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Sick and Wrong
September 16, 2009 5:20 PM   Subscribe

Matt Taibbi takes a look at the health care reform circus in Congress. It doesn't come off looking much better than Goldman Sachs. (more inside)

Another favor to industry buried in the bills involves the issue of choice. From the outset, Democrats have been careful to make sure that a revamped system would not in any way force citizens to give up their existing health care plans. As Obama told the American Medical Association in June, "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."

That sounds great, particularly in conjunction with the new set of standards for employer-provided insurance outlined in the House version of reform. Under the bill — known as HR 3200 — employers must provide "essential benefits" to workers or face a stiff penalty. "Essential benefits" includes elements often missing in the fly-by-night plans offered by big employers: drug benefits, outpatient care, hospitalization, mental health, the works. If your employer does not offer acceptable coverage, you then have the right to go into one of the state-run insurance "exchanges," where you can select from a number of insurance plans, including the public option.

There's a flip side, though: If your employer offers you acceptable care and you reject it, you are barred from buying insurance in the insurance "exchange." In other words, you must take the insurance offered to you at work. And that might have made sense if, as decreed in the House version, employers actually had to offer good care. But in the Senate version passed by the HELP committee, there is no real requirement for employers to provide any kind of minimal level of care. On the contrary, employers who currently offer sub-par coverage will have their shitty plans protected by a grandfather clause. Which means …

"If you have coverage you like, you can keep it," says Sen. Sanders. "But if you have coverage you don't like, you gotta keep it."
posted by sensate (70 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does Taibbi have a MeFi account? If he doesn't, he should. I would love to see a Taibbi article on the state of snark today.
posted by ryoshu at 5:44 PM on September 16, 2009


As an outside observer in Canada, health care reform in the US is looking more and more impossible every day. The more the various proposals try to protect the existing system, the more really horrific implementation details emerge, which makes them very hard for politicians to support.

And yet, proposals that don't protect enough of the existing system also seem unlikely to get enough political support to survive.

Is there any middle ground left between these two extremes?
posted by FishBike at 6:06 PM on September 16, 2009


"Is there any middle ground left between these two extremes?"

No. Americans would rather kill each other in the street rather than agree on a modern national health care solution.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:13 PM on September 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


I never understood why, the Obama administration is so fucking concerned with the precious insurance industry. they are the cause of, and apparently now, the solution to the problem. har dee har har. after all that hope and change crap we're just going to get screwed anyhow. I should have voted republican, at least they're honest!
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 6:20 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fuck it. I surrender. Who the hell do I surrender to?
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:27 PM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


They'll give you free health care at Guantanamo, Rancher.
posted by Justinian at 6:31 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been avoiding this article for a while now.

Before deciding to take the plunge... Is it going to make me want bloody revenge?

That was the impression I had.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:38 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


(I just posted this here - but I would have posted it here had I seen this thread first.)

The corporate media isn't likely to mention this any time soon. But some of you have heard perhaps that the Roberts Supreme Court is about to remove the ban on direct corporate contributions to political campaigns.

This is a Big Deal. In oilman terms: politicians are about to tap the gusher of the century.

If the Democrats deliver us on a platter with an apple in our mouths to Big Insurance - which you may have noticed they're already well under way with - the lion's share of that money goes to them.

If they don't deliver, that money goes to the Republicans. Who already had an escalated war in Afghanistan and a jobless recovery to run against in 2010. And now a de facto middle class tax hike as well.

It's not even just the Democrats' natural tendency to sell us out at work here now. Now they can't afford not to screw us.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:44 PM on September 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


Top Lobbyist for Goldman Sachs Barred From Communicating With U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee

Credit Default Swaps on the Rise Again. Soros Calls Them Toxic Instruments

House Panel to Examine SEC, FDIC Roles in Takeover of Merrill

Stiglitz Says Bank Problems Bigger Now Than Pre-Lehman
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 6:45 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I never understood why, the Obama administration is so fucking concerned with the precious insurance industry.

The least cynical way I can explain it to myself is that although the Obama administration really does want to get some health care reforms enacted, they also realize too many of the politicians who'd be voting on this get support from the insurance industry that they want to keep getting. So any proposed reform that makes that industry too unhappy will never actually happen.

I think this works because politicians are sufficiently good at spinning this in such a way as to make much of the voting public feel like the politicians are doing them a favor. Or that many voters will have forgotten about this by the next election. Not all voters, of course, but enough that it's an effective way to get re-elected.
posted by FishBike at 6:53 PM on September 16, 2009


I love Taibbi, but god, the things he uncovers make me furious.
posted by JHarris at 6:58 PM on September 16, 2009


"David’s in there -- Axelrod -- saying we’ve got to try to get ‘something.’ So, the new benchmark is, ‘Well, if we can do something, if we can do anything, then we can say we did healthcare reform,’" [Nelson] Rockefeller said. "Are we getting to the point where, if we do anything, we’ve achieved our purpose?" (via)
posted by Joe Beese at 7:14 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


The solution is simple. Begin to expand existing public plans (Medicaid, Medicare) as the country ages and these options will begin to dominate the industry. At the same time you increase regulation so the existing private industry becomes impotent. National health care won't be the Great Leap Forward, but a gradual process that people won't notice and when they do they'll wonder how they lived without it.
posted by geoff. at 7:23 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I suspect it's going to get done with a public plan. How available that will be to those who already have plans I would not care to speculate. I think the way they'll do it is, Rahm will go kick some Senatorial ass and tell them that they must provide 50 votes for the bill, and all 60 (once our 60th shows up) must vote to end debate (and thus eliminate any filibuster). Then the 10 with the most vulnerable seats can vote no if they must, but no more. And tada, we get some decent reform. This is how I hope it works. It's how *I* would work it. Forget bipartisanship. It takes two to Tango, and the Republicans don't want to dance, so strip out all their amendments, get it done, and let's move on to cap and trade.
posted by jamstigator at 7:26 PM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Don't hate the players, hate the game.



Actually, in this case you can hate the players, too.
posted by you just lost the game at 7:38 PM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think the way they'll do it is, Rahm will go kick some Senatorial ass and tell them that they must provide 50 votes for the bill, and all 60 (once our 60th shows up) must vote to end debate (and thus eliminate any filibuster).

That will be tough with Ted Kennedy being dead and all.

Anyway, the irony is now that the republicans have all decided not a single one of them will vote for the bill, all the plan to water down the bill and make it suck and then claim they had to do it to get republicans on board. But now the Baucus plan is out and not a single republican will vote for it. So who are they supposed to be negotiating with? No one, and because of that conservative democrats needing to actually take a stand for what they believe in: Insurance company profits. They can't hid behind "bipartisanship" -- which is basically a code word for passing whatever bullshit the beltway establishment wants as a way to benefit corporate lobbyists against the middle class in this country.

Rahm basically created the blue-dog caucus and the idea that he's "kicking ass" on behalf of the public option or whatever is a fantasy. They were leaking how those in the whitehouse were looking forward to fighting, fighting the left of their party against the public option. If the public option is included in the bill, it will be because the house progressive caucus said they wouldn't vote for a bill without it.

Anyway, the bill can be passed via reconciliation with 50 votes. Republicans did it all the time during the Bush administration. That's the most likely path for this legislation to get into law.

I never understood why, the Obama administration is so fucking concerned with the precious insurance industry. they are the cause of, and apparently now, the solution to the problem. har dee har har. after all that hope and change crap we're just going to get screwed anyhow. I should have voted republican, at least they're honest!

The republicans aren't remotely honest, They also aren't competent or sane, which are two other rather important considerations.
posted by delmoi at 7:42 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually, in this case you can hate the players, too.

So let's see--the insurance industry screws us and rakes in the massive profits. Then they load up those kiddie inflatable bounce-houses with $1000 bills and invite politicians in to grab as many as they can in, say, several hours.

Then the politicians use that money to convince us they got our backs, and we vote them into office.

And now I hate myself. I'm going to get my pitchfork and torch and stand in my front yard for a while yelling at me if anybody needs me.
posted by Camofrog at 7:51 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yup. This country's rubbish. Any suggestions for a new one to move to?
posted by MattMangels at 7:52 PM on September 16, 2009


Yup. This country's rubbish. Any suggestions for a new one to move to?

Dune.

Because saying "Sweden" would be lame.
posted by odasaku at 7:57 PM on September 16, 2009


We are so absolutely, utterly, categorically fucked.
posted by dejah420 at 7:59 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is Metafilter large enough to form a health care collective? I mean, it'd certainly raise the cost of Metafilter from $5 to a bit of a monthly charge, but we stick by each other. Hell, I feel a lot more confident about my ability to be enough of a non-jerk and not get banned from Metafilter than I do about my luck regarding keeping my job in a bad economy with capricious employers.
posted by explosion at 8:26 PM on September 16, 2009 [12 favorites]


Yup. This country's rubbish. Any suggestions for a new one to move to?

Dune.


Sure, the weather's nice. But the neighbors? Oy.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:29 PM on September 16, 2009


The republicans aren't remotely honest, They also aren't competent or sane, which are two other rather important considerations.

Well, I meant "honest" in the sense they tell you up front if you aren't incredibly wealthy or well-connected they're going to fuck you.
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 8:38 PM on September 16, 2009


Yup. This country's rubbish. Any suggestions for a new one to move to?

Denmark sounds fun
posted by delmoi at 9:06 PM on September 16, 2009


Could one of the nice crazy racist white supremacist psycho nutjobs please drive a tractor trailer full of flesh eating ebola soup into the Capitol and severely disfigure and possibly kill a whole bunch of these "representatives" already? I'm really getting tired of starting to plan it myself and then catching myself in the initial stages saying "wait, someone else better do this, otherwise we're going to end up with another Oswald mystery."

I just wish someone would clue these people in beyond their stupid Buchanan-ite self-serving asses.
posted by daq at 9:22 PM on September 16, 2009


It really makes me fucking sick to know that cable news channels can allow debate on their "news" shows regarding healthcare reform and not have one fucking disclaimer that their show is being sponsored by Cialis, Lipitor and Celebrex. It's the same thing when a politician comes out fervently against the public option why are we not informed that the politician has accepted $200,000 from the insurance industry over the last 10 years??? There was a time in this country when it would be a MAJOR scandal if a news organization would report on a news story they had a financial stake in without informing the audience of the connection, I can't remember the last fucking time I heard a disclaimer, can you?
posted by any major dude at 9:50 PM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Don't give up yet:

Sen. Tom Harkin, who is Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions said of health care reform: "Mark my word — I'm the chairman — it's going to have a strong public option"

Sen. Jay Rockefeller won't support a health-care bill without a public option.

Plus a whole slew of senators are squawking about the medical device tax in Baucus' bill.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 10:17 PM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


On the one hand, the Baucus bill, if it ever actually leaves committee, can be safely ignored by the Senate as a whole.

On the other, we are on the verge of the Supreme Court allowing unlimited corporate bribery as a protected form of speech, which means that the opinions of Senators Harkin and Rockefeller, if they don't actually flip on a dime, will be rendered irrelevant by the deluge of health insurance industry money. Let's hope we pass health care reform before that happens.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:44 PM on September 16, 2009


Why is it that when things don't work out for liberals, some of them immediately start going on about leaving the country? If you're that concerned about the topic, fucking get out there and ORGANIZE. DO SOMETHING. Set aside a few hours getting people together, then go door-to-door talking to people. Organize phone banks. Start here. Don't just throw votes at politicians then sit back and hope everything going well. It's hope and change, not hope for change. Obama's not some magic man capable of completely bypassing the existing political infrastructure to get these things passed. That's the kind of shit the Bush admin pulled off, and we were pissed off then. It would silly to advocate the same techniques for this administration.
posted by spiderskull at 10:55 PM on September 16, 2009


I was born left handed. But the nuns where I went to school said it wasn't good so they broke me of it, so now I'm right handed just like I'm supposed to be so now I'm just fine.


/Doryprevin
posted by The Whelk at 11:08 PM on September 16, 2009


"We might look back on this summer someday and think of it as the moment when our government lost us for good. It was that bad."

I wonder how long it will take until there's an actual revolution in the US. More importantly, how would it work, tactically speaking? A (technically) democratic federalist republic would be next to impossible to replace because unlike most revolutions there is no *organized* movement to replace it. This would make any sort of general uprising, general strike or general tax strike totally impossible.

Scenario 1) Military Coup: If the military brass were to sieze power they'd have to occupy every state capital, Washington and New York. A proper coup would not only have to clean up both federal and state governments but it would have to make major arrests of lobbyists, dissolve corporate entities and shut down the stock exchanges until some of the more harmful businesses are either divided, nationalized or just shut down completely. Even the most successful completion of this plan would likely put millions out of work in the short term and be a major disruption of resources (like pharmaceuticals). Furthermore, there would be no way to find experianced government officials to take the places of many partisan judges that would inevitably have to be fired.

Scenario 2) Seccession: If one state suspended federal law within its boarders, how many would follow? Left wing and right wing politics could motivate a seccession beceause neither party represents either group anymore which would lead to different states secceding for different reasons which would likely mean the seccessionists wouldn't be unified. This would likely result in a civil war which would be *very* bloody and would likely by won by the federal government unless the military withdrew their support from the federal government (this has happened before in other countries but the only case I can think of is where the German Military withdrew their support from the kaiser at the end of WWI).

Scenario 3) The only other method I can think of is a modern day implimentation of The Business Plot. Although I don't see it happening since the lobbyists are getting everything they want it would be totally reduntant not to mention an unnecessary risk.

So yea, if anyone has any other idea's I'd be curious to hear them.
posted by Pseudology at 11:09 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


It would silly to advocate the same techniques for this administration.

This meme, that Republicans are all-powerful while Democrats are unable to achieve anything, continues to baffle me.

The fact is that Obama has completely fallen on his ass on this issue, as he has on every other. He's had eight months and until recently a majority in both houses and what has he achieved? An expanded war in Afghanistan!

If Obama wanted to pass a health bill, he would have presented us with one - a strong one. He wouldn't have given up single payer before any bill was even prepared. He wouldn't have announced that the public option was disposable before any bill was even prepared.

And he would have done it soon, like in the first three months, while he still had some sort of momentum.

I've been hearing, "Obama's going to fix it, give him time," for almost a year now. He's not going to. He's not interested in changing one thing. We are fucked. Obama's a massive loser and I deeply resent the time, money, sweat and tears that we gave him. He screwed us 100% and we have no option, nothing, no other party to go to, no hope that the next election will give us anything. Thank goodness I have other citizenships if things get really bad - but I've been in this country for 26 years and I'd weep to leave.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:20 PM on September 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Stiglitz Says Bank Problems Bigger Now Than Pre-Lehman

To be fair, Hugo Stiglitz is kind of a badass.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:31 PM on September 16, 2009


By doing what? Completely ignoring the conservative populace? That would only serve to ostracize them. Liberals got shafted by being left out of big debates in the last administration, and to say we should do the same to the other side using some sort of "they did it to us! let's do it them" argument would be childish to say the least.

Look, I'm pretty disappointed at how things are progressing. I just don't see what his options are, though. His party is screwing him over (I'm looking at you, blue dogs) by not showing full support of the plan. He could bypass the Democratic party, but then he'd be left out in the cold come next election. My biggest qualm with the way he's working is that he is not being assertive enough (and I realize this is the same argument you're making), but at the same time, I'm not certain that assertion would actually accomplish anything meaningful.

So then the question is -- what exactly are his options?
posted by spiderskull at 11:36 PM on September 16, 2009


Money shot:

Leading advocates of single-payer, including doctors from the Physicians for a National Health Program, implored Baucus to allow them to testify. When he refused, a group of eight single-payer activists, including three doctors, stood up during the hearings and asked to be included in the discussion. One of the all-time classic moments in the health care reform movement came when the second protester to stand up, Katie Robbins of Health Care Now, declared, "We need single-payer health care!"

To which Baucus, who looked genuinely frightened, replied, "We need more police!"

posted by mek at 11:49 PM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know, I was never a great fan of Lyndon Baines Johnson. He was the son of a bitch who keep us in Viet Nam.

But he was also the son of a bitch who knew how to twist arms, and twisted arms in the Senate until he got the Great Society programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed.

Even though he knew the cost -- he's supposed to have said after signing the latter, "We have lost the South for a generation."

A son of a bitch -- and Jesus did I have to restrain myself to keep from commenting in the McNamara obit thread, for fear I'd just type paragraph on paragraph of obscenities -- but we could sure use that Texan son of a bitch right now.
posted by orthogonality at 11:51 PM on September 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


By doing what? Completely ignoring the conservative populace? That would only serve to ostracize them.

What do you mean by "ostracize" here? The dictionary definition is "1) to exile by ostracism 2) to exclude from a group by common consent" I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say. If we ignored them, they would be ignored? What's wrong with that? If they wanted to take part, they shouldn't have lost so many elections. And if they didn't want to lose so many elections they shouldn't have sucked so badly

Look, I'm pretty disappointed at how things are progressing. I just don't see what his options are, though. His party is screwing him over (I'm looking at you, blue dogs) by not showing full support of the plan.

What makes you think this isn't what they wanted to begin with? After all, it's not like Obama started his campaign talking about the public option, he adopted it from Edwards and Clinton's platform. He had the weakest health care plan of the three.

It seems obvious that the plan was to write a crappy bill and then use the cover of getting republican votes in order to pass it. But since no republicans are willing to sign on, they just look like idiots. It was just a couple weeks ago that Chuck Todd, obviously basing his assessment on leaks from the WH was saying that the senate finance committee bill was the one they wanted.

Also, they always said they thought letting congress write the bill was better then simply presenting their own because of what happened with Hillarycare in '93.

I think what he should have done would be to have a panel of experts ala the 9/11 commission come up with a plan, and put all their deliberations on C-SPAN or at least on the record like he said he would do during the campaign. The creation of this bill has been an orgy of insider dealing and corruption.
posted by delmoi at 12:08 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


The fact is that Obama has completely fallen on his ass on this issue, as he has on every other. He's had eight months and until recently a majority in both houses and what has he achieved? An expanded war in Afghanistan!

What. Name one legislative failure of the Obama administration? The stimulus package, what passed was pretty much exactly what the administration originally proposed. Same thing with, the bank and auto bailouts. As for Afghanistan, Obama explicitly campaigned on increasing troop levels. If you expecting a progressive administration, you were not paying attention. But to say that meeting all his stated goals is rather ridiculous.

As for health care, the major obstacles are Rahm, who has always been a centrist, and Jim Messina, Baucus's former chief of staff, and Obama's current deputy chief of staff. In my opinion, it's these two more than any body else who have been feeding the spin that the Baucus bill is the most important. I have no doubt that a health care bill will get passed, but what it looks like is going to be determined to how tight congressional progressives can hang together in order to push for a better bill.
posted by afu at 1:26 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


The creation of this bill has been an orgy of insider dealing and corruption.

What bill?
posted by afu at 1:32 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


The fact is that Obama has completely fallen on his ass on this issue, as he has on every other. He's had eight months and until recently a majority in both houses and what has he achieved? An expanded war in Afghanistan!

Also, if you're going to make such a strong claim, cite it please. Otherwise, as far as I know, he's been pretty damn good about keeping his promises.

I re-read the article, and I re-read my comments, and honestly, I don't know anymore. delmoi, I see your point, but I don't know if I agree with your suggestions as viable solutions. There's too much politics in the way, and it's clear that Obama is trying to pave a path that gets things done. I honestly don't think he anticipated this much bullshit from Congress.
posted by spiderskull at 1:49 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


The bad news is our failed health care system won't get fixed, because it exists entirely within the confines of yet another failed system: the political entity known as the United States of America.

Taibbi plugged this article on some cable news show recently. The telegenic female prompter-bot began the segment by quoting this sentence. Then she added in a tone of nervous brightness, "That's quite a statement!" As if Mommy was trying not to show embarrassment before her party guests after Junior came into the living room and announced there was doody in his pants.

But what dejah said. Between Obamacare and Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, history may remember 2009 as the year when the American plutocracy finally abandoned its last pretense of discretion. [Though the children's school texts will presumably omit that the anti-Hillary plaintiff - founded by Nixon dirty-trickster Roger Stone - began its corporate life with the haw-haw-bitch name of Citizens United Not Timid.]

And what are ya gonna do about it? Even if we had the energy to take to the streets after scraping our livings together, our militarized police forces would be there to administer lessons in obedience.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:41 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Don't tase me, bro! I'm uninsured!
posted by mek at 4:06 AM on September 17, 2009


Don't hate the players, hate the game...
posted by you just lost the game


This, considering the context, has to be a candidate for the eponystericality of the year.
posted by bokeh at 4:55 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


In a thread about how terrible Transformers 2 was, someone said something to the effect of "Megan Fox reminds me of microwaved food: she manages to simulate the properties of hotness without actually being hot." I feel the same way about Matt Taibbi, who can write a thinkpiece without actually thinking. His basic idea seems to be "everything is the worst all the time" which goes so far into hyperbole its barely an opinion. Yes, healthcare reform hasn't been perfect so far - but seriously? Four months in and democracy has already failed because a bill that would revamp the jobs of 1/6 of Americans and which faces serious entrenched obstacles and which will cost billions and billions of dollars when we're broke hasn't come out that's absolutely perfect? I understand his frustration - everyone seems frustrated and that's legit - but seriously, democracy has failed? I'm going to save that opinion for when something actually, you know, passes, and then you know, proves to not work.
posted by Kiablokirk at 5:45 AM on September 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


You guys are fucked. RUN.
posted by chunking express at 6:16 AM on September 17, 2009


Don't blink.
posted by vivelame at 6:38 AM on September 17, 2009


I think that if the Supreme Court goes ahead and says that corporations can give unlimited campaign contributions to politicians it's pretty much game over for our current legislative process. I think the fall back position would be a Constitutional amendment to change it back. With all the corporations against such an amendment it would be tough sledding to get it passed.

I do think that if this does happen and we have another economic recovery that doesn't heelp the average family it makes a third party more viable, particularly a populist anti-corporate party. I'm kind of surprised that such a party hasn't come about already, although it seems like the people who might join such a party are kept apart by social issues.
posted by jefeweiss at 7:06 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's doody in my pants!
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:12 AM on September 17, 2009


Kiablokirk: "everyone seems frustrated and that's legit - but seriously, democracy has failed?"

When the single-payer system supported by 58% of the country isn't even considered by the reform process - and with the corporate media maintaining a complicit silence on the outrage - I'm gonna go ahead and call it: Yeah, democracy has failed.

And that was me with the Megan Fox bit, btw.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:31 AM on September 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


There's a difference between disappointing and failing. When the political system doesn't give you exactly what you want, thats disappointing. When the political system gives you something that makes a problem worse, that's failing. Undoubtedly whatever bill passes will be disappointing - that you can call now. But is it failing? It will take five or ten years to figure that out. It takes time to institute a new law, devise rubrics for evaluating it, then measuring the effects of the law and comparing those to that rubric. Since the law still hasn't been written its quite possible that it will be moderately successful. It could even cover a lot of the ground that an ideal single payer system law would cover. Whatever gets passed will probably be unsatisfying, but the compromises that are being proposed could be an improvement over what we have now.

But that's democracy for you: always disappointing.
posted by Kiablokirk at 8:23 AM on September 17, 2009


Kiablokirk: "When the political system gives you something that makes a problem worse, that's failing."

You have a different description of the Baucus/Fowler bill?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:37 AM on September 17, 2009


Why is it that when things don't work out for liberals, some of them immediately start going on about leaving the country? If you're that concerned about the topic, fucking get out there and ORGANIZE. DO SOMETHING.

If the Baucus bill, or something similar, is passed, a lot of people will be so spectacularly fucked that organizing is going to look like a luxury we can't afford.

I'm being a bit pessimistic, though, if we're lucky we'll get a second under-the-table job to pay our no-insurance fine. Great!
posted by kathrineg at 9:00 AM on September 17, 2009


There's a difference between disappointing and failing. When the political system doesn't give you exactly what you want, thats disappointing. When the political system gives you something that makes a problem worse, that's failing.

How about this: when a political system completely disregards the will of the people, that's a failure of democracy.

We don't live in a democracy anyway so this is a bit intellectual.
posted by kathrineg at 9:02 AM on September 17, 2009


Fully $350 billion a year could be saved on paperwork alone if the U.S. went to a single-payer system — more than enough to pay for the whole goddamned thing, if anyone had the balls to stand up and say so.

Anybody got a cite for this? I do believe it, but it would be good to have a source.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2009


Here's the real money shot:

"... if you offer a public plan that doesn't systematically fuck every single person in the country by selling health care at inflated prices and raking in monster profits, private insurers just won't be able to compete."

There's the stalemate. The representatives are more beholden to the insurance companies that they are to their constituents. Seemingly, The health-care system cannot be fixed without crippling the current industry.

That seems like a failure of representative democracy to me (unless you expand the citizenry to include corporate entities whose votes count much more than regular citizens).
posted by mrgrimm at 10:35 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Corporations can give unlimited campaign contributions to politicians.

Even if it's just a disinterested devil's advocate voice, can someone please summarize how this could possibly be a good thing? I'm having trouble even finding a rational other side.
posted by rokusan at 10:38 AM on September 17, 2009


Corporations can give unlimited campaign contributions to politicians.

Even if it's just a disinterested devil's advocate voice, can someone please summarize how this could possibly be a good thing? I'm having trouble even finding a rational other side.


From the point of view of the politicians on the receiving end of the money, it's a good thing. Conveniently, they're also the ones who get to decide if this should be allowed or not.

I guess it's rational from their perspective only as long as supporting this change, or accepting the resulting campaign contributions, allows them to run a better campaign that gets more votes.

The way to stop it is to send them a strong message that voting in favor of this change or accepting too much corporate money will cost them so many votes that it doesn't matter how much better their campaign is. Which would require actually not voting for said politicians.

But what do you do when they're all doing this? Not vote?
posted by FishBike at 10:58 AM on September 17, 2009


> But what do you do when they're all doing this? Not vote?

America. Fucked? Yeah.
posted by you just lost the game at 11:17 AM on September 17, 2009


Corporations can give unlimited campaign contributions to politicians.

Even if it's just a disinterested devil's advocate voice, can someone please summarize how this could possibly be a good thing? I'm having trouble even finding a rational other side.


Well, from a "libertarian" point of view, I know some people who do equate spending money with freedom of speech. It's harder to find people who both believe that and believe that corporations should have most of the rights of citizens, but they exist.

Think of it from a non-profit perspective--hard-working grassroots org works for 50 years to build support for the uninsured. Then this current public-health-care brouhaha comes up, and this org is limited in how much money it can spend to support like-minded candidates, etc.

I personally don't agree with the argument that spending money is a form of freedom of speech. To me, that seems like even more of a stretch than using the 1st Amendment to protect the right to use psychedelics (freedom of speech; freedom of religion).

The problem as I see it, I guess, is that everybody has one mouth. Not everyone has billions of dollars. Allowing Skynet to buy up all of the available media and broadcast its political messages nonstop does not conjure up "freedom" to me.

I do understand the logic behind the position, though.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:23 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even if it's just a disinterested devil's advocate voice, can someone please summarize how [corporations giving unlimited campaign contributions to politicians] could possibly be a good thing? I'm having trouble even finding a rational other side.

The argument goes like this: Campaign donations are a form of political speech, which is one of the most highly protected forms of speech. The way to counter speech you don't like is not censorship, but rather more speech. Thus, removing limits on corporate campaign contributions gives people the ability to pool resources (as a corporation) in order to make as much speech as they care to.

Of course, this ignores one key fact: Corporations can (and do) have an essentially unlimited amount of money to spend on campaign contributions, yet most individuals have essentially no money to spend on campaign contributions. Thus, the disparity is effectively infinite, with most individuals having no voice beyond their vote.

The counter argument is that we have the First Amendment and we're stuck with it, and the way to fix the disparity is to make other people wealthier, not to censor the already wealthy. Again, more speech, not censorship.

Personally I think all corporate contributions should be banned. If an employee or shareholder thinks it's in his or her own interest that the candidate that the company favors be elected, then the employee or shareholder can voluntarily give money him or herself. Corporate campaign contributions are effectively a tax on employees and shareholders that substitutes the corporation's political judgment for that of the employees and shareholders. Basically, "You don't agree with Candidate X? Too bad, if you want to work for us or own our shares, you're going to give Candidate X money whether you like it or not."
posted by jedicus at 11:31 AM on September 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Where in the Constitution does it say that collectives of individuals will be given the same rights as individuals? In other words, of course employees of a corporation all have a right to free speech, etc, etc. But why does the corporation have such rights? It's not a person, as in 'We The People'. We The PEOPLE get rights. I don't recall anything about They The Collectives Of People getting any rights at all. Also, corporations cannot be forced to face the consequences of their actions in the same way as actual people. How many corporations are in prison right now? I'm guessing not many.
posted by jamstigator at 11:46 AM on September 17, 2009


This is going to be long. I feel like the warden in Alien3: This is rumour control, here are the facts.

Even if it's just a disinterested devil's advocate voice, can someone please summarize how this could possibly be a good thing? I'm having trouble even finding a rational other side.

It's not a cost-benefit issue, and it almost certainly wouldn't result in unlimited donation. The Court has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of donation limits for individuals. In any case, the relevant case -- assuming people mean Citizens United vs FEC -- has absolutely nothing to do with direct donations to campaigns.

The current campaign finance (and related matters) law, the BCRA, places a limit on "electioneering" communications. An electioneering communication is anything that mentions a specific federal candidate, speaks positively or negatively about the candidate's value or goodness as a candidate (ie, Joe Blow would be a bad President...), and is presented in the month or two before an election. The BCRA forbids corporations and unions from funding electioneering communications.

The BCRA was a change from earlier law, primarily made through court decisions, that held that only "express advocacy" could be regulated by the government. This was pretty well limited to communications that used the magic words "vote for" or "vote against." Otherwise, what you had was issue advocacy, which was unregulatable as a free-expression issue. Remember back in the late 90s you'd see ads that boiled down to "Congressman Joe Blow stomps on puppies for fun, raped your grandmother to death, and hates America. Call him and tell him to stop!"? Those were nominally "issue" ads that were more or less the direct consequence of the court system's decisions. Because they avoided the Magic Words, they were largely unregulatable.

The electioneering communications portions of the BCRA were always the most controversial parts of the law from a constitutional perspective. Personally, I am surprised that they have lasted this long, though my understanding is that the FEC has been quite reluctant to consider something to be an electioneering communication.

At any rate, in this case, Citizens United, a conservative PAC, put together a movie called Hillary: The Movie, which I gather did not speak well of her qualifications, skills, or record. In January 2008, they were forbidden from running commercials for this film on the grounds that either the commercials themselves or the film were electioneering communications.

If the Court decides in favor of Citizens United, it would merely return us to the state of play of the late 1990s regarding third-party communications about political candidates, and you could expect to see more of those weird ads.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:04 PM on September 17, 2009


Check out the comments on Taibbi's blog.

Is that common practice for spammers? Why can't RS stop it?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:18 PM on September 17, 2009


I'm as dismayed as anyone at the state of the health care debate, but I have to agree with kiablokirk about Matt Taibbi. Even when he's right, he can't help being a demagogue.

Note "drawling Southerners in ill-fitting suits." And "weary, gray-faced, saggy-necked legislators." Which is relevant because we all know about southerners and old people.
posted by tangerine at 1:47 PM on September 17, 2009


mrgrimm said: Check out the comments on Taibbi's blog.

I get a ton of spam like that on my blog. I have Akismet installed, so no comment is posted on the blog unless I approve it. I hate doing that, but seriously, I get 5-20 of these a day...I think spammers may be the only people that visit my blog. Heh.
posted by dejah420 at 1:49 PM on September 17, 2009


Matt Taibbi should stay away from borderline conspiracies and stick to shitting on Thomas Friedman [2].
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:13 PM on September 17, 2009


Seemingly, The health-care system cannot be fixed without crippling the current industry.

I'm on board and interested in suggestions if we're talking about crippling insurers.
posted by weston at 6:22 PM on September 17, 2009


Try a crowbar?
posted by mek at 4:08 PM on September 18, 2009


Matt Taibbi should stay away from borderline conspiracies and stick to shitting on Thomas Friedman [2].

Taibbi better watch it or Friedman might take one of his legendary shits back on him.
posted by homunculus at 9:01 AM on September 19, 2009


Rolling Stone Finds A Smoking Gun: Betsy McCaughey Lied About Healthcare Reform For Tobacco Lobby
posted by homunculus at 9:52 PM on September 19, 2009


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