Real Time Thoughts on Meet the Press (March 21 2010)

(Per usual, the text in parenthesis are parenthetical to the argument; they are only my own reflections on the running argument)

Today is Sunday.  Today is Meet the Press day.  Today is the day the House votes on Health Care reform.  John Boehner, House Minority Leader  and Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader  are representing their own sides and their partisan, combative arguments.

President Obama talked to the House Demcratic Caucus to encourage the majority to pass the bill.

David Gregory wants to know if the vote will be called without the necessary 216 votes.

SH: We will have the 216 plus votes when the roll is called.  We will pass the bill.  (He is saying that he doesn’t have the votes yet but in a few hours, the votes will be in the Democratic column.  This might come to pass principally because of the executive order that holds the Hyde Amendment in place.  There are now 18 undecided votes.  This is because members are afraid of voting for something that might play back home as having cost a lot of money over time and might be considered (by some) to be a partisan abortion funding bill.)

John Boehner is saying that the bill is going to pass on a partisan line. (How could it be otherwise?) Peoples of Americans are angry with this bill.  The  fight is not over yet.  But when the GOP wins back the house, as Speaker he will fight to repeal health care reform.

DG: Leader Hoyer?  How will this play out in 2010?

SH: We will win back the House.  We have done something that the GOP did not touch when in power for 6 years.  

DG: What about the argument that some of the Tea Party activists are supporting a GOP argument?  Barney Frank and John Lewis and others were subjected to prejudicial anti-gay and racial epithets.

JB: Well David lets not let a few bad incidents blacken a grass-roots arguments that defend the American people.

DG:  Ron Brownsteins argument for the costs of inaction are strong. What do you say about that?(Brownstein’s argument is that if this bill fails no President will try over a decade.  There are things in the bill that will serve to lower costs and provide the kinds of incentives (over time) that will change the provision of health care in teh U.S.)

DG: The taxes that will be raised on the employer issued Cadillac Plans will kick in 2018.  This assumes that that Congress will pass those tax hikes.  Leader Hoyer, we can’t take these numbers to the bank can we?

SH: That is true David.  But yes, we need to have the courage to pass these cost saving measures. (The precommitment problem this issue brings up is a killer. The cost saving measure may not come to pass.  This is because the tax hikes will take place 8 years from now in 2018.  This move tries to control costs in teh future, requiring that Congress to pass the tax hikes.   But the problem is complicated–perhaps fatally–by the fact that our democracy, which is really a representative government, works by rotating parties in and out of power.  It is not a given therefore that the party in power in 2018 will be a Democratic Party majority, which might be more inclined to raise those taxes.  The double-bind in which the Democratic Party in 2010 is relying–essentially passing the buck to some other Congressional majority , which might not even be a Democratic Party majority in 2018 is not likely to play out as imagined today.  There are no trenchant commitments through which the Congress of 2018 is bound.  As I see it, this is a fatal problem, at least in so far as cost-saving is concerned.  This does not touch upon the morally superior fact that the bill covers 32 million people.  I might even think the cost-saving measure–which I have argued is incoherent, at worst, is the justification on which the support for the bill turns.)

Tim Kaine and Michael Steele are going to argue their respect sides of the party based, partisan argument. (Expect Gov. Kaine to destroy Lt. Gov. Steele!! (Okay this expectation has not borne out: Michael Steele has been a very good representative for the conservative, libertarian viewpoint.))

DG: What does this mean for the 2010 election?

MS:  This is a victory for the GOP in 2010.  How do you put 32 million people in the healthcare rolls and pay for it without increasing the deficit?  The bill will put 32 million people on the rolls in 2014 and will kick up costs to $2 trillion.  This is a government takeover of healthcare, Michael Steele is saying.

TK: This will immediately bring to bear many of the issues that the American people want.  The American people do not like what the healthcare industry is doing.   As this bill passes senior citizens will get a break on prescription medication.  Small businesses will receive tax incentives to purchase insurance for their workers.  Parents get to keep their kids of their policies until the age of 26.  Insurance companies will not be able to kick out sick people.

DG: The Democrats think that they should pass the bill and expect that the consequences will be an electoral winner. The American people like individual elements of the bill, though they do not support the bill at large.  If we know that the American people don’t like the stimulus bill, even though it propped up the economy. how can we be certain that the American people will like the health care reform? (This question is ill-posed, because it just shows that the polling shows that the majority opinion is incoherent.  How can a majority like all the individual elements, but not the bill that is constituted of all those elements? This is just incoherent.)

TK:  We know that the American people like all of the things that are in the bill.  And we will show the people that the vote will have been a vote for the American people.  (His argument is not strong.  The question was, what if the American do not like the results because by 2010, the consequences of the bill may not hit American pocket-books in a way that actually lowers their healthcare costs?  Tim Kaine has not been able to answer that question.)

MS: On DG’s question about the RNC rhetoric and the Tea Party’s rhetoric seems to think the RNC’s racist rhetoric is meant to fire up the base. ( But the Tea Party rhetoric is stupid?  What if the base is now made up of a substantial number of the Tea Party activists?)

Chuck Todd, Tavis Smiley, Anita Dunn and Ed Gillespie constitute the round-table.

DG: Is this the bill that puts Obama in the history books?

AD: He still has at least two and a half years left of his administration.  This is a historic vote, but there’s more to come.  This is a difficult policy move that has required courage from the President.

EG: This is a historic bill, but historical bad.  The Senate has now become as partisan as the argument in the House.  We have done away with the 60 vote majority rule for simple majority in the Senate (Wait…wait…wait.  There is no supermajority voting rule in the Senate.  The Senate is run by the simple majority rule!!!!!  The GOP is just going straight through with the process argument, even if the argument is false, incoherent or, worse,  bull-caca!!)

Chuck Todd: The American people are frustrated by the polarization in DC.  But lets not forget that this issue of health care coverage points to a moral and philosophical divide between the Democrats and the GOP.  At issue is the question: “Is health care coverage a right or a privilege?”  Democrats believe in activist government and the GOP believes in smaller, step-wise moves.

TS: Lets not forget that this is the right thing to do. There’s good stuff and bad stuff in this bill.  We still have a 4 year death sentence for adults with pre-existing illnesses who will not get coverage under this law now.  Insurance companies won because they now have 33 million new customers.  But there are way of playing politics still: New Gingrich said that  Democrats should pass this bill because just like LBJ after he passed the Civil Rights Legislation of 1964, he lost fairly big the next time out.  First its a bad analogy. But even if true, its the right thing to do and even if we do lose we should go down swinging (Damn fine answer sir!!)

DG: What are the leadership lessons of passage?

CT: The biggest lesson now is the overlearning of the lesson of what happened in 1994 under Clinton.  Giving it over to the Congress was a bad idea.  The fact is: The White House and Olympia Snowe and Harry Reid lost her.  This implies that the bill could have passed a few months  ago, perhaps.  No one would have needed to worry about Scott Brown.

DG: The White House believes support for this legislation will increase.  So far this seems to not be true for the stimulus.

EG: Passage of the bill will mean that the GOP will take over the House and maybe the Senate.

DG: Lets talk about the electoral politics of this legislation.

CT: First of all to assume that the next 6 months will remain as it is now is a bit foolish. It may be hard to rally the kind of anger that will required to take down the Democrats.  But the middle has to see the effects of the legislation.  The legislation cannot deliver that kind of immediately felt consequence.  Pocket-book issues.

TS: There cannot be a transformative era without a transformative legislation.  This was and remains a transformative policy that is really important and overly timely.  I think we haven’t even talked about health disparities. 3200 African Americans in Chicago die every year because of disparities in health care provision.

DG: In 1994 the GOP made the decision that it was better to kill the bill than to pass it.  Is it better Ed Gillespie to pass or kill?

EG: I know the Democrats take umbrage, but this is a government take over.  The goverrnment is going to use tax dollars to pay for more IRS agents to work through the tax increases.  This is a government take over.  (It strikes me that Ed Gillespie is saying that it is better to pass this bill for the GOP than to not pass it. This is because Americans are against the bill now. But I have two problems with this: 1) He is saying that the fact of hiring IRS agents to look into increased revenue equals a government takeover.  2) He is saying that because the American people say something that it is true.  The American people believe in angels; this does not make it true.  Further he assumes that the American people will continue on thinking that the healthcare bill is bad for them.)

DG: But the American people did not like the Surge in Iraq.  It did not poll well.  But the surge worked. Now its quite a popular issue.

AD: Nothing much will change immediately after the bill is passed.  There will be no bureaucrat chucking you off the medicare pay-rolls.  The way the GOP has framed the issue and their scare tactics will not work because the bad things will simply not happen.

DG: But unless future Congresses commit to all the obligations that this Congress didn’t have the courage to do.

AD: First off this is a necessary piece of legislation.  The GOP is happy to cite the CBO when it comes to the spending but not when it comes to the CBO estimates of deficit reduction, cost saving.  To reduce costs in the long run is what this bill does.

~ by Faheem Haider on March 21, 2010.

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