Let the obstuctionists “win”

According to an op-ed piece, “How To Win 2010,” by Matthew Yglesias, to avoid a disaster in the midterms, the White House needs to pick a battle it can afford to lose.

[Below is a synopsis of the article, but for the complete opinion, read the op-ed article instead of my interpretation.  fnord]

Not on health-care reform!  No, that one is too necessary now!  Americans are suffering, businesses are suffering and can’t be competitive with those overseas.  It is important to go beyond ‘status quo’ and get reform ‘on the books.’  It’s taken almost a century to get this far.  However, through the compromising, watering down process we’ve learned victory means getting the votes necessary to pass a bill.   And that means making the compromises necessary to get the votes to pass a bill. And that means jumping through whichever hoops Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and anyone else want to jump through.

It’s becoming more and more clear that Timothy Noah was right to warn in mid-December that in exchange for their compromises on the public option, liberals will get nothing.  Nothing, that is, except a universal health care bill. And that’s not nothing at all.  But therein lies the problem — by threatening to kill it, moderates have consistently been able to water it down.   The results have sapped the enthusiasm of Obama’s base, while also tying the president to the much-less-popular institution of Congress. To avoid a disaster in the midterms, the White House needs to reverse this trend: it needs to pick a battle it can afford to lose.

The battle it can afford to lose is the financial regulatory reform package that’s already passed the House of Representatives and is soon to get more serious consideration in the Senate.  Passing a regulatory reform bill that’s weak could do more harm than good.  A so-so health care bill still provides actual help to actual people.  And health programs are the kind of thing that will inevitably be tweaked over the years. A loophole-ridden regulatory measure, by contrast, does no good at all and may merely give people a false sense of comfort.

Consequently, this is an issue where the administration can afford to draw lines in the sand and refuse to compromise. It can say that real regulatory reform must include a consumer protection agency, must create a non-bailout process for resolving bankrupt large financial firms, must force bankers to bear the costs of the process through fees, must do something to discourage the formation of “too big to fail” institutions, and all the rest.

Then the president can do what progressives would have liked to have seen him do on health care—tour the country denouncing opponents of his agenda as corporate stooges, desperately in hock to special interests. The base will love it, and there’s also every reason to believe that the center has no love for bank-boosting politicians. Opponents might get spooked and cave, in which case the White House would have a nice victory to pocket. Or they might not, in which case Democratic candidates would have a nice issue to run on in the fall.

The key thing, however, is that if they don’t get spooked, the White House can afford to take the legislative defeat and play for a political win.  Obama’s been hobbled by the need to take on issues like the stimulus and health care where everyone knows he can’t walk away from the table. Those are the cards he was dealt, but it’s made him look weak. A good loss, by contrast, could be an opportunity to show some much-needed toughness.


Filed under Liberal Government, Political Reform, President Barack Obama

35 responses to “Let the obstuctionists “win”

  1. We all recognize how important it is to The Party Of No to WIN! And, even more important to them is that someone must lose. So, this author has some valid points and I think a strategy worthwhile!

    Let them win their shallow victory if doing it right isn’t possible! It will be easy to show people what their win means on this subject!

  2. tosmarttobegop

    MY take on this? The author is basically saying throw a bright and shiny object in front of the base to distract them. Yes it would be an important win for the people, it was a lack of regulation that play a real part in the economic disaster.

    But this also is using the base’s natural tendency to want to blame and soak the Rich.
    This is as inbred in the left as is a woman’s right to choose and a equally emotional response.

    What is being accomplished is not “Universal health care”, no more then if you had the ability to feed the masses. And instead bought a bag of Mc’Chickens and drove down the street throwing them out the car window at the drunks collapsed on the street corners.

    You may be able to puff your chest out and claim you did your part to end hunger! But the reality is that you did not do what you were capable of doing and still are leaving many hungry.

    “A loophole-ridden regulatory measure, by contrast, does no good at all and may merely give people a false sense of comfort”.

    That is how I would describe what is happening with the health care reform.

    Back to this idea, the suggestion is not basing it on the real need and is insincere at best.
    Putting Politics above the people and in the end the question is just who is suppose to be more important?

    Who is best served by which party?

    If there is no difference in the end and it is nothing more then Politics as usual.
    This is an enemy of the people……

  3. I agree with most of what you say, tstb. I agree that this health-care reform doesn’t solve all the problems and could possibly even make some worse. But I also agree with the author of the piece in the thread header when he says, “A so-so health care bill still provides actual help to actual people. And health programs are the kind of thing that will inevitably be tweaked over the years. A loophole-ridden regulatory measure, by contrast, does no good at all and may merely give people a false sense of comfort.”

    I know the final health-care reform legislation will be a reconciliation of two very imperfect bills. I also know health-care reform has to start someplace because you can’t proceed to better without a beginning. A beginning has been needed for almost a century!

    Yes, regulations of financial institutions are needed badly too! We can’t rebuild on this sandy soil foundation that failed — the greedy bastards took advantage because they could. Those opportunities to take advantage must be removed and well regulated!

    I see the regulatory bill that passed in the House doesn’t do that well enough, and fear the Senate will water it down further. I also see that good government must regulate financial institutions! Yes, the author is suggesting playing politics, but his suggestion is to hold firm for good government regulations that clearly are needed! Passing good regulations (NOT watered down stupidity) would show clearly who wants the loopholes and opportunities to remain. It would show clearly who plays political games to create good government.

    It took a century to start reform on health care insurance. Banking regulations are something we’ve had and now realize what happens when they’re weakened. We have concrete proof of the differences between with and without on financial regulations. No one will be believed or trusted if they stand up and publicly say regulations aren’t needed. Thus, the person who stands up and insists they be effective will be believed and trusted!

    All the Republicans have done for too long is scream that government is no good and then prove it with their actions! The Democratic Party may not be much better in many ways, but they do know that government isn’t the enemy, bad government is.

  4. tosmarttobegop

    Fnord it will be Politics that drives the final solution to the bill not the best interest of the people.

    Like my analogy about the bag of fast food, there will be the claim of some being helped that were not helped before. But that is nothing more then the ability to make the claim not to actually help the people.

    The bill will have to be that of the Senate side in order to have a win for a win’s sake.
    A bill that does little and only on the face of it change.
    Change for change’s sake, without the public option it is tyranny to impose a mandate.

    The reason for the compromise with labor was because the intended tax on health care benefits were going to harm the working class more then the wealthy.

    What is having to be done is Faustian, they might as well bargain with the Republicans to get it done. In the end it will turn out no different if they were!

    Doing things for the sake of being able to claim something is like me making the claim I am the most beautiful woman in the world… Those who have seen me or will see me knows such a claim is a lie!

    • I know. I refuse to give up this hope! I do understand that makes me the stupid one. I have decided (allowed myself to be possessed by this idea) this beginning on health-care reform is where we start, a toe in the door that leads to what is needed.

      The fines are one of the areas that don’t kick in for a few years. Another of my ‘hopes’ is this is tweaked / fixed before it ever happens!

      I don’t see it possible to get anything if we hold out on health-care reform. It will be like it has been for a century — sameosameo, only it gets worse with each passing day. I do believe getting something in this case is better than nothing.

      I admit right out loud that a person convinced of an idea may be convinced otherwise, but that a person possessed of an idea will never be.

      So you see, tstb, you aren’t talking to a person with rational thoughts. I won’t give up this hope until I see the dire predictions come true. When I see that it did more harm than good, that more people are hurt with this reform than were hurting without it.

      I have promised to sit quietly and take it when EVERYONE tells me, “I told you so!”

      Now, on the financial regulations, because I’m more rational and not as personally invested, I see the wisdom of holding out for what is good and effective! Mainly because I think we will get something on this need, it won’t be ignored — no matter what party is in the majority.

      • tosmarttobegop

        No, you are not the stupid one!
        Believe me hope is a daily quest for me. Ignorance is bless and knowing too much will keep you up at night.

        Gving up on hope does too.

        But it can be funny what will give hope. some times it is such a small thing that keeps hope too.

  5. tstb,

    I will continue to read every word you post, and respect each word. I’m sorry I’m so unreasonable, I do see perfect as enemy of the good on the subject of health-care reform.

  6. wicked

    health programs are the kind of thing that will inevitably be tweaked over the years.

    But which direction will it be tweaked? If the Right should gain and hold majority for a length of time, that tweaking could kill us. Literally.

    fnord, I’m with you on holding out hope that the right things are done, but there’s a little, pessimistic voice in my head that whispers negative things. I keep trying to tell it to shut up, but the more health care is watered down, the louder that whisper becomes. I wish I was the optimist you are. Unfortunately I see myself more a realist. Not necessarily a pretty thing. 😦

    I’ll give the author’s suggestion on bypassing a good banking regulation bill some thought, though. As tstb mentioned, it’s playing politics, but that seems to be the only way anything gets done (or not done) on the Hill these days. I don’t see that changing just because the Dems don’t join in.

  7. “…little, pessimistic voice in my head that whispers negative things…”

    Oh, I hear that voice too. 🙂

    So, now on this thread I’ve admitted to being stupid, being possessed, hearing voices… I’m not scrolling back to see what else.

    I don’t want anyone to think I am over-joyed at what isn’t really reforming health-care, or believe I don’t understand the deficiencies of what will probably be the final legislation — I do!

    But will we get a better chance to have a go at it? Isn’t it good that health insurance companies can’t impose limitations on an annual or lifetime basis, can’t turn down covering your pre-existing conditions, that insurance will be available to more people through the Medicaid program? Those are good things! Yes, I could list the bad things. But then I would have one of those notorious lists where you put the good in one column the bad in another and see which outweighs the other. Would that end my hope?

    • wicked

      Until I see (or hear) an overview of what the new combined bill will be, I’m not ready to cheer. I seriously hope the good stuff that I’m sure it includes will help those not insured, but not hurt those who are. There are specific things I’ll be looking for, including some of those caps. I know two people in the same family who have been hit hard by prescription caps.

  8. Zippy

    In between optimism and pessimism is something called realism. It’s very hard to find that point, particularly when politics enter the mix.

    For my part, I’m getting a little tired of Ygelsias’s patronizing blather about the “base.” I’ve never believed in the myth of a “political center,” not as pundits use it anyway. If it really existed, neither Roosevelt nor W. would have been possible.

    And, while from a cynical strategic view, he’s completely right (politically) about bank regulation being a battle Obama can “afford to lose,” that only looks to 2010. Shrewd politically, but what happens next?

    And in the not-very-long run, it is not a battle the world (not just the US) can afford to lose.

    And far as the health-care debacle goes, the supposedly unshakeable Senate delegation has already compromised with unions on the “Cadillac” plan provisions. If you accept half a loaf before the battle’s over, you will end up with nothing.

    And I also agree with Wicked: I’ll reserve judgment on the final bill, but for now, I’m not giving up the fight. It might be our only chance.

  9. PrairiePond

    “I do see perfect as enemy of the good on the subject of health-care reform.”

    Hee hee heeeee Fnord. I despise that “perfect is the enemy of good” phrase. Not you for using it, but the phrase itself.

    Yesterday on DU, regarding these horrible bills, I read something to the effect of “we cant let the piss poor be the enemy of the god awful”, and I just about busted a gut laughing. I thought to myself “I cant wait to use THAT one”.

    And here, you gave me a reason to use it!!!!!

    Thanks, dear!

  10. PrairiePond

    And on a more serious note….

    I’m not picking on you, Fnord, and I am aware of your optimism. But a question.

    HOW is this bill helping ANYONE but insurance companies?

    Other than the subsidies for premiums (which in the long run help insurance companies (IC’s) more than anyone) what is there that helps anyone?

    It says the IC’s must accept those with pre-existing conditions, but it doesnt say anything about making their premiums unreasonably unaffordable. That means SSDD. It’s the status quo.

    They took out the prohibition on lifetime caps (hat tip to lilac)

    Gay people still cant be on their SO’s health insurance without a marriage cert.

    The reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaide are cut, which will mean LESS access to health care when rural hospitals close and more physicians everywhere stop taking M & M.

    It does not expand Medicare coverage, or lower the age of eligibility.

    It does not stop the IC’s from making insurance unaffordable each year we age.

    It does nothing to control health care costs. Or reing in IC’s profits.

    Sooooo…. I guess I’m kind of a pothole when it comes to this. What am I missing?

    WHAT in the name of Zeus do these two bills provide as a benefit for ANYONE other than the insurance companies?

  11. PrairiePond

    “If you accept half a loaf before the battle’s over, you will end up with nothing.”


    Neither of these bad bills will improve in reconciliation. They can only get worse in the compromise.

    When you start out with “bad” every compromise just makes it worse.

  12. PrairiePond

    Perhaps I’m not understanding Yglesias’ point.

    Is he saying the dems should say to the repukes, “give us healthcare and we’ll back off on regulating the financial industry”?

    Because, I havent notice that the democrats are exactly chomping at the bit to regulate their wall street masters any more than they are willing to take on their insurance masters.

    Why should the repukes give anything? Clearly, they can get whatever they want, whether in the majority or not.

    They are all owned by the same people. And it aint us.

  13. PrairiePond

    Regarding obstructionists….

    It’s always easier to stop something than to start something.

    Too bad the democrats NEVER realized that under bushco.

    nit wits all.

  14. You will not have to be pregnant, a child or disabled to get on Medicaid. Just being poor will make you qualified.

    Even if you are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, you may qualify for a sliding scale subsidy to purchase health insurance.

    People will no longer become bankrupt because of heath care bills. There will be limits on out-of-pocket spending.

    Small businesses will get tax credits for health care costs.

    Health care reform will reduce the “doughnut hole” ($2,700-6,154) in Part D prescription coverage.

    Reform efforts include a guarantee that all babies born in this country start life with health coverage. At the present there are almost 9 million children with no insurance.

    Insurance company regulation
    –At present only 60 cents of our health care premium goes for medical care. With health care reform this must be increased to 85 percent.
    –Insurance companies will no longer be able to exclude you from coverage for preexisting conditions nor terminate your policy because you become sick.
    –Both annual and lifetime benefit caps eliminated (it was me that brought this up and since I brought up so much worthy of criticism I will point out I deserved that hat tip).

    To improve quality, doctors and hospitals that provide better care and demonstrate improved outcomes will be rewarded. All health care providers will be encouraged to work together to coordinate care, avoid duplication, develop complementary treatments, and prevent errors.

    I know I’m THE POLLYANNA on this. There will be more people who will have the opportunity to buy insurance. Does that increase the bottom line for insurance companies — YES, because they will sell to more people. It is a dream come true for insurance companies! I’m not ignoring the benefits to insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and don’t like the way they are protected. I’m just accepting that in order to begin the process we don’t get it all done at once, maybe the cup is less than half full but it isn’t empty.

    I didn’t know the insurance companies would charge more to cover the pre-existing conditions and that concerns me, brings me down mid-air instead of in the clouds.

    I’ll bow out of this one, and continue to hope but do it silently. I’ll quietly wait to see what the final legislation is. I recognize when I am stirring the pot and it makes me feel like the trolls that stir up just to cause a controversy. I don’t do that. I accept that each of you have your opinions, and respect that you’ve done your homework to arrive at them.

    • wicked

      Come back, little fnord!!!

      We need a Pollyanna, so don’t give up on us. Or at least me. I was looking for the pluses, and you gave them. I’ll try to concentrate on them for a while, instead of the minuses. 🙂

      Right now, I’m looking at paying an $80 office call charge just to get paperwork signed so I can get a prescription. (I won’t tell what for, unless it works. *grin*) And then I’ll have to drive the 20+ miles to pick up the meds at the doctor’s office every month. I’m hoping I won’t be charged an office visit for that, too, or I’ll be asking myself if it’s worth it.

      • I hate this story and the many others I hear from people I know personally. I hope you get your medicine with the least amount of cost and inconvenience and I hope it works!

        Our insurance changed January 1 and we just found out one of the maintenance meds Griffin takes isn’t on the approved list. We have faced the insurance company knowing better than the doctor (who actually saw, examined and evaluated Griffin) what his health needs are before. It doesn’t make it any easier to face it again.

        And, you know what? Griffin and I have it easy, we have it fantastic! We have one job between us, plus SS retirement benefits, and we have insurance coverage. It could be so much worse, it could even be bad like it is for so many!

  15. I’m not going anywhere — well, Ginger, Griffin and I went to Sedg. Co. Park for a change from our nearby city park, but I’m here among friends.

    I do, however, recognize when I’m stirring the pot and that doesn’t create anything positive. I know you are all correct in your analysis of the two imperfect bills which cannot be any better when they become one, so there is really no argument against your collective good sense.

    • wicked

      Yeah, there’s the rub. Those “approved lists.” Too bad all of them in their industry aren’t finding themselves on unapproved lists.

      I’ll keep Griffin and you in my thoughts with hope that it gets straightened out with very little difficulty. It does make me wonder about all those braggarts who keep claiming their insurance is wonderful. I guess they have wonderful health and don’t need medications or anything more than a pat on the back.

  16. tosmarttobegop

    Fnord do you feel the warm feeling?
    You are loved, us “realists” some times need someone to actually keep us in the fight.

    To keep taking the showers and brushing our hair. Otherwise our temptation is to set in our filth and let the world mat our hair. To see nothing worth the fight being left and declare they have won.

    Seeing the glass half empty and just knowing it is so someone can fill the glass up with their own urine!
    You remind us that though the glass is half pee it is also half water.

  17. Zippy

    In the long term, the hope is in reforming the political system, at least a little bit, and at least making the corruption work in our favor for a little while.

    I think I noted elsewhere that powerful interests didn’t want a worldwide economic collapse any more than us. What they want instead is multinational wage-slavery, but stable and productive (by their stock-driven standards).

    But not everyone is Washington is completely bought-and-sold. Optimism has a grain a truth: an oddball Senator, a rebellious staffer.

    And the sea change that produced the current occupant of the White House (and if you don’t think it’s a sea change, remember his campaign promises) is not something that can nullified.

    The Tea Party stupidity is the natural result of public anger and ignorance channeled in the right direction.

    In this regard, as much foul harvest as we’ve gotten from Kansas, the young Thomas Frank is dead-on.

    Exploiting the anger can’t be limited to politicians with short-term agenda. I have unopened mail from (so to speak) the Vice President of the United States.

    Optimism indeed is extremely important, because without it you give in to depair, and nothing happens anyway. You just wallow in agony and negativity.

    But another form of optimism is knowing when to reject someone else’s rules of the game, and substitute your own, or pull an Ace from your sleeve.

    Just my opinion.

    My humble opinions.

  18. PrairiePond

    Fnord, I said I wasnt picking on you, so please dont take this personally. I would never, under any circumstance, think of you as trolling.

    The part of the bill that eliminated annual and lifetime caps was removed by the Senate. That means caps on what the insurance companies pay are STILL allowed. That’s why I hat tipped Lilac.

    And we know that while they wont be able to outright cancel you for pre-existing conditions, they ARE allowed to raise your premium through the roof so YOU drop your own insurance because it is unaffordable.

    I thought right now that being poor made one qualified for Medicaid. I know several people here who are on Medicaid that are not disabled or with child. I’m wondering about that.

    It’s a good thing that all children will be covered. Now if only all of us too old to be wanted by the insurance companies, but not old enough for Medicare could be covered….

    “To improve quality, doctors and hospitals that provide better care and demonstrate improved outcomes will be rewarded.”

    Unless those docs and hospitals have a heavy percentage of Medicare patients, as is true in most rural areas. In both bills, Medicare reimbursements are being CUT, which means the people who serve them will be punished for serving them.

    “People will no longer become bankrupt because of heath care bills. There will be limits on out-of-pocket spending.” That’s a good thing. I was unaware that was still in either bill. I wonder how that will work and who will be picking up the “over limit” expenses? The insurance companies or the government?

    “Small businesses will get tax credits for health care costs.” They get deductions right now. To get a credit, you have to show a profit and be paying taxes. So this doesnt benefit small businesses that are struggling, just those that are already profitable. The struggling ones lose the deduction they already get.

    “Health care reform will reduce the “doughnut hole” … and that is a VERY good thing. The Doughnut hole is dumb. Just plain dumb.

    So Fnord, thanks for pointing out the few things the bills do that are good. They are indeed very few compared to the damages they will inflict.

    Which was my point about all this. We are getting two or three good things… and a host of bad things.

    I still say kill this bill and start over. But team obama is so desperate to pass anything, they’ll sign this and claim victory.

    But I dont think the voters in 2012 will agree that what they sign is good enough to earn their votes.

    • wicked

      PrairiePond, I think there’s a misconception on the qualifications of medicaid. I checked the guidelines last August after I was told to apply, and I believe the age was minimum age was 62 or disabled or with children. That page on the Kansas SRS website is no longer available, so I can’t post a link.

      At one time, my youngest was on Healthwave, and I was covered for six month. I never used it, and I don’t recall that she did, either, and we let it lapse. When we reapplied at a later date, she was accepted, but I wasn’t. (The parent applying is always included when applying for a child.) There was no explanation as to why.

  19. PrairiePond

    Thanks wicked. I dont know how some of the folks here are eligible, but I believe you.

    • wicked

      Here’s what I found on the Healthwave website:

      Covered Groups: Only members of certain groups of people may get
      medical assistance. If people do not fall into one of these groups, they do
      not qualify. The groups are listed below:
       Children up to age 19; including those who are in foster care or who
      get adoption support payments
       Pregnant Women
       Persons who are blind or disabled by Social Security rules
       Persons age 65 or older
       Persons receiving inpatient treatment for tuberculosis
       Low income families with children
       Persons screened and diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through
      the Early Detection Works program

      Click to access Fact_Sheet_Medical_Coverage_Basic_Eligibility_Requirements.pdf

  20. lillacluvr

    Is Medicaid and Healthwave the same thing?

    When I was diagnosed with colon cancer and went through 29 days of hospitalization, the hospital billing person told me to quit my job, divorce my husband and then Medicaid would come in and pay for everything.

    I just turned 54 yrs old a week before I got the diagnosis (that’s a birthday I won’t forget).

    BTW – I had good health insurance – the hospital had just been paid $168,000 for my services and they were hounding me for my share and did not want to take payments.

    • wicked

      Lilac, I’m not sure. Healthwave, at least for children, is part of SCHIP. To be honest, I haven’t looked any farther than that. Maybe a quick search for “medicaid” would net more information. I just haven’t done that.

  21. Does anyone remember when compromise meant something good? Another good word the victim of politicians. Another perfectly wonderful word, like conservative and liberal, changed to have a negative connotation.

    • lillacluvr

      Compromise became a four-letter word in 1994 when Newt and his Gang came to town.

      You remember – they were the gang with the white hats on and brought their God into fix all that was wrong with that evil liberal Bill Clinton’s administration.

      Ahhh…..I remember that. You saw what they promised and everyone saw what these people actually did once they got into power.

      Democracy cannot survive without compromise – IMHO.

      If you don’t compromise – then isn’t the ruling party simply a dicatorship or worse – a theocracy?

      • Compromise with regard to passing bills through Congress seems to mean giving away any chance that Americans may benefit for the votes to get the bill passed.

        Is this so the party in the majority (whichever one that it!) can’t be seen as effective?

  22. PrairiePond

    When it comes to politics, the word compromise just invokes the image of Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the football. “They” only compromise when they believe they can still jerk the football out anytime they want.

    If they were all working for the common good of the country and the people who live here, they wouldnt do that.

    But they arent. So they do.

  23. lillacluvr

    I keep coming back to what our fellow blogger Pauls alludes to so often .

    Both parties are so busy keeping the people fighting amongst ourselves on the wedge issues (and Fox News likes to use issues that are not even real wedgies – LOL) that the people do not see what is really going on?

    But until we start acting like one country and start getting some jobs to keep our citizens working, then are we the next nation that will be on the television looking for aid because we will be that poor third world nation.

    The corporatism in this country has raped and ruined our economy and that has been happening under both paties control. If China ever decided to call in their note on us – what would we do?

    Debtor nations are not the leaders and I fear we are headed in that direction.