There are times I agree with this post by Ian Welsh:
My biggest weakness this year in doing analysis has been hope. I have let hope that the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress will do the right thing, and that they aren’t corrupt and incompetent, get in the way of clear thinking. Enough. Hope isn’t a plan, and hope isn’t policy. Hope without good policy is a con-job.
There hasn’t been a good, major, bill come out of this Congress this year. They have all been fatally compromised, from the stimulus bill (larded up with useless tax cuts and without necessary State relief) to the global warming bill, which is so far from doing enough that it’s a joke.
At this point I see no reason to believe this bill won’t be the same. Yes, a few people may get health care who wouldn’t otherwise and that matters, but it won’t contain costs to any significant degree and it will put a huge burden on Americans who can’t afford it. The likelihood that a surtax on the rich to pay for it won’t happen just makes this even more clear.
This is not the Bush administration, but the primary assumption of the Bush years that nothing would get through Congress that wasn’t bought and paid for; that wasn’t fatally compromised at very best still holds in only a mildly mitigated form. Yes, Obama and the Democrats sometimes try to do the right thing while Bush almost never bothered, but the bills that come out at the end are still awful.
I haven’t decided if it’s incompetence, a belief in the Magic of the Middle, or the ‘New’ Democrat idée fixe that political capital is something that can be hoarded. In any case, if Obama fails to deliver significant healthcare change, which means a public option–not nibbling around the edges–this will represent a colossal inability of our political system to accommodate what an overwhelming majority of Americans want. The only hope I see is Waxman’s latest maneuver of bypassing the House Energy and Commerce committee (which is pissing sending the Blue Dog Republicats into a hissy fit):
Personally, I have absolutely no idea what would be “preferable” about going through the ordinary committee process. My life would be positively impacted by a good health care bill. It would be negatively impacted by a bad health care bill. It would also be negatively impacted by indefinite continuation of the status quo. Congressional procedure matters to me, like to all normal people, only insofar as it impacts the course of legislation. The “preferable” process is the process that results in good legislation.
Something a lot of progressive legislative leaders seem to have forgotten until this Congress actually got under way is that historically congressional procedure is a challenge to be surmounted when you want big change to happen. It’s not actually a fixed feature of the landscape that people “have to” accommodate themselves to. For years you couldn’t get a decent Civil Rights bill because segregationists controlled the Judiciary Committee that had jurisdiction. This problem was “solved” by just deciding to bypass the Judiciary Committee. When you decide you want to get things done, you find a way to get them done. Even the allegedly sacrosanct filibuster rule has been changed repeatedly over the years. The law is the law and the constitution is the constitution, but the rules of congressional procedure are not law. They’re internally made rules, they’re subject to change, and the criteria for a good set of rules is that you want rules that produce good legislation and good governance.
I can only hope, and hope isn’t much of a policy….