Friday, February 26, 2010

Krugman: Afflicting the Afflicted, GOP Makes The Case


"Grand Obstructionist Oppressive Party" Makes The Case For Simple Majority
Health Care Vote

By Bill Scher February 25, 2010

During the lunch break of today's health care summit, C-Span 3 took two
calls from Republican voters appalled at what they saw from their own
party's congressional leaders.

One praised President Obama for trying to tackle a serious problem, while
lamenting the congresspeople in his own party who clearly would not "meet
the President halfway."

The second was even angrier, saying he was "ashamed" of his party's
congresspeople and that the Republican Party acronym of G.O.P. should no
longer mean "Grand Old Party" but "Grand Obstructionist Oppressive Party."
(G.O.O.P is kinda catchy.)

Literally no Republican attending the summit made the slightest attempt to
seek common ground, despite repeated openings from the President.

And the obstructionist spectacle apparently is making even Republican voters

If skittish Democrats were worried about passing health care using Senate
budget rules that allow for a simple majority vote, they can now feel
reassured that seeing conservative obstruction up close is far more
revolting to the American public.

The summit has done its jobs. And the verdict is in.

The only way health care gets done, the only way we tackle the long-term
budget deficit, the only way we lower the cost of premiums, the only way we
extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans, is for 50 Democrats to do

There is no need to wait one more day.


Afflicting the Afflicted

NY Times Op-Ed: February 26, 2010

If we're lucky, Thursday's summit will turn out to have been the last act in
the great health reform debate, the prologue to passage of an imperfect but
nonetheless history-making bill. If so, the debate will have ended as it
began: with Democrats offering moderate plans that draw heavily on past
Republican ideas, and Republicans responding with slander and misdirection.

Nobody really expected anything different. But what was nonetheless
revealing about the meeting was the fact that Republicans - who had weeks to
prepare for this particular event, and have been campaigning against reform
for a year - didn't bother making a case that could withstand even minimal

It was obvious how things would go as soon as the first Republican speaker,
Senator Lamar Alexander, delivered his remarks. He was presumably chosen
because he's folksy and likable and could make his party's position sound
reasonable. But right off the bat he delivered a whopper, asserting that
under the Democratic plan, "for millions of Americans, premiums will go up."

Wow. I guess you could say that he wasn't technically lying, since the
Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate Democrats' plan does say
that average payments for insurance would go up. But it also makes it clear
that this would happen only because people would buy more and better
coverage. The "price of a given amount of insurance coverage" would fall,
not rise - and the actual cost to many Americans would fall sharply thanks
to federal aid.

His fib on premiums was quickly followed by a fib on process. Democrats,
having already passed a health bill with 60 votes in the Senate, now plan to
use a simple majority vote to modify some of the numbers, a process known as
reconciliation. Mr. Alexander declared that reconciliation has "never been
used for something like this." Well, I don't know what "like this" means,
but reconciliation has, in fact, been used for previous health reforms - and
was used to push through both of the Bush tax cuts at a budget cost of $1.8
trillion, twice the bill for health reform.

What really struck me about the meeting, however, was the inability of
Republicans to explain how they propose dealing with the issue that,
rightly, is at the emotional center of much health care debate: the plight
of Americans who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions. In other
advanced countries, everyone gets essential care whatever their medical
history. But in America, a bout of cancer, an inherited genetic disorder, or
even, in some states, having been a victim of domestic violence can make you
uninsurable, and thus make adequate health care unaffordable.

One of the great virtues of the Democratic plan is that it would finally put
an end to this unacceptable case of American exceptionalism. But what's the
Republican answer? Mr. Alexander was strangely inarticulate on the matter,
saying only that "House Republicans have some ideas about how my friend in
Tullahoma can continue to afford insurance for his wife who has had breast
cancer." He offered no clue about what those ideas might be.

In reality, House Republicans don't have anything to offer to Americans with
troubled medical histories. On the contrary, their big idea - allowing
unrestricted competition across state lines - would lead to a race to the
bottom. The states with the weakest regulations - for example, those that
allow insurance companies to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence -
would set the standards for the nation as a whole. The result would be to
afflict the afflicted, to make the lives of Americans with pre-existing
conditions even harder.

Don't take my word for it. Look at the Congressional Budget Office analysis
of the House G.O.P. plan. That analysis is discreetly worded, with the
budget office declaring somewhat obscurely that while the number of
uninsured Americans wouldn't change much, "the pool of people without health
insurance would end up being less healthy, on average, than under current
law." But here's the translation: While some people would gain insurance,
the people losing insurance would be those who need it most. Under the
Republican plan, the American health care system would become even more
brutal than it is now.

So what did we learn from the summit? What I took away was the arrogance
that the success of things like the death-panel smear has obviously
engendered in Republican politicians. At this point they obviously believe
that they can blandly make utterly misleading assertions, saying things that
can be easily refuted, and pay no price. And they may well be right.

But Democrats can have the last laugh. All they have to do - and they have
the power to do it - is finish the job, and enact health reform.

No comments:

Post a Comment