Will Lieberman Give The Republicans The Margin They Need To Kill Healthcare Reform?
Forget the public polling that shows most Americans want Congress to pass healthcare reform with a public option. Why forget it? Because your senators not only won't take public opinion into account, they would rather just focus on the Astroturfed rantings of last summer's moronic teabaggers than on legitimate expressions of public concern. [Watch Miss McConnell lying his ass off at the end of the video clip below.] It fits their own ideology-- and their own financial interests, since the Insurance Giants and Medical-Industrial Complex finance so many of their political careers-- and offer them and their families cushy jobs to boot. Take Hadassah Lieberman, for example, a notorious lobbyist for big PhRMA, who acts as a funnel for immense-- but undisclosed-- bribes from the Complex right into conveniently anti-healthcare reform fanatic Joe Lieberman's bank account.
Lieberman has been misrepresenting what the public option is and even got called on the carpet by Arlen Specter for doing just that! Of course, no one Inside the Beltway ever mentions Hadassah. Our elected officials are given a pass on the bribery thing, unless they write it down explicitly the way Duke Cunningham did-- or get caught with stacks of hot cash in their freezer the way William Jefferson did. But the really BIG money that senators like Lieberman get from special interests... how could a man of his obvious moral integrity even notice that the Medical-Industrial Complex has "donated" $2,397,369 to his career or that the Insurance Industry has heaped on another $1,037,652 when he's contemplating public policy? And all that without the payoff scheme that's been worked out through Hadassah. Gee, Lieberman wouldn't even campaign on the Sabbath for Gore-Lieberman in 1999 but he's tossing all that aside today so he can help his GOP allies and Insurance Industry paymasters kill the public option.
Paul Krugman chooses to argue about Lieberman's determination to pay back his corporate campaign donors as though his spurious arguments about "fiscal responsibility" were something more than just a tattered veil hiding his participation in a massive bribery scheme. Krugman argued this week that Lieberman and his senatorial cronies rending their clothes over fiscal responsibility "shouldn’t be worried about what would happen if health reform passes. They should, instead, be worried about what would happen if it doesn’t pass. For America can’t get control of its budget without controlling health care costs-- and this is our last, best chance to deal with these costs in a rational way."
The fact that we’re seeing the first really serious attempt to control health care costs as part of a bill that tries to cover the uninsured seems to confirm what would-be reformers have been saying for years: The path to cost control runs through universality. We can only tackle out-of-control costs as part of a deal that also provides Americans with the security of guaranteed health care.
That observation in itself should make anyone concerned with fiscal responsibility support this reform. Over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office has concluded, the proposed legislation would reduce, not increase, the budget deficit. And by giving us a chance, finally, to rein in the ever-growing spending of Medicare, it would greatly improve our long-run fiscal prospects.
But there’s another reason failure to pass reform would be devastating-- namely, the nature of the opposition.
The Republican campaign against health care reform has rested in part on the traditional arguments, arguments that go back to the days when Ronald Reagan was trying to scare Americans into opposing Medicare-- denunciations of “socialized medicine,” claims that universal health coverage is the road to tyranny, etc.
But in the closing rounds of the health care fight, the G.O.P. has focused more and more on an effort to demonize cost-control efforts. The Senate bill would impose “draconian cuts” on Medicare, says Senator John McCain, who proposed much deeper cuts just last year as part of his presidential campaign. “If you’re a senior and you’re on Medicare, you better be afraid of this bill,” says Senator Tom Coburn.
If these tactics work, and health reform fails, think of the message this would convey: It would signal that any effort to deal with the biggest budget problem we face will be successfully played by political opponents as an attack on older Americans. It would be a long time before anyone was willing to take on the challenge again; remember that after the failure of the Clinton effort, it was 16 years before the next try at health reform.
That’s why anyone who is truly concerned about fiscal policy should be anxious to see health reform succeed. If it fails, the demagogues will have won, and we probably won’t deal with our biggest fiscal problem until we’re forced into action by a nasty debt crisis.
So to the centrists still sitting on the fence over health reform: If you care about fiscal responsibility, you better be afraid of what will happen if reform fails.
But Krugman readers aren't Lieberman's crowd. He's gravitated to the thoroughly Republican territory covered by Fox News and the deceptively extremist editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. In fact his determination to kill reform is today's big "news" on that page.
Sitting in his office on Wednesday, he looks like he's having the time of his life. Ever since his bruising 2006 re-election, in which he quit the Democratic Party to run as an independent, Mr. Lieberman has been a man unleashed. He's caucused with Democrats yet campaigned for John McCain. He's enthusiastically supporting President Barack Obama's Afghanistan surge and just as spiritedly criticizing his decision to try 9/11 terrorists in U.S. courts. He's joined Democrats to reform health care, even as he's promised to torpedo their government-run insurance option.
And he can't be ignored: He's crucial to mustering the 60 votes necessary to overcome Republican filibusters. Mr. Lieberman says he was "surprised" to have his influence, but he isn't afraid to use it. "I always felt I was an independent-minded person... but there is no question that having been re-elected as an 'independent' does give me a feeling of liberation... I don't feel like I have to view everything through the prism of partisanship." He grins and adds: "Through anything."
Back in October, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid snipped that Mr. Lieberman was "the least of" his health care "problems." That's no longer true, if it ever was. He has the power to strip a public option out of the Senate health-care bill, and even demand a more moderate rewrite. Mr. Lieberman himself puts the odds of a bill getting through at "greater than 50-50" but bluntly warns: "It won't be what Senator Reid put in."
"They are going to have to drop some things... the obvious being the public option"-- a controversial, government-run insurance program that Mr. Lieberman adamantly opposes on philosophical and economic grounds. Unlike some Democrats who have criticized it but remained open to negotiation, he says he is not bluffing.
"I'm being more stubborn and certain about this... I think it's such a significant step for the country to create another entitlement program and to have the government going into a business, I feel like I've got to say no."
When Mr. Lieberman says no public option, he means no public option-- not an "opt-in" or an "opt out" or a "trigger" (a public option only comes into effect if private insurers fail to spread enough coverage). "We are at the point now where this has become the classic legislative process of trying to get a fig leaf that everyone can hide behind. And I don't want to do that."
Why is he adamant? Mr. Lieberman says that while he is not "a conspiratorial person," he believes the public option is intended as a way for the government to take over health care. "I've been working for health-care reform in different ways since I arrived here," he says. "It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can't afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies... So where did this public option come from?" It was barely a blip, he says, in last year's presidential campaign.
"I started to ask some of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus, privately, and two of them said "some in our caucus, and some outside in interest groups, after the president won such a great victory and there were more Democrats in the Senate and the House, said this is the moment to go for single payer.'" So, I joke, the senator is, in fact, as big a "conspiracy theorist" as me. He laughingly rejoins: "But I have evidence!"
Mr. Lieberman notes that the public option serves no other purpose: "It doesn't help one poor person get insurance who doesn't have it now. It doesn't compel one insurance company to provide insurance to somebody who has an illness. And... it doesn't do anything to reduce the cost of insurance."
Mr. Lieberman dismisses Democratic arguments that it is necessary to keep insurers honest. "Sometimes the private sector does things that are wrong, and when they do, you regulate-- sometimes you litigate," he says. "But never in the history of America... have we tried to keep one industry honest by having government go into that business to compete with the industry."
Plenty more of this kind of drivel at the link.
SIDESHOW: Blanche Lincoln Goes Faux Populist
Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who serves the same corrupt corporate special interests as Lieberman, is no less determined to kill healthcare reform on their behalf as he is. This year only one member of the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, has taken in more corporate lucre from the Medical-Industrial Complex than Lincoln. So far they have "donated" $474,950 towards her doomed re-election campaign, even more than she's gotten from her usually #1 source of bribes, AgriBusiness, which has given her $449,950 this year (around 4 times more than any other member of the Senate). But she's put forward the fake populist bill to trick voters into thinking the heavily bribed senators are looking out for their interests.