Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Losing the Public Option

Americans probably won't get the public option that we want, at least any time soon. The Senate Finance Committee rejected the public option. This comes after Speaker Pelosi assured us that the House bill would include a public option. The only hope, then, in the near future for a public option is during the reconciliation phase with the House and Senate, but that appears unlikely.

The latest poll, from the NY Times/CBS News, shows strong support for the public option. About 65% said that they would favor a government plan like Medicare that competed with the insurance companies. This is the latest in a string of polls that show either strong support for a public plan or, at the very least, a nation evenly divided.

We have a Democratic president, sixty Democrats in the Senate, and 256 Democratic Representatives to 177 Republicans. So what is going on here? Why have we lost the public option? The initial blame, of course, goes to the Senate. I understand that the reason Democrats have such a strong majority in Congress is because there are quite a few Democrats elected from conservative states and districts and that those members of Congress are concerned about getting pegged as "liberal" and losing their seats. But, as is mentioned in that latest poll, even more Republicans support a public option than oppose it, 47-42%.

It seems to me, then, that this is a failure of messaging and also the inherent difficulty of being the party in majority. It is always much easier and much clearer to be the one to say no, as opposed to being the one introducing complex reform. It is much more difficult to explain what a public option is, which we've never seen before in America, how it will improve the lives of individual Americans, and what problems it is going to ameliorate, than it is to be the minority party and simply set up an opposition.

The Democrats did this under the Bush administration and were very effective at it. So effective that we now have a Democratic president, Senate, and House. Holding onto a majority will always be more difficult than being the opposition party.

Given all of this, I can see why Pres. Obama wants to go out and make a lot of speeches. He is a great communicator and he probably believes that he can explain and sell Democratic ideas better than anyone else. He is probably right, and judging by the poll numbers he succeeded, but it hasn't translated to votes in the Senate.

So, what is the point of all this rambling? I am once again convinced that most Senators are more interested in maintaining power than being leaders. They are afraid of new ideas and taking risks because their primary motivation is serving themselves rather than the American public. I guess I'm a little disgusted right now, and maybe this is a rambling, cranky post, but I feel like Americans are losing out on something that could make our lives better.

Hopefully we can get some leadership on the climate change issue coming up next, but I don't have high hopes at this point.


Daniel H said...

If only there were some way to enact term limits, forcing them out. My favorite quote from the last general election where Hatch ran was, "I'm not a career politician!"

Nevermind that Hatch has been a senator for 37 years.

But that's not a career.

Josh said...

Jake, you're losing because of the right wing conspiracies. Don't you even listen to the great Liberal hero?

Honestly? It won't pass because no one understands this bill. So much is left to interpretation that it has become impossible to get absolute answers about any facet of this so-called reform. For instance, possibly the biggest conspiracy about the "public option" is that anyone opting out of it would have to pay a tax. I have yet to see proof that this is untrue. Blame it on Conservatives if you want, but there is too much speculation from all angles about this reform plan, and not enough factual information.

grayfox said...

I blame the fact that the industries who profit from the current health care system have both parties in their pocket.

Josh, did you look into HR 676 like I recommended?

Josh said...

GF, I read a huge portion of the original 1100 pg bill. I am a stupid redneck, but not so stupid that I don't know how to read. If I missed where it specifically stated that there would be no charge to decline the government "option," please provide me with that link.

Also, I am so sick of you blaming people for making a profit. What do you think the purpose of running a business is? This is CAPITALISM!

Jacob S. said...

For me, at least, the problem isn't people making money, it is that the only people with any political clout are those with lots of it. It is barely democracy anymore. The only good sign I've seen recently of anything different is the way Obama raised millions and millions of dollars from small individual donations. This is what Andrew has been talking about in his Democracy Is Action posts.

winkieburger said...

Great post, exactly how I feel.

Laurel Nelson said...

I read an article today in the Atlantic - a quote by Arnold Schwarzenegger - he said that most people only think about their term, and they only go for things that will have an effect while they are in office - so they can get re elected. And of course, the typical response is to do nothing because that's easier than legislating any kind of change. Sigh. It's so upsetting.

grayfox said...


HR 676 is a solid proposal for universal, single-payer healthcare. It would be as simple as extending existing Medicare (65+) to everyone. The bill itself is around 30 pages long.

I do not blame people for making a profit. I blame people for making a profit, a huge one, by causing death and suffering to people. Thats what private insurance companies do, they're sole purpose is to take in money, and hand it over to the people (doctors, hospitals, specialists, etc) who actually provide health care, but thats only if you're lucky. Chances are if you have individual insurance, it will be yanked the second you need it.

To the families of those who have lost loved ones because of being denied insurance, or having treatment denied by their insurance company, I am sure it is cold comfort to them to tell them, "This is capitalism."