Just a few words on this earlier post about Obama, progress and pragmatism. Brought about by this post by Glenn Greenwald who makes some good points while also being too generalized in some of the issues he runs through. Intentioned or not, whether its politics, cultural issues, a celebrity or the team quarterback there is a crowd or sociological phenomenon that Glenn, among others, might not get. Let’s take the quarterback because life is so much like high school. He might be getting criticized based on his passing percentage from one group, while at the same time another group who sees nothing in particular bad about his passing game is passing around negative comments about his personality and character. Two different camps, two different issues with the same person, but the sum total that everyone else hears is a big negative message that lacks nuance, accusations that are sometimes unfair to false. Not that they matter very much in moving elected officials, but the comment sections on news sites provide a good example – a liberal says Obama “sucks” and a tea bagger says Obama “sucks”. It’s a very disappointing level of thought and discourse on both sides. It ripples out into the national consciousness as Obama bad, any alternative is good. President Obama does seem determined to make things tough at times for people to defend him, He Wasn’t The One We’ve Been Waiting For –
Health care reform — which is crucial for millions of Americans — hangs in the balance. Progressives are desperately in need of leadership; more specifically, House Democrats need to be told to pass the Senate bill, which isn’t what they wanted but is vastly better than nothing. And what we get from the great progressive hope, the man who was offering hope and change, is this:
I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on. We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people. We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because if we don’t, then our budgets are going to blow up and we know that small businesses are going to need help so that they can provide health insurance to their families. Those are the core, some of the core elements of, to this bill. Now I think there’s some things in there that people don’t like and legitimately don’t like.
In short, “Run away, run away”!
Krugman’s interpretation could be off. When Obama says ” Now I think there’s some things in there that people don’t like and legitimately don’t like”, he could mean the lack of a public option or the lack of a Medicare buy in, but we have another impression. Why, because it does have the sound of President Obama once again twisting himself backwards trying to get any kind of health care reform, even an half empty shell of reform. Someone at the White House notices and releases this response, On Next Steps for Health Reform
Right now there are a lot of discussions going on about the best path forward. But let’s be clear that the President’s preference is to pass a bill that meets the principles he laid out months ago: more stability and security for those who have insurance, affordable coverage options for those who don’t, and lower costs for families, businesses, and governments.
Update: For more specific context, some stories floating around have claimed that the President has decided to pursue a slimmed-down health reform bill.
The “stories” are that the President will settle for are bare bones reform. The White House has only itself to blame if the President himself does not send a clearer, more concrete message. There is a small glimmer of good news. Senate Budget Chair Kent Conrad is cautiously open to using reconciliation to solve the HCR conundrum. Which would only require a simple majority of 51 votes. Now is a good time to call and e-mail suggesting your Senator ( regardless of party) read Ezra Klein’s advice – include the medicare buy-in which had 51 votes and expand Medicaid. This is an echo of what several blogs have written, but why not just expand Medicare to 18 years old and up. If Democrats in either House listen to the far Right spin on Massachusetts they are going to be punished at the polls later this year and 2012. The House has already voted for reform with a public-option. Conservatives are going to going to use the ‘they were for it before they were against it’ tact in their campaigns while the Democratic base stays home. If Democrats in both Houses stick with substantial reform they will have something to battle back with. Where were Republicans on trying to save small business – they were against it. Where were Republican’s on spiraling insurance premiums – they were for it. Where were Republicans on protecting your family from financial ruin – Republicans did not care. Jonathan Cohn seems to really get the quarterback phenomenon in regards to Democrats and health-care, Dear Nervous & Frustrated House Democrat…
True, shelving the bill would end the dithering. But it would also solidify the public perceptions that are destroying you now. Listen to the complaints: You’re feckless. You don’t follow through on your promises. You don’t deliver progress. Giving up on the idea that’s been your primary preoccupation for the last year–and, by the way, a primary focus of the last presidential campaign–is not exactly a way to challenge these conclusions.
You’ll have less political capital, making it hard to deliver progress on the economy or anything else. As for reelection, well, ask the congressional Democrats running in 1994 how failing to deliver health care reform worked for them.
Remember, Republicans will blame you for this bill anyway. Unless you’re among the few Democrats who opposed it on the first go-round, you’ve already voted for health care reform. And you can bet the Republicans will let voters know that come November.
I tended to dismiss that round of speculation a few months ago about President Obama caring too much about being liked – a condition that applies to Democratic officials in general. It’s not about being liked it seems, but Democrats worry too much about what Republicans thinks and not enough about the people that get them elected think. One of the strangest bits of political zeitgeist that I’ve seen in the last ten years. Republicans are the deather, birther, INTERPOl conspiracy obsessed, black helicopter sighting peanut gallery. Democrats need to get it through their heads that the party that drove the country off the cliff and is pursuing a rabid far Right tea bagger agenda is not going to vote Democrat regardless of what health reform looks like.
This might also be another glimmer of good news as Obama looks back at his first year and reevaluates, Obama Proposes Volcker-Style Financial Reform
It looks like the political winds have shifted away from Tim Geithner/Larry Summers and toward Paul Volcker/Elizabeth Warren:
Obama to Propose Limits on Risks Taken by Banks, by Jackie Calmes and Louis Uchitelle, NYTimes: President Obama on Thursday will publicly propose giving bank regulators the power to limit the size of the nation’s largest banks and the scope of their risk-taking activities…
The president, for the first time, will throw his weight behind an approach long championed by Paul A. Volcker… The proposal will put limits on bank size and prohibit commercial banks from trading for their own accounts — known as proprietary trading. …
Regular readers probably know that if I could afford to buy Larry Summers a one-way ticket to the country of his choice he’d be on that flight this afternoon. This is the kind of genuine populism – combined with real health-care reform – that will win Democratic seats in the mid-terms. Hopefully more progressive seats.