Monday, August 24, 2009

And the debate takes another bizarre twist...

Matt Yglesias gets in a good zinger:

But obviously once the government says it will pay for medical care the question arises of how much it should pay and for what. Currently that decision is in the hands of congress, which is not well-suited to making technical judgments about appropriate reimbursement rates for medical procedures. [...] The idea is to prevent lobbyist-driven overpayments, not to deny care to seniors. And it would save the government some money over the long run. Which, you would think, conservatives would be happy about. Especially when you consider that conservatives don’t think Medicare should exist in the first place! But instead of being happy, we’ve got this campaign of deception, fearmongering, and opportunism.

So congratulations to Fred Hiatt for landing such a buzzworthy piece of nonsense for his publication and I hope the right-wing enjoys the giant tax hikes we’ll be enacting down the road once they show the political world that any attempt to trim Medicare spending, no matter how modest, will be savaged by opportunists on the other side.

I must admit, it is fairly surprising for the Republicans to ditch decades of issue positions and to come out against any cut in Medicare. I'm fairly convinced they'll jump right back to their earlier position at the conclusion of this debate, when there will be no further political points to be scored by hitting Obama from the left. But I think this helps to illustrate that the GOP simply doesn't have any gas left in its primary electoral mode of identity politics. Despite the "This is America!" chants from tea partiers, plenty of people can envision an America absent private insurers, which isn't even what the healthcare bill does anyway. The backup tactic seems to be to accuse Democrats of trying to euthanize old people and generally spreading vile falsehoods about reform instead of picking at some of the iffier propositions of the package, while putting themselves forward as staunch defenders of entitlement spending. I think I can honestly say that this is a dynamic that few saw coming, and I suspect that it will annoy many of the more libertarian and authentically conservative people in the Republican orbit, but as with the outrageousness of La Palin's death panel claim I highly doubt that it will be beaten back. It's become something of a culture war touchstone at this point, and it's frighteningly clear that the Republican Party has nobody who has the stature and the courage to tell the base to take a breath and sit down for a moment. As with the whole notion of banking on Obama's failure, the Republican strategy of lying about reform is a high-risk proposition that will only work if they win the debate. Since Democrats know what's actually in the bills, they can pass them now and then later point to these times as evidence that the Republicans are off their rocker.

Nevertheless, idiots like Max Baucus seem intent to insist on making some sort of bipartisan deal. To this end, considering that Republicans seem to regard any act of the administration as a challenge to their identity politics, I humbly propose that the Democrats try to pass a law making universal healthcare illegal. My guess would be that Republicans would change their position overnight. Considering that they now support unrestricted universal healthcare for seniors, it's worth a shot, no?

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.