Mike the Mad Biologist

Healthcare: It Takes a Socialist?

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a letter (and I encourage others to do the same) calling for a strong public option in whatever healthcare legislation is passed. In the letter, I described the frustration that many rank-and-file Democrats have towards their elected leaders (and yes, it’s not the ‘base’; >80% of Democrats is nearly the whole damn party–and some of the dissenters oppose the public option because they feel it’s too weak):

When you ran for office, you talked about “change.” When it comes to our nation’s health, now is the time for change. Yet, it appears that the same companies and the same lobbyists still have sway even though 76% of Americans in a recent poll support a public option… And we were told–by you, no less–that we needed to elect Democrats to get enough votes for healthcare. Well, we did that, and now, we are told that there are not enough votes.

Mr. President, we did our job, and now, we need you to do yours. Find the votes.

Sadly, socialist (officially Independent) Senator Bernie Sanders is the only one who gets the importance of passing a healthcare bill with a public option, which is supported by about as many people as one could possibly hope for (I’m sure it’s just coincidence–really, I’m not being snarky–that 28% of Americans couldn’t identify that the earth revolves around the sun. The point being that once you broach seventy percent, you’re starting to bang your head on the Asymptote of Stoopid). Sanders in an interview with Ezra Klein (italics mine):

You have a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate, and the coalition that is determining health-care policy are seven people, including four Republicans?

I have a lot of respect for Max Baucus. I know he’s working very hard. But I think his strategy is just not right. The people have given the Democrats the responsibility to bring real change and that’s what people want. You’ve probably seen the New York Times poll showing 72 percent want a Medicare-like public option. No Republicans support that at all.

So I think, with all due respect to Max and his hard work, it’s the wrong strategy. I think the strategy should be to say to all 60 members of the Democratic caucus that even if you don’t want a public plan in the final bill, you should commit to ending the Republican filibuster. You don’t need 60 votes to pass legislation. You need 60 votes to end the filibuster. And if we do that, we can get a strong public plan that will be real change…..

Look, the Democrats said give us 60 votes so we can come up with something. They gave it to us! I’m not a Democrat, I’m an Independent, but I caucus with the Democrats. They gave us 60 votes. So how many do we need? Seventy? Eighty? I understand that there are some Democrats, without ascribing motives, who are not comfortable voting for a strong public plan period. But I think it is not asking too much that they vote against the Republican filibuster….

But people in the country are not sitting around saying, “We need a good bipartisan bill! That’s what we need!’” They’re saying we need good, universal coverage for every American, man, woman, and child. And it needs to be affordable. If Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe and these other nice people I know decide to vote against it, that’s fine. People in America aren’t sitting up nights worrying how they’ll vote. The goal should not be bipartisanship.

And Bernie knows politics:

“I think that with Al Franken coming on board, you have effectively 60 Democrats in the caucus, 58 and two Independents,” Sanders said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “I think the strategy should be to say, it doesn’t take 60 votes to pass a piece of legislation. It takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster. I think the strategy should be that every Democrat, no matter whether or not they ultimately end up voting for the final bill, is to say we are going to vote together to stop a Republican filibuster. And if somebody who votes for that ends up saying, ‘I’m not gonna vote for this bill, it’s too radical, blah, blah, blah, that’s fine.’”

“I think the idea of going to conservative Republicans, who are essentially representing the insurance companies and the drug companies, and watering down this bill substantially, rather than demanding we get 60 votes to stop the filibuster, I think that is a very wrong political strategy,”

That Sanders is the only Senator saying this just shows how dysfunctional our politics are. Keep in mind, we’re basically talking about expanding Medicare to all adults–in other words, you can have the same helathcare options as your parents or grandparents. It’s just not that radical at all. Yet, despite massive support, it probably won’t pass.

Sigh.

Comments

  1. #1 Tony P
    July 3, 2009

    Large bodies sometimes exist in a bubble. This is true of both the churches and governments.

    The people may overwhelmingly support something but the echo chamber in Washington prevents it from ever getting anywhere.

    Granted, there is the lobbyist factor. We could change all that by inserting the following six words into the 14th Amendment “This does not apply to corporations.”

    But that has about as much chance of ever happening as an asteroid wiping out all life on the planet.

  2. #2 george.w
    July 3, 2009

    Channeling Gerry Spence here, but if you want to know why our country can’t make much progress, see Southern Pacific Railroad vs. Santa Clara County. The decision effectively made persons out of corporations.

  3. #3 Comrade PhysioProf
    July 3, 2009

    The health insurance industry owns Congress.

  4. #4 D. C. Sessions
    July 3, 2009

    But that has about as much chance of ever happening as an asteroid wiping out all life on the planet.

    I don’t see how you can even dream that it’s that high. We know that comet impacts can (and have) happened. On the other hand …

  5. #5 Matt Springer
    July 3, 2009

    It’s a version of the classic effect: everyone loathes congress, but most people like their own congressman.

    For government healthcare, while most people like universal coverage in the abstract, an even higher percentage (generally almost 90%) personally like their own coverage. Thus support for government health is wide, but shallow. Not nearly so many are willing to risk adverse affects a specific government plan might have on their own current coverage.

  6. #6 ponderingfool
    July 4, 2009

    For government healthcare, while most people like universal coverage in the abstract, an even higher percentage (generally almost 90%) personally like their own coverage.
    ******************
    Of course that is an already rationed group, those with coverage. Considering most people at any given moment are healthy also biases such a survey. A friend of mine loved his/her coverage until they got ill recently. Then they realized what was not covered & how care was rationed. Asked them last year they would have given it high marks. Now not so much. Nothing changed except her/his health.

  7. #7 Sandy
    July 9, 2009

    The problem with the “asymptote of stoopid” is that the truly stupid people don’t realize which end of the curve they’re on. You know, like people who think there’s an urgent need to fix the most innovative industry in the country by organizing its financing along the lines of a bankrupt government program.

    You’re right–you can’t cure stupid, you can only hope to contain it. I can only hope that the likes of Bernie Sanders continues to be ignored, as I shall ignore your silly little blog from now on.

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