- that's how liberal politics is discussed... (snippage)

Frum is fretting over the actual repercussions of failing to reform the health care system, which is completely beside the point for his fellow Republicans. Health care has officially joined the "faith based" constellation of issues, which includes global warming and evolution. They are now simply denying there is a crisis at all. And if there is one, there is simply no solution other than prayer and dogmatic belief in American exceptionalism and free markets.

The next couple of weeks will tell us whether the Republican obstructionism will result in backlash and give the progressives some room to maneuver. It's always possible the wingnuts have succumbed to hubris again --- having Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck as the spokesmen for their obstructionism might end up being a mistake similar to having Newtie push the government shut-down back in 1995. They often overreach and the hysterical, far right rhetoric people are seeing at these Town Halls may not resonate in the rest of the country quite the way the villagers think it will. We'll see.

But regardless of what actually happens, if health reform fails, I believe that when the history is written it will be seen as a Democratic failure. If you put an issue on the table and are given a mandate to enact it, you are blamed for its failure, particularly when the whole promise of your campaign was based upon the magical notion that you would change the very nature of the political system. Sadly, if that happens, the likely result will not be a newly invigorated, liberal president with lessons learned and a fresh approach. It will be a chastened and weakened president newly committed to the status quo, just as the Village ordered from the beginning. And that, in the end, may be what was being promised all along: symbolism over substance. It wouldn't be the first time...

I keep looking at the world, seeing nearly every other Capitalist nation out there with a universal health care system and wonder why we can't see what the Brits and French and Germans and Japanese see. I keep watching the Far Right take offense at ANYTHING that doesn't have their royal seal of approval, and watching them express themselves in ways far more ignorant and violent than the Far Left has done in the last 20 years.

Part of me is thinking "The Democrats can't be THAT stupid, can they? They have to see that all this town-hall rioting is just the Republicans trying to bully them into doing something that 76 percent of the American population wants. They can't be going back to DC thinking 'gosh, Americans don't want health care reform, we'll just drop the Public Option and go back to the status quo and let the billion-dollar health industry rake in more dough at the expense of everyone else'? We're still going to get some halfway decent health care package that will reduce costs and improve basic care access and cover everyone, right?"

...Yeah, my pessimistic side is groaning right about now...

Meanwhile, expect the town hall meetings nationwide to be as much fun as the one we just had in Tampa... Seriously, they're getting death threats in Missouri and the rioters are Twittering about packing their firearms...

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