Right Wing Nut House

8/19/2009

THE PUBLIC OPTION: NOT A SLIPPERY SLOPE — JUST PLAIN LIES

Filed under: Blogging, Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 9:15 am

So the public option is not a “government takeover” of the health insurance industry? Ok, sure. I’ll buy that.

Except after reading this, you will realize that the eventual goal of the people pushing it is to establish a single payer system and the public option is nothing more than a Trojan Horse designed to make that system a reality:

As progressives mourn the likely death of a public insurance option in health care reform, it’s worthwhile to trace the history of exactly where this idea — a compromise itself — came from. The public option was part of a carefully thought out and deliberately funded effort to put all the pieces in place for health reform before the 2008 election — a brilliant experiment, but one that at this particular moment, looks like it might turn out badly. (Which is not the same as saying it was a mistake.)

One key player was Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future. Hickey took UC Berkley health care expert Jacob Hacker’s idea for “a new public insurance pool modeled after Medicare” and went around to the community of single-payer advocates, making the case that this limited “public option” was the best they could hope for. Ideally, it would someday magically turn into single-payer. And then Hickey went to all the presidential candidates, acknowledging that politically, they couldn’t support single-payer, but that the “public option” would attract a real progressive constituency.

This little history lesson by Mark Schmitt is instructive. Most liberals know that advocating a single payer system would be political death for reform because, despite everything they are putting out about private health insurers, a huge majority of Americans are satisfied with the insurance they have and don’t want that to change. A whopping 83% of Americans believe the quality of health care they receive is “excellent” or “good” according to this Gallup poll from last December. And 67% believe their health care insurance is also “excellent” or “good.”

Even a Democratic pollster admits that people are “satisfied” with their coverage:

Satisfied’ means they like their doctor and have insurance to go to that doctor,” said Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster. “Maybe they think their policy is better than what most people have. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want reform.”

I agree. I want reform too. But establishing a system that is deliberately designed to eventually replace private insurance with a single payer government program would never fly in a million years in this country and the left knows it. Hence, the lies about the public option.

One of the major proponents of a single payer system, Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future, sold the idea of the public option to Obama and the other Democratic candidates last year:

The good news is that people are ready for big change. But the hard reality, from the point of view of all of us who understand the efficiency and simplicity of a single-payer system, is that our pollsters unanimously tell us that large numbers of Americans are not willing to give up the good private insurance they now have in order to be put into one big health plan run by the government.

Pollster Celinda Lake looked at public backing for a single-payer plan - and then compared it with an approach that offers a choice between highly regulated private insurance and a public plan like Medicare. This alternative, called “guaranteed choice” wins 64 percent support to 22 percent for single-payer. And even the hard core progressive part of the population, which Celinda calls the “health justice” constituency, favors “guaranteed choice” over single-payer. …

So the public option is not a slippery slope at all; it’s simply a lie invented to try and fool the American people into accepting “reform.”

Schmitt calls it “stealth single payer:”

But the downside is that the political process turns out to be as resistant to stealth single-payer as it is to plain-old single-payer. If there is a public plan, it certainly won’t be the kind of deal that could “become the dominant player.” So now this energetic, well-funded group of progressives is fired up to defend something fairly complex and not necessarily essential to health reform. (Or, put another way, there are plenty of bad versions of a public plan.) The symbolic intensity is hard for others to understand. But the intensity is understandable if you recognize that this is what they gave up single-payer for, so they want to win at least that much.

I had given Obama and the left the benefit of the doubt when ascribing a “slippery slope” to the idea that the public option would eventually crowd out private insurance in favor of a single payer government run system. In retrospect, I was too generous in granting them the inability to see the end result of their creation. It turns out, they knew full well where the public option would lead and simply lied about not believing that the public option would perform as they obviously hoped it would.

Professor Bainbridge:

What’s interesting is that so many on the left are willing to make what appears to be an admission against interest, but perhaps they feel it is needed to keep their less insightful troops in line.

It’s also why those of us who worry about slippery slopes want to see Obamacare killed in the womb.

I’ve been trying to think of anything comparable that has ever been attempted by conservatives - where they knew that what they wanted to accomplish was politically impossible and deliberately substituted an intermediate process that would eventually achieve what they wished, all the while denying that the slippery slope outlined by opponents would come to pass. Perhaps there has been abortion legislation designed to eventually outlaw the procedure. I’m sure there have been others. After all, there is nothing new in politics and the chances are very good that both sides have tried something like this before.

But I have never seen what Bainbridge calls this “admission against interest” so blatantly played out in such a public way. I think it shows that many on the left simply don’t care anymore about public opinion, and perhaps they’re right. Why should they when they’ve got such enormous majorities in the legislature, a president who believes most of what they believe, and an incurious media that refuses to call them out for such prevarication?

21 Comments

  1. Here is why they care, to answer your last question: elections. Otherwise, there would be no need to obfuscate. They actually have put their majority–at least in the House–in grave risk, and those Democrats there most likely to lose in 2010 know it. Otherwise there would be no need for the kabuki Professor Brainbridge laid out.

    The problem for the Democratic Left is that these lies have been so transparent even Joe Sixpack sees them. If the Left can convince the Blue Dogs to commit hari kari, they possibly could ram through this legislation. But it will come with such a high cost that I doubt it happens although it would be a great gift to the Right in a political sense.

    Comment by jackson1234 — 8/19/2009 @ 9:34 am

  2. 5 Star comment.
    As per #1, I think the real blindness on the part of the left is (1) They beleive their own lies, and (2) They dont realize that the liberal MSM is not in control of the conversation.

    We have liberal mouthpieces insisting that Obama not only is not for single-payer, but Obama saying he was *never* for it … and just a few clicks away on the right-osphere you can find clear rebuttal to that lie:

    http://www.breitbart.tv/obama-in-03-id-like-to-see-a-single-payer-health-care-plan/
    “I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. ” - Barack Obama, 2003

    see also:
    http://travismonitor.blogspot.com/2009/08/obamacares-public-option-on-life.html

    Comment by Freedoms Truth — 8/19/2009 @ 10:32 am

  3. [...] Rick Moran has even more proof to add to Bainbridge’s. Share and [...]

    Pingback by PoliGazette » Tipping Their Hand — 8/19/2009 @ 11:01 am

  4. a huge majority of Americans are satisfied with the insurance they have and don’t want that to change.

    This is true, but the plain truth is that people’s insurance changes pretty much every year, and not for the better. So this is pretty much a dishonest point to bring up.

    You can certainly argue that the reform will not be better than doing nothing, but that has nothing to do with the results of the poll. Quoting this poll is a PR move.

    Comment by Postagoras — 8/19/2009 @ 11:16 am

  5. Ideally, it would someday magically turn into single-payer.

    Your entire slippery slope argument is based on this one phrase. It’s the only item that you quote that indicates that the “real goal” is a single-payer system, and that this is just a trojan horse. But that is an editorial comment from the reporter- it’s not a quote.

    Is there anything in your post that says that the Obama administration has this magical belief? No.

    If that is eliminated from your post, then there’s nothing there to say that this the public option is a trojan horse. You can believe that if you want, but you can also believe in the Easter Bunny if you want.

    Slippery slope arguments from either party are more about creating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) than arguing about policy. Your other posts on the problems of health care reform are much better.

    “But the downside is that the political process turns out to be as resistant to stealth single-payer as it is to plain-old single-payer…”

    The whole idea of the public option was created as “stealth single payer.” The creators sold the idea to the presidential candidates. Barney Frank. Weiner, Obama himself have all said they prefer single payer so one would easily assume that they see the public option as the way to achieve that.

    Has Obama renounced his support for single payer? Not that I’ve heard. Perhaps then you could tell me why we should assume he has and that he doesn’t see the public option as a way to achieve it?

    ed.

    Comment by Postagoras — 8/19/2009 @ 11:38 am

  6. It’s good to see that you have woken up and are finally onboard.

    When opponents of the Obama Health care talk about a ‘Slippery Slope’, what they are really saying is that the slope is being greased.

    What in god’s name are you talking about? “Onboard” what? Opposing reform? Opposing the public option? Are you nuts? Can you read?

    Jesus.

    ed.

    Comment by bb — 8/19/2009 @ 11:47 am

  7. Has Obama renounced his support for single payer? Not that I’ve heard. Perhaps then you could tell me why we should assume he has and that he doesn’t see the public option as a way to achieve it?

    You can assume that, sure. But from what’s in the public record, you could NOT assume it, too.

    The interesting part of health care reform this time around is that it’s really damn hard to figure out what the President really wants. Obama has stated some lofty goals, but the devil is in the details. When President Clinton tried this, there was no ambiguity about the President’s details, and the whole thing went down to crashing defeat. Obama sure isn’t doing that.

    At this point I don’t know what Obama thinks about the bills that are in the committees. He has made zero statements about them. Is this a strategy? I guess so.

    I think that, if nothing else, this has been a good lesson in how policy is made in the Federal Government. Most people have only a passing notion of what happens in this committee or that committee, but so far, this has brought the “sausage-making” into the public eye. And as the saying goes, it ain’t pretty.

    If it’s really a strategy of Obama’s to let the process work out in Congress while making few detailed statements, then we can all expect to be frustrated and annoyed with him until the Fall. He’s keeping his cards close to his chest, and we’re left with reading the tea leaves in the various bills.

    And making dire warnings based on assumptions.

    Comment by Postagoras — 8/19/2009 @ 1:22 pm

  8. It looks to me like what we are going to get is a compromise between one side desiring a 300+mph 1/4 mile dragster, and the other side desiring an off road pickup that can tow 35,000lbs.

    Neither side is going to be happy, it will not be a world class system, but still each side can point at the other side and say it is their fault that the damn thing doesn’t do everything everyone wants it to do.

    How about a real compromise: A 100% for-profit system for everyone who wants that, and a public option for those who want that, and a piece of paper to sign that says the rest of don’t have to cover any medical expenses for those who decide that they don’t want any medical insurance. Let Joe Sixpack and Suzy Soccormom pick what works for them.

    Comment by KenGirard — 8/19/2009 @ 2:16 pm

  9. Senators, Congressmen, please heed the call……

    If you like it, feel free to borrow or steal parts or all this email which I am sending (all Senate and House addresses here). It’s just my first draft -
    To my President, my Senators and my Congressman:
    I strongly urge you not to support a…

    Trackback by Maggie's Farm — 8/19/2009 @ 2:20 pm

  10. Draw your own conclusions…

    “UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.” —

    Barack Obama, Aug. 11, 2009

    Comment by CZ — 8/19/2009 @ 4:15 pm

  11. Rick said:

    I’ve been trying to think of anything comparable that has ever been attempted by conservatives - where they knew that what they wanted to accomplish was politically impossible and deliberately substituted an intermediate process that would eventually achieve what they wished, all the while denying that the slippery slope outlined by opponents would come to pass.

    Here Rick, Let me get that one for you:

    Iraq

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 8/19/2009 @ 7:40 pm

  12. Chuck:

    I’ll give you a couple more:

    1) Social Security “reform.”
    2) Partial birth abortion ban.

    Given a while I’m sure you and I could come up plenty more.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 8/19/2009 @ 8:05 pm

  13. Hey, Michael, the public option was just a ploy yesterday. Have things changed? When did you get the new script? You people have become a self-parody. Enjoy these next sixteen months. It will be a long, long time before you get another shot at governance because you have proved piss poor at it in less than a year.

    Win a few elections?

    Sure.

    Bring it.

    Comment by obamathered — 8/19/2009 @ 8:44 pm

  14. A whopping 83% of Americans believe the quality of health care they receive is “excellent” or “good” according to this Gallup poll from last December. And 67% believe their health care insurance is also “excellent” or “good.”

    Err, who’s arguing about the quality of healthcare in the USA? Its the COST thats the problem! That same Gallup poll said:

    …the overwhelming majority of Americans — 79% — say they are dissatisfied with the total cost of healthcare in this country…

    Comment by Surabaya Stew — 8/19/2009 @ 9:19 pm

  15. It seems to me that an awful lot of legislation is done with the diea of a further goal at some point. The whole starve the beast thing was supposed to lead to smaller govt. (Ha!). Invading Iraq so we could be prepared to attack Iran. Just because you take the first step does not mean you have to take the next. magic isnt real.

    Steve

    Comment by steve — 8/20/2009 @ 2:15 am

  16. #13

    I’d ask you to make some sense of your comment, then I realized you’ve never made sense. Like talking to a dining room table.

    Heh - funniest thing I’ve read during this entire debate - even though it may have been a scripted moment by Frank. Sounds like something I’d say to you after one of your flights of fancy.

    ed.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 8/20/2009 @ 8:02 am

  17. I sense that “dining room table” is entering the internet lexicon. It may be with us for a while.

    I know I’ve used “brains of a coffee table” before. Do I get any credit for being close?

    ed.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 8/20/2009 @ 9:40 am

  18. Rick said:

    Do I get any credit for being close?

    The internet hereby grants you 85% credit.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 8/20/2009 @ 9:50 am

  19. Does Rick have a reading comprehension latency? “Ideally, it would someday magically turn into single-payer.” The key word is “ideally” or “wishful thinking.” The article doesn’t suggest that the “public option” would eventually morph into the universal health care system where the private sector would vanish forever and ever. Of course there are elements in the progressive movement that hope for such eventuality, however, as the article suggests, since the overall milieu of the society is foreign to the full blown government-run health care system, the next best thing was, according to the trailblazer of UHCS, to have a public option along side of the current system. Besides, even if this concept was ascribed in the post, it doesn’t illustrate how the transformation is planned because there is none to begin with. Interestingly enough, when I earlier on stumbled upon this article, I focused on this VERY sentence and pondered how many of the right leaning bloggers would semantically misinterpret its very construct. I really didn’t think Rick would fall for it though. Intellectual honesty doesn’t have to rain in gallon for one to quench his thirst for probity.

    Comment by zish — 8/20/2009 @ 9:16 pm

  20. Let me translate from wood to Obamabot, then, Michael:

    “michael reynolds Said:
    3:33 pm

    I’ve suspected from the start that the public option was trade goods. It’s not an original idea with me, though I can’t remember who was suggesting it many months ago.

    But you’ll notice that opposition is centered almost entirely on the public option.

    In the meantime we’ve all more or less coalesced around portability, no pre-existing conditions, transparency, vouchers for the poor, modification of the tax deduction system and tax increases on the well-off and maybe a national as opposed to state insurance market.

    I liked the public option because I like more choice rather than less. But I always thought that’s what we’d be willing to give up to get 75% of what we wanted.

    So now we can drop the PO, the Blue Dogs can come rushing back and claim victory. We’ll probably get the Maine women, too, and maybe a random GOPer here or there. The bill will pass. It will be the Obama health care reform, it will be arguably bi-partisan.

    It will do little or nothing to bring down costs. For which we can conveniently blame right-wing GOP intransigence and scare-mongering. (The Blue Dogs will be forgiven and forgotten.)

    Then, in a few years, we’ll add the public option.

    Obama doesn’t care who gets credit, or what people say about him. He only cares about what he gets done. He will have gotten done what he needed to get done.”

    —Michael Reynolds, 08/16/09, before the script changed and the Public Option became absolutely necessary–again.

    Facts and old posts are stubborned things.

    Comment by obamathered — 8/20/2009 @ 10:09 pm

  21. Rick,

    If the Klu Klux Klan supports strict enforcement of the country’s current immigration laws as a first step towards purging the country of all Hispanic culture and populace, does it logically follow that this is also the Republican party’s motive for advocating strict enforcement of said laws?

    If Tom Tancredo supports it for similar reasons, does *that* allow one to conclude the same?
    Does it logically follow that this action would actually have that consequence? Or is it, essentially, red-meat BS?

    The word “public plan” holds a wide variety of possible concepts, but the one actually in the House and HELP bills subsidizes individuals regardless of whether they choose private or public coverage. Also, it is deficit neutral over ten years. A public plan that offered wildly cheap care compared to private alternatives might conceivably be a “Trojan horse to single payer”, but this public plan has no prospect of doing any such thing. Heck, there are explicit promises to keep medical care provider reimbursements near-to-even with current standards!

    Don’t you pride yourself on knowledge and rational thought? And yet, you’ve decided the ‘public plan’ is a “trojan” horse because some radical, somewhere, spoke about it possibly being so. You’ve stumbled on an example of left-wing red meat BS. Try not to confuse it with reality.

    For Pete’s sake, man, just read the CBO reports. Or read *coverage* of the CBO reports. 10 million people out of 140 million leaving private insurance is not the end of the private insurance industry. It is, however, a much needed signal that the days of near-infinite knifing your customers in the back needs to change.

    Comment by glasnost — 8/25/2009 @ 8:30 am

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