The CBO now says health reform will cut the Federal deficit by $138 billion That's a win for the bill's backers, and should make it tougher for self-described 'fiscal conservatives' in the Democratic Party to vote against this bill. (No, let's re-frame that as a positive statement: It will make it easier for Conservadems to embrace this bill.) Now what's left is a battle between two clear political philosophies on the left and right: The principled but pragmatic progressivism embodied by Dennis Kucinich, or the nihilistic fury and self-interest that's best represented by Ann Coulter. Since both Coulder and Kucinich had a lot to say about health reform this week, it's worth taking a moment to compare and contrast their philosophies.
Let's start by offering three cheers for Kucinich. Cheer #1 is for his principled stand in favor of single-payer solutions, either at the national or state level. While I see a lot of economic and administrative problems with this large a transformation of our trillion-dollar health economy - problems not yet sufficiently addressed by single-payer advocates - Medicare For All is ethical, humane, moral, and fair. It was never going to pass, but Kucinich kept the flame alive and laid the groundwork for further progress toward a goal that may be achievable someday..
Cheer #2 is for Kucinich's tenacity in fighting for a meaningful public option, and for some other fair and meaningful ideas cut from this bill. A progressive's job is not to make things easy for those in power, but to fight to make every bill as good as it can possibly be. Someday we may have something to say about progressives who became cheerleaders for the Senate bill way too early, undercutting efforts to make it better and fairer. The Left needs to learn from errors like these - but that's a discussion for another time.
Cheer #3 come from Kucinich's reluctant yet heartfelt decision to vote for the bill as it currently stands. Like many other progressives, I've watched in frustration and dismay as leaders in the White House and Congress fumbled one opportunity after another to come up with a better (and more popular) bill. Democrats need to do some serious soul-searching about backroom deals and corporatist politics. But Kucinich doesn't have the luxury of criticizing from the sidelines. His only choice is to vote "yes" or "no." He struggled with his decision, just as many of us have struggled privately with our own feelings.
Kucinich made the right decision. By voting for this bill, he'll be ensuring that nobody will ever be denied needed health insurance for pre-existing conditions. He'll be providing help to get coverage for people who can't afford to pay for it. He ... well, you probably know what this bill accomplishes by now. And, if you're reading this, you probably also know that major bills like Medicare and the Civil Rights Act began as compromised reforms and were strengthened later.
It's easy to empathize with progressives who are frustrated with this bill, but the fighting's all done: What was false before is true now: it's this bill or nothing. The new progressive challenge is to pass it, then keep fighting to make it better. That can only happen if members of the Congress are open to persuasion, which won't happen if the Right sweeps the next election.
Which gets us to Ann Coulter. (Yes, she's still alive. I'm a surprised as anyone. I guess her star's faded quite a bit now that Glenn Beck's the new popular kid in the mean-yet-wealthy corridors of Crazytown High.) Coulter put out her own "health reform plan" this weekend, andI I've got to had it to her. It neatly summarizes the program and philosophy we're likely to get if Dems lose power in Congress, namely:
No, no, no, no, no, to every single meaningful policy or propposal.
Well, actually Coulter does propose "a one-page bill creating a free market in health insurance.." What's a "free market" to Ms. Coulter? First and foremost, she wants to "allow interstate competition." As one of the commentators who serve as the GOP's unfettered Id, she freely admits the reality that her party's pols continue to deny: "Every insurance company in the country would incorporate in the state with the fewest government mandates, just as most corporations are based in Delaware today." That's exactly what would happen under the GOP's health care "proposal."
Why do credit card companies rip you off? Because until recently we regulated credit cards the way Republicans want to regulate health insurance. They're all based in South Dakota (where politicians are cheaper to buy because political campaigns are cheaper to run). Here's what you'd get for health insurance under the GOP's Coulteresque proposals: State regulators for sale to the highest bidder, followed by an insurance market where every abuse you've ever heard about happens over and over again ... to everybody. Will they take your premiums and then drop you when you get sick? Check. Deny your claims even for covered services? Check. Deceptive advertising? Check. Horrible stuff they haven't even thought of yet? Check. And check and check and check and ....
That's the political struggle before us now: Pass the bill and work to improve it, or return to the Party of No and the Politics of the Corporate Ripoff.
Since Coulter's from the personal-attack school of political discourse, her piece naturally includes a few quease-inducing insults - about Harry Reid's age and sexuality, Obama and dying medical patients, and "hypochondriac liberals." But on the principle that a stopped clock's right twice a day, Coulter makes a good point too. She wants to remove the antitrust exemption for insurance companies, which is a very good idea.
Now we know that if Dennis Kucinich introduces a bill ending antitrust exemptions for insurance companies, he can count on Ms. Coulter's enthusiastic support.