Saturday, December 5, 2009

JoeMentum: Not Hiding Behind a Public Option Fig Leaf

Joe Lieberman is sticking to his guns on the public option reports Kimberly Strassel in "The Wall Street Journal:"

When Mr. Lieberman says no public option, he means no public option—not an "opt-in" or an "opt out" or a "trigger" (a public option only comes into effect if private insurers fail to spread enough coverage). "We are at the point now where this has become the classic legislative process of trying to get a fig leaf that everyone can hide behind. And I don't want to do that."

Why so adamant, Strassel wonders:
 Mr. Lieberman says that while he is not "a conspiratorial person," he believes the public option is intended as a way for the government to take over health care. "I've been working for health-care reform in different ways since I arrived here," he says. "It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can't afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies . . . So where did this public option come from?" It was barely a blip, he says, in last year's presidential campaign.

"I started to ask some of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus, privately, and two of them said "some in our caucus, and some outside in interest groups, after the president won such a great victory and there were more Democrats in the Senate and the House, said this is the moment to go for single payer.'" So, I joke, the senator is, in fact, as big a "conspiracy theorist" as me. He laughingly rejoins: "But I have evidence!"
 Leiberman raises an excellent point, where did this famed public option come from?  The lefty blogs claim it was there all along pressing Lieberman to retract his hateful denial of the beloved public option:

"Not really, not from what I've seen. There was a little--there was a line about the possibility of it in an Obama health care policy paper," Lieberman said.
(That line read, "Specifically, the Obama plan will: (1) establish a new public insurance program, available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees," and went on from there.)
A line in a health care policy paper is indeed a blip; the public option didn't become a household word until the health care debate took shape this year.  Clearly the left and Obama had this in mind all along as we later discovered:
“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”
And of course they did take back the White House, the Senate and the House and had the Independents who have fled this proponent of "Hope" and "Change" truly understood how far left Obama intended to govern we might well have seen President H. R. Clinton or President McCain in office in his place.   That buyer's remorse has set in since November 2008 seems evident.  While Obama and the left believe they had a mandate to enact a progressive/liberal agenda, they ignored the evidence America remained a center-right nation at their peril.

Now the country can only hope that someone like Joe Lieberman or a Blanche Lincoln will put their constituents ahead of their party loyalty.  Lieberman knows full well that party loyalty can turn on you but does Blanche Lincoln think passing an unpopular health care bill will be forgotten in her red state reelection next year?   To complicate matters, there is always the risk Olympia Snowe would fall for a trigger as well.  There is little risk Lieberman will overplay his hand.  It is likely that the drama over the public option has always been Kabuki Theater, thought dead then resurrected to save a very vulnerable Harry Reid.
I’ve been talking to a lot of people in Arkansas recently, and they all say that Blanche Lincoln traded her vote on health care for her chairmanship of the Ag Committee. So, what’s with her carrot-clutching theatrics on the Senate floor? Well, it only makes sense if she — like her Blue Dog friends in the House — were assured that there would never be a public option in the final bill. That’s why the Thursday Night Massacre took everyone by surprise. Reid decided to save his own ass with a piece of kabuki that violated that deal.
In the end, if Lieberman is to have a pivotal role it will come in his ability to moderate the bill in other ways.  He points to other problems such as its' facade" of deficit-neutrality, taxes on the industry which will result in higher premiums.  He plans to push for a cap on the tax exclusion on insurance benefits in order to drive down the overuse that explodes costs.  He also plans to work with Republicans to push for malpractice reform.  Lieberman puts the odds of a bill passing at a bit better than 50-50.  Those odds are still a bit too high for my liking.  Here's hoping he stands his ground.

H/T: Memeorandum

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