Saturday, February 13, 2010

Health Care Summit is Kabuki

Invitations have been sent on the supposed bipartisan health care forum expected to be held on February 25, 2010. From the wording of the invitation we can gather that this forum  is tilted to favor Obama more so than any real problem solving:
The President will offer opening remarks at the beginning of the meeting, followed by remarks from a Republican leader chosen by the Republican leadership and a Democratic leader chosen by the Democratic leadership. The President will then open and moderate discussion on four critical topics: insurance reforms, cost containment, expanding coverage, and the impact health reform legislation will have on deficit reduction.

Since this meeting will be most productive if information is widely available before the meeting, we will post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package. This legislation would put a stop to insurance company abuses, extend coverage to millions of Americans, get control of skyrocketing premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and reduce the deficit.
It is the President’s hope that the Republican congressional leadership will also put forward their own comprehensive bill to achieve those goals and make it available online as well. As the President said earlier this week:

I’m looking forward to a constructive debate with plans that need to be measured against this test: Does it bring down costs for all Americans as well as for the Federal Government, which spends a huge amount on health care? Does it provide adequate protection against abuses by the insurance industry? Does it make coverage affordable and available to the tens of millions of working Americans who don't have it right now? And does it help us get on a path of fiscal sustainability?

These are priorities that we all share, and the President is looking forward to examining with you and your colleagues how we can best achieve the most effective reform possible.

Essentially, this is going to be like Obama moderating his own debate.  Now some might say the media was a perfect subsitute for Obama himself in the 2008 debates but no one thought it would be even remotely acceptable to actually have Obama moderate the debate.  He is hardly a disinterested party in this discussion.

My first inclination is to skip this sham discussion altogether.  The odds are Obama hopes to use any package the Republicans put on the table to put down with whatever bogus analysis he can put together beforehand.  He will likely express some agreement, as he has in the past, with something like tort reform.  Then he will tout the inclusion of a trial provision that does nothing resembling actual tort reform while he claims hey it's already in there.  This will be a sound bite that the media will  run on a loop to show the bipartisan President reaching out to those obstructionist Republicans.

Still, as much as I think the deck is stacked in Obama's favor, I do think Republicans will in the end be forced to attend this sham of an event.  The alternative is stacked clearly on Obama's side.  With invitations being sent to many players in the debate, the visual of the Republican empty seats is not going to play well.  The Dems have many problems with health care.  As much as they claim they are in the red zone, they are, in reality, no closer to passing something than they were when Obama took office.  When they held a 60 seat majority in the Senate they couldn't agree on a bill.  Now we are expected to believe that the same group that faces enormous losses in the midterms suddenly agrees.  I doubt it.

The answer, for Republicans is pretty simple.  They should follow the advice of Charles Krauthammer and have someone, not just like Paul Ryan, but Paul Ryan himself take Obama to task on his plans.  He does, as Krauthammer suggests,  know the issue like the back of his hand.  Moreover, Ryan understands the long term implications of creating another entitlement when those we have are heading to the iceberg dead ahead.  Ryan is without a doubt, in my opinion, much smarter than Obama and knows how to cut through Obama's absurd double speak.  In the end, Obama may regret holding the event altogether if, and this is a big if, the Republicans play this one to their advantage.

Update:  Before I even finished this post, I find the list of those invited to the event and Paul Ryan is not included.  Nor is anyone who really knows the subject.  Rarely do I agree with Ezra Klein but in this case I do:
And where are the good-faith folks who'd actually have something interesting to say? Ron Wyden's not on there. Jay Rockefeller's not on there. Even Olympia Snowe's not on there. They've left off the people who know the most about the subject and would be likeliest to cut a deal. Obviously, that's not an accident:
This is Kabuki theater and a complete waste of time for anyone serious about health care.  The list speaks for itself.

More on this at Memeorandum


  1. Good post. Curiously, I used the same Kabuki reference to the upcoming sham health care conference that has absolutely nothing to do with health care.

  2. Kabuki is about the best reference when it comes to this event. It's an insult to anyone with any intelligence that they are trying to pull this off as a health care event.


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