I have a pretty low user ID and I have never seen so many flat-out right wing arguments on this site as I have seen lately. It is amazing!
How did it happen? Political activists decided, with good reason, that there had to be some way to screw up the courage of progressive legislators, to get them to hold their ground. So, they decided to draw a line in the sand: a "public option" or no deal. As political strategy, it has been effective in many ways. The problem is, folks confused strategy with fact.
Now, with the PO gone, tons of "progressives" on this site are devoted to the task of defeating the most massive expansion of the US social welfare state in decades. And what arguments to they use? Most often, the ones that are always used to defeat social progress: right wing ones!
To be clear: I am greatly in favor of a strong PO (I prefer single payer.) The question I am addressing is whether, at the end of the day, if progressive legislators genuinely conclude that they can't get the PO through our non-majority-rule Senate, how should they vote?
Follow me over the fold and we will identify the right-wing arguments that folks here are using to conclude that they should vote "no".
"If it doesn't help me (a young healthy person who isn't poor enough to benefit from the Medicaid expansion) then I am opposed to it!" I have seen this argument more and more on this site, made very explicitly. It is classic right-wing morality: I don't care about the old and the poor and the sick, I care about me.
Similarly, how dare the government mandate me to buy something I don't want to buy ? Hmmm, reading too much Ayn Rand?
OK, but what about the argument that even without the PO, millions of the previously uninsured will be covered, saving many thousands of lives? The classic right wing responses follow, and they are used a lot on this site these days.
"Folks without explicit insurance manage to get some kind of help and the number of deaths is exaggerated, not that many people will die if the plan fails." Yep, George Bush said the same thing.
"The important thing is to reduce costs, and without the PO costs won't come down. Yes, Republicans always put costs over the health and happiness of the poor and uninsured.
"The plan won't actually cover more folks, the newly insured will be offset by the decline in employer-based care." This argument of "100% crowd out of government programs" is gospel in Chicago School conservative economics. Thank you, Prof. Friedman.
But what about the fact of how a similar plan actually works to achieve almost universal coverage in MA? Oh, no, for some DKers these days, no fact is what it seems and all facts that seem to be evidence of actually existing government programs working is just wish thinking by naive fools. That's what Sarah Palin thinks, too!
What about trying to regulate private plans more strictly. Oh, yeah, like the government is ever competent at regulation, look at the banks! Ron Paul especially approves of this argument.
What about the actual opinions of liberal experts -- Paul Krugman, Jon Gruber, Ezra Klein? Why that just shows how big the conspiracy really is. Thank you, Glenn Beck.
As Ezra Klein says
It might have been a necessary thing from an activism point of view, but convincing liberals that this bill was worthless in the absence of the public option was a terrible decision, wrong on the merits and unfair to the base.
One of the consequences of that terrible decision is this outbreak of right-wing insanity on this site.
As Nate Silver says:
To claim that a health care bill without a public option is anything other than a huge achievement for progressives is, frankly, bullshit.
Yes, and, too often, right-wing bullshit.
Are you willing to let millions go uninsured? To let however many thousands die? Because if you are, 40 Republican Senators are standing by, ready to help you out. You are, in fact, their only hope. How useful that so many of you have learned their arguments so well.
UPDATE: thanks for all the recs. And thanks, but not really, for making almost all of these arguments below (so much for "straw men".)
And some ones I forgot. Like: mandates are unconstitutional! Note that moderate Republicans think that this one makes you a right-wing lunatic.
And once again: the fact is that this is already happening in MA. It exists, it greatly expanded coverage, it is pretty popular, it mostly works and, no, it has not been overturned by the courts. And, by the way, in actual empirical fact the "fine" for not participating is small, and yet most folks sign up anyway. And more employers are offering coverage. (But no, it is not perfect, not nearly.)
And for those who want a more positive pro-passage argument, let me finish the rest of Ezra's paragraph:
The achievement of this bill is $900 billion to help people purchase health-care coverage, a new market that begins to equalize the conditions of the unemployed and the employed, and a regulatory structure in which this country can build, for the first time, a universal health-care system. Thousands and thousands of lives will be saved by this bill. Bankruptcies will be averted. Rescission letters won't be sent. Parents won't have to fret because they can't take their child, or themselves, to the emergency room. This bill will, without doubt, do more good than any single piece of legislation passed during my (admittedly brief) lifetime. If it passes, the party that fought for it for decades deserves to feel a sense of accomplishment.
And then you can go read the rest of the linked posts by Ezra and Chris. If you are against mandates, please at least google "adverse selection," which is the problem that will destroy community rating (and bring back "pre-existing conditions") if mandates are dropped.
Update 2 OK, let's turn to the non-right wing arguments. It is clear that a lot of folks don't understand how the actual bills work. I keep seeing statements that the bills "won't lower anyone's premium." In fact, 15 million folks get free Medicaid. And many millions more get very large subsidies (100s of billions of dollars worth) that will drive their net premium costs down a lot.
It is not true that poor folks will be mandated to get expensive insurance. Poor folks will be given free insurance.
For folks that have pre-existing conditions, "community rating" will lower their premiums by a vast amount.
Also, the exchanges will create a little extra competition in the individual insurance markets, which will help a little bit. This is where the POs would live, and they would definitely help. Even with the "weak PO," this is a weak part of the bill that I really want to be improved (for example, with a strong PO.) However, I am not holding my breath on that improvement.
Also, I see comments like "I will be forced to pay infinitely high premiums." First, the worse that can be "forced" on you is a relatively small fine, think of it as an "emergency room users fee." Second, if premium costs rise, then you are freed from the mandate -- there is a maximum % of income that you can be asked to pay and if the premium is higher then you have no mandate. So it can't be true that "premiums will soar and I will be forced to pay them."
Lots of folks are making predictions about the terrible things that will happen if the bills pass that are contrary to actual experience with a similar bill in MA. Look: the MA experience is far from perfect, but it is no disaster either. It is definitely better than the rest of the country.
AND: I am very much in favor of making the bill better (hell, let's get Single Payer.) My argument is: the bill, even without the PO, is much better than the truly horrible status quo and I don't like it when progressives re-cycle right wing talking points to argue the opposite case. If you aren't doing that, then I am not calling you out!