Right Wing Nut House

9/10/2009

THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR OR THE GREAT PREVARICATOR?

Filed under: Government, Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 10:53 am

The president went before Congress last night with an almost impossible job facing him; 1) calm the public’s fears and anxieties; 2) try and get some GOP cover for his fellow Democrats; and 3) move the ball forward on reform.

First, looking at the speech from the standpoint of political theater and speechcraft, it was as good as he’s ever been. James Fallows:

- Conciliatory: You Republicans want to talk about tort reform? Let’s hear your ideas.
- Tough: When you tell lies, we will call you out.
- Clarifying: For the first time ever, I felt as if I glimpsed a “larger idea” behind the Obama plan.
- Big picture: The role-of-government soliloquy at the end, including the connection to the moral and social-contract histories of Social Security and Medicare.
- Emotional, sans schmaltz: As he got ready for the end, I feared that he would tell the story of all the Lenny Skutnik figures in the First Lady’s box. Instead, he told Ted Kennedy’s story, with allusions only to Kennedy’s Republican friends.
- Simple performance dynamics: Well delivered, including at crucial points talking over the applause to keep the rhythm going.
- Manners: Will it pay off for the Republicans to have booed him and, in the case of Rep. “Gentleman Joe” Wilson of South Carolina, to have yelled “you lie!” at the President? We’ll see.

I would agree with most of that analysis. Obama implanted his vision of government’s role in society in the public mind - something he didn’t dare do during the campaign for obvious reasons. I disagree with that vision, but it has its roots in neo-liberal thought and modern social democratic philosophy. I can see Nicolas Sarkozy nodding his head in agreement through much of it. It is clear he had thought deeply on the subject and it was also clear that his experience as a community organizer informed at least some of his thinking.

I don’t think either Bush (father or son), or Clinton, had such a well developed political philosophy. Got to go back to Reagan to find someone who had given even more thought to the role of government in a free society. Reagan was older so no criticism of Obama is intended by that. Both men used their experience interacting with ordinary Americans to reach their almost opposite beliefs.

(Note: Critics of Reagan tend to forget that he spent nearly two decades on the “rubber chicken” circuit as both a conservative speaker and, more importantly, a spokesman for GE. Morris believes more than anything, this rubbing elbows with ordinary Americans helped change Reagan from an FDR Democrat to a Goldwater conservative.)

I must say, however, that his calls for “civility” and his outreach to Republicans rang a little hollow. I didn’t hear much criticism coming from the White House at the time as Congressional dems savaged Republicans for their opposition. Evidently, the president agreed with all the talk of “angry mobs,” and “racists,” and “fascists.” But going on national TV, he extends his hand in hopes that he can get cooperation from the other side?

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. It is unrealistic for the president to ask the GOP to support him on issues like the public option, or a “trigger” for the public option (if you believe the triggers will be designed to do anything except lead to an eventual public option, I got some swampland in Florida you can buy). Either provision is a deal killer. It would be political suicide in the party not to mention that it violates fundamental principles of conservatism. You wouldn’t expect Democrats to support and entirely free market approach to reform. Neither should the president expect the GOP to support the public option.

Co-ops are a little different story but I don’t think we need worry about them being in any final bill passed by the Democrats. My personal belief is that eventually, most of the co-ops would fail and necessitate a takeover by the Feds thus bringing us single payer insurance by default.

But it is the “If you tell lies, we will call you out” statement that I have the most trouble with.

Regular readers know that I have taken a dim view toward most of the slippery slope arguments advanced by Republicans and the right. But in the history of government entitlements, if anyone can show me where the law of unintended consequences didn’t emerge - and rather quickly - following their enactment, I would be most appreciative.

Obama is saying that if it’s not written into the bill that a public option will lead eventually to a single payer system, then you cannot draw logical conclusions that such would be the case. I totally reject that idea, based not only on the way the system is set up but also because several liberals have made absolutely no bones about the fact that this is exactly what the public option is for. When your opponent admits that your slippery slope argument is true, why would it be a lie?

The same holds true for the few other slippery slope arguments I believe are legitimate. For instance, is it possible for a bill (HR3200) that contains provisions to create 53 new panels, committees, and boards with regulatory or statutory authority over health care in America really, really lead to more “efficient” and “cheaper” health care?

Not in this universe. And the logical result of reducing Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals means one of two things; either those health care entities will stop or reduce the number of Medicare patients they take on or they will reduce services - i.e., “ration” care. If there is another conclusion that can be drawn from that, I am willing to hear it.

Again, there will be nothing in any reform bill that will mandate that behavior by doctors or hospitals, but the results are inescapable - unless you believe that they are stupid and will perform the same work for less money. Would you? Why should they?

But President Obama says that if anyone makes that argument, the White House will “call them out” for their lies. This is unreasonable and bad government to boot. The reason for Congressional hearings on such important matters is to flesh out these slippery slopes and write legislation that minimizes the chance they will be realized or eliminate them entirely.

Of course, we haven’t had any hearings on the most important social legislation in nearly 50 years so why bother now? These bills - including the president’s version - have been written in secrecy, negotiated behind closed doors. How much input have lobbyists had? How much has the opposition contributed? Who is for what? Who is opposed to which?

This is “good government?”

It’s not that there aren’t some good ideas being put forward, as I made clear in my post yesterday on the Baucus bill. But both sides have certain red lines that cannot be crossed, and for either side to insist that it’s their way or the highway on these deal breakers is unreasonable.

Obama might uncouple some Republicans with the co-op option if certain provisions relating to how they must operate are included while also incorporating some kind of tort reform in the final bill. He will lose liberal support, but probably gain a good 12-18 Republicans in the House and 6-8 GOP senators in the bargain. Not impressive, but considering the partisan nature of our politics today, it would be a significant achievement.

I would look very closely at such a bill if it included a more carefully crafted co-op provision, and meaningful tort reform, along with some of the measures in the Baucus bill I outlined previously. There is a need for health care reform - not a crisis by any means and certainly, not because Obama’s nauseating demagoguery from the speech that made passage a matter of life and death. But somebody somewhere has got to get a handle on skyrocketing costs. And I agree with the president that this is the moment for it.

A bill that may help cut the rate of growth in health care spending while doing minimal damage to the private sector, and improving the quality of care is a bill that I and many Republicans who want to see action on this might be inclined to support. But the chances of that happening are just about nil. The gargantuan mess that the Democrats have created of reform will now be bludgeoned to fruition by the president with several provisions that will be included that are bad for health care, bad for the people, and bad for the country.

16 Comments

  1. A few points:
    1. It may be bad form for a Congress-critter to yell during a Presidential address (not that it stopped Democrats from doing it to Bush in 2005), but it’s worse form for a President to say “we will call you out” on lies and then tell lies himself. I don’t see how any speech loaded with so many dishonest statements could be considered any good.

    2. If we are going to save so much on Medicare, then by gum go save it and stave of Medicare bankruptcy. Lets see the savings FIRST before we create those 53 new agencies etc. and the monster new entitlement expansions.

    3. Three things that should be off the table and unacceptable - Mandates (individual and employer), higher taxes, and more unfunded mandates on the states. These all will take away healthcare freedom, choice and hurt our prosperity and destroy jobs. There should be ZERO Republican votes for those higher taxes, freedom-destroying (and possibly unconstitutional) mandates, and Medicaid unfunded mandates on the states.

    4. “I must say, however, that his calls for “civility” and his outreach to Republicans rang a little hollow.” Indeed. Leaders lead by going first and setting the example. We see the Democrats bashing their opponents then demanding civility. Hypocrites, not leaders.

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 9/10/2009 @ 11:12 am

  2. Up front and to be fair, it always was unrealistic to expect this speech to have any major impact on how senators and MoC’s eventually would vote. That was the type of process bullshit the media narrative advances even when it patently untrue.

    I honestly doubt one vote was changed last night. It wasn’t because of the president’s communication skills or lack of veracity, either. To have been successful, the speech needed to go into specific detail about what the final legislation would include. Given the deep divisions within his own party, Obama could not deliver that speech. Instead, he simply regurgitated the same broad themes he has set forth since he took office. There is no more of a “plan” now than it was in July.

    I am more convinced today than ever that whatever emerges from this Congress will bear no resemblance whatsoever to what any reasonable person would call health care reform. It will be some face-saving piece of crap that will be signed, sealed and forgotten much like the now defunct catastrophic insurance program. The president will claim victory and the Republicans and Blue Dogs will claim they stopped nationalized medicine. Meanwhile costs will continue to skyrocket and the uninsured and underinsured will remain in jeopardy.

    As someone who doesn’t want government-run health care I should be happy. As someone who realizes there are deep problems and flaws within the current system, I cannot be happy. The bottom line is this president was a fantastic campaigner but he is piss poor at governance. It will be a depressing three years ahead of us.

    Comment by jackson1234 — 9/10/2009 @ 11:21 am

  3. “You wouldn’t expect Democrats to support and entirely free market approach to reform. ”

    Hmmmmm…. why not? Obviously we are FAR from a free market in health care with Government spending about 50% of every healthcare dollar … but don’t you think we could have a reform that, if it didnt take us to 0% govt spending, at least did not GROW the relative size of Government involvement, consider if you had this:
    - Means-test medicare and have tort reform for medicine; saves govt $ in health spending
    - Embrace Health savings accounts, allow 100% deductibility, which would also ‘bend the cost curve’
    - Address pre-existing conditions by allowing ‘donut hole’ insurance sold and ..
    - establish a ‘high-risk’ pool insurance program that is govt/insurance-subsidized for low/middle income folks, and caps premiums based on income, to allow those who cant get regular health insurance get access to it. combined with ‘donut-hole’ insurance, would enable even high-risk individuals to get reasonable health insurance.
    - Merge Medicaid and SCHIP, give a voucher for care, with govt support on sliding scale, allow users to buy private insurance or medicaid plan; saving money in some places would allow expansion to cover more people
    - Allow people to buy health insurance across state lines and have mandate-free insurance available nationwide for low-cost high-deductibility uses (eg for healthy folks)
    - Direct NIH spending towards cost reduction in medicine

    All of the above would be a ‘no-added-cost-to-Govt’ plan that manages to increase access and affordability of healthcare. While it would not increase Govt spending, it would have the Govt cover more people who need coverage. It would not force/mandate coverage but it would cover more people.

    IMHO, *THIS* is where the ‘centrist’ solution would reside, fix the problem in a way that preserves what is good about status quo, not in the communityrating -> ‘mandate’-> public option ->single payer path, which is the path to disaster and loss of freedom.

    Some analysis of the great prevaricator:
    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/09/10/ap-fact-checks-obama-speech/

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 9/10/2009 @ 11:27 am

  4. RM wrote: if anyone can show me where the law of unintended consequences didn’t emerge - and rather quickly - following their enactment, I would be most appreciative.

    social security? i am unaware of problems that emerged “rather quickly” in that case.

    but i think your construction “didn’t emerge” opens the door to arguing that there can never be bumps in the road. that is, i’m nervously awaiting: “ha, ha, you stupid liberal, don’t you know SS is about to go broke?”

    Which, of course, is not true.

    If you could make a substantive response, I would be most appreciative.

    “Rather quickly” may be inoperative in SS case but I think there is the idea that it was never designed to be a government pension system - the sole form of support for the elderly; and the idea that people who are collecting benefits now have far, far exceeded anything they ever paid into the system (while younger people will never see half of what they paid in); and that SS payouts for “disability” has far, far exceeded anything dreamed of when it was passed.

    That’s just off the top of my head.

    ed.

    Comment by HyperIon — 9/10/2009 @ 11:28 am

  5. This is not about health care. It’s about government controlling another aspect of our lives.

    Please give me an example of anything, or any program, that the GOVERNMENT has run that was successful? EVER?

    Or, how about an example of a government program that didn’t need to be expanded every year?

    God help us if this bill passes. The unintended consequences will be catastrophic. Period.

    Comment by Charlotte — 9/10/2009 @ 12:30 pm

  6. Charlotte,

    Please give me an example of anything, or any program, that the GOVERNMENT has run that was successful? EVER?

    How would you define successful?

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 9/10/2009 @ 12:41 pm

  7. “if anyone can show me where the law of unintended consequences didn’t emerge - and rather quickly - following their enactment, I would be most appreciative.”

    The Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit?

    Comment by Davebo — 9/10/2009 @ 1:27 pm

  8. “I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. It is unrealistic for the president to ask the GOP to support him on issues like the public option … it violates fundamental principles of conservatism. ”

    You’ve also made it clear that your vision of conservativism doesn’t match 100% with the GOP’s vision, if they have a vision at all. At the moment we have GOP members casting themselves, bizarrely enough, as defenders of Medicare. While I agree that the GOP as a whole won’t support the public option, a few individual GOP members might if they see a political advantage.

    Comment by Aaron — 9/10/2009 @ 1:31 pm

  9. “But President Obama says that if anyone makes that argument, the White House will ‘call them out’” for their lies.”

    He didn’t say anything of the sort.

    He said he would call out lies, and you give as an example of “lies” disagreements about the future evolution and consequences of provisions in the bill, then you leap to the conclusion that those are categorized as lies.

    Death panels . . . that’s a lie.
    Mandatory Abortions and/or Sex change operations . . . that’s a lie.
    Euthanizing the elderly . . . that’s a lie.
    Banning private insurance . . . that’s a lie.

    Those are lies because there’s nothing in the bills that suggests, hints, implies, or potentially could evolve into any of those things. What you call “lies” aren’t remotely in the same ballpark. Hell, they’re not even in the same town as the ballpark.

    With all of the utter nonsense that has been spouted over the last 6 weeks or so (much of which you yourself have called out as lies), what on Earth made you think that he was talking about your examples? That was the first thought that came to your mind? I frankly have trouble believing that . . . meaning that your ignoring all the blatant “lies” to offer up your examples is a deliberate attempt to twist what he said into something it isn’t.

    It’s a weak showing. Try harder.

    Get your eyeglass prescription changed or your hearing aid power boosted:

    If you misrepresent what’s in this plan, we will call you out.

    That seems pretty certain and final. “What’s in the plan” is definitive. How you can read it any other way than how I see it is beyond me - unless you are blinded by partisanship. No slippery slope arguments allowed. None. If the bill doesn’t say this will lead to single payer, it’s a lie and we will call you out.

    ed.

    Comment by busboy33 — 9/10/2009 @ 1:32 pm

  10. Aaron said:

    While I agree that the GOP as a whole won’t support the public option, a few individual GOP members might if they see a political advantage.

    Any politician on either side would support just about anything if they saw a political advantage.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 9/10/2009 @ 1:55 pm

  11. Excuse me, but I was clicking through the blog roll and was SHOCKED to notice that one of your websites, Little Green Footballs, is actually a progressive left-wing blog.

    I thought that this website was anti-jihad and shared some conservative views. Yet, all I found there were articles that hammered creationists (I am not one, but it was insulting), insulted Glenn Beck and other pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity.

    This blog was supporting Van Jones for god’s sake! And this trash heap is linked here at this sweet website….

    I could really care less who’s on my blogroll. Some of those blogs probably don’t even exist anymore. Others? Feh.

    Charles is a personal friend who has his mind screwed on pretty good. He’s a rationalist who decries the abomination that conservatism has become thanks to your heroes Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and that racist pig Michael Savage. If you hate Charles you hate me so get lost.

    ed.

    Comment by William J. — 9/10/2009 @ 2:29 pm

  12. It is beyond absurd that we digging into something as big as health care while the country’s economy is crashing. The IMF is printing money, half the world wants to escape the dollar and the UN has said it’s imperative to replace the dollar.

    So, while the country burns, you and the corporate media fiddle in the smoke. Neither the democrats nor the republicans, and their media shills, will dare tell the truth about the economy yet alone discuss solutions.

    If you haven’t figured out yet, and I told you over a year ago - the Federal Reserve is not federal, it is a privately owned banking cartel that is destroying the U.S. in debt. The new york branch of the fed runs the system and they are owned by - surprise - goldman sachs, citibank, JP morgan chase, and the other big wall street banks.

    The republicans and democrats are run by the same banks and special interests. You provide no alternatives and only quote the party line.

    Larry

    Comment by DrKrbyLuv — 9/10/2009 @ 2:36 pm

  13. Why would anyone ever consider this bill leading to a single payer as a slippery slope argument? The democrats have been pushing for it for decades, and all of a sudden they’re not? Balderdash. The problem is they can’t sell single payer so they’re trying to disguise it. This is what has many folks worried. They are not sure exactly what is trying to be sold, so they are skeptical.

    Similarly some of the other concerns. A reasonable person can infer that some of these things are entirely possible unless they are proscribed outright. Suppoprters, and opponents, of this bill are answering and asking the wrong question. The real question to me is this: given the current language of this bill are these consequences possible?

    Comment by Allen — 9/10/2009 @ 4:47 pm

  14. In all of this, I have yet to hear a reasonable answer to the question: What do the insurance corporations bring to the table?

    Because as far as I can tell, it’s absolutely positively nothing.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 9/10/2009 @ 10:40 pm

  15. I liked it when Obama acknowledged we already pay a $1000 “hidden tax” each year to pay for someone else’s care and that any government solution must require everyone (even the young and healthy) to obtain insurance. I also liked it when Obama promised to not to add one dime to the deficit.

    I can’t believe, however, that Obama can avoid increasing the deficit by spending $90 billion per year on health care, and that this amount will be recouped by reducing waste and fraud. (He also hinted he would shift funds away from Defense for this purpose.)

    Obama extolled the virtues of Social Security, as if his health care program would do something wonderfully similar for Americans. If Social Security were financially solvent, he might have a point. But Social Security needs many trillions of dollars to meet future obligations. The tax burden on younger workers is growing unbearable as the population ages. If the government can’t get it right on Social Security, how can we trust them on health care?

    The President promised the middle class will not see higher taxes, but I don’t believe it. There’s just no other way to pay for this massive new program. No matter how you cut it, those who are already paying the “hidden tax” will now have to pay just as much (probably more) to the government for this program.

    Comment by Doug King — 9/10/2009 @ 10:59 pm

  16. Saturday morning links…

    Dave Barry on 9-11, at Wizbang:

    "The people who did this to us are monsters; the people who cheered them have hate-sickened minds. One reason they can cheer is that they know we would never do to them what their heroes did to us, even though we…

    Trackback by Maggie's Farm — 9/12/2009 @ 3:10 am

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