Saturday :: Mar 13, 2010

Three Cheers for the Upcoming Huge, Massive, Unprecedented, Historic, Deeply Progressive Victory!

by eriposte

Forgive me for being a bit late to the advance celebrations, but I wanted to highlight some recent posts that have celebrated the accomplishments of progressives when it comes to the Senate/White House version of Health Reform.TM

First, Ezra Klein's post on March 8, 2010 (emphasis mine, throughout this post):

Reading Chris Bowers's excellent list of the progressive priorities fulfilled or partially fulfilled by the health-care bill's sidecar amendments is a reminder of how peculiar the framing of this debate has been. There's no doubt that progressives have suffered some real losses in the legislative process. The public option, for one. But along the way, a lot of progressives have lost sight of the fact that the very existence of this legislative process is a huge [italics in original] progressive victory.

[...Ezra's brief commentary on why this bill is super...]

I don't want to suggest this bill is all progressive victories. It isn't. It isn't single-payer and there's no public option, and though I think the excise tax is a progressive tax, I grant that reasonable people disagree on this matter. But the fact of it is that this bill represents an enormous leftward shift for American social policy. It is not, in my view, a sufficient leftward shift, but it is unmatched by anything that has passed into law in recent decades. Progressives have lost some very hard battles but are on the cusp of winning an incredibly important war. For all its imperfections, health-care reform itself is deeply, deeply progressive. And if you don't believe me, just ask the conservatives who have made opposing it their top priority.

Actually, I'd rather not ask conservatives since they are generally likely to call any bill from Democrats "liberal" and "socialist". Rather, I think the best person to ask about Ezra's gushing post about the Deeply, Deeply ProgressiveTM victory that the current bill reflects, would be his namesake, Ezra Klein on February 24, 2010:

When Democrats become Republicans and Republicans become conservatives

To put a finer point on my earlier post about the compromises in the health-care bill, check out this Kaiser News Network table comparing the Senate bill, Boehner's bill, and the bill that moderate Republican Lincoln Chafee developed as an alternative to Bill Clinton's legislation in 1993.

The Senate bill is almost identical to the legislation supported by moderate Republicans in 1993. Boehner's bill, by contrast, is far, far more conservative (and useless) than what moderate Republicans developed in 1993. Conversely, the Senate bill doesn't look anything like the Clinton plan itself, much less like the more liberal efforts to expand Medicare to all Americans. We've got a situation in which Democrats are essentially pushing moderate Republican ideas while Republicans push extremely conservative ideas, but because neither the press nor the voters know very much about health-care policy, the fact that Republicans refuse to admit that Democrats have massively compromised their vision is enough to convince people that Democrats aren't compromising.

So, as of February 24, 2010, according to a guy called Ezra Klein, the Democrats' version of Health ReformTM (i.e., the bill that both the Senate and the Obama White House are behind) is basically almost identical to the 1993 Dole-Chafee Republican bill - that was offered as a conservative counter-proposal to a more liberal bill from then President Bill Clinton (also read this post by Seth Ackerman at Tiny Revolution). Per Ezra, this represented a massive compromise of the Democratic vision - a compromise that the Mean Ol' Republicans refused to recognize but all well informed and highly intelligent Democrats clearly understood. Two weeks later, according to a guy called Ezra Klein (who happens to coincidentally write at the same Washington Post blog as the first Ezra Klein, as the Foremost Liberal Expert on Health CareTM!) the Democrats' version of Health ReformTM (i.e., the bill that both the Senate and the Obama White House are behind) is deeply, deeply progressive. I suppose that means the Dole-Chafee Republican bill from 1993 was basically Deeply, Deeply ProgressiveTM. Should we therefore send some epithets by way of then-President Clinton for discarding the Deeply, Deeply ProgressiveTM 1993 Dole-Chafee bill? Hmmm, I wonder.

On Feb 24, Steve Benen at Washington Monthly, excitedly recommended Ezra Klein's Feb 24 post, and concluded:

The fact that Americans have been led to believe the Democratic plan is an example of wild-eyed liberalism -- a notion largely embraced by much of the major media -- speaks poorly of our discourse and capacity to have a meaningful policy debate. It is, however, a reminder of just how effective the right-wing noise machine can be.

Er, is Ezra Klein from March 8, 2010 then part of the "right-wing noise machine" to infer that the current version of Health ReformTM is a Deeply, Deeply ProgressiveTM victory? Not "wild-eyed liberalism" certainly, but maybe it's not just the "right-wing noise machine" that's to blame for the public perception of this Bill?

Let's also talk about Chris Bowers' post on March 7, 2010, which is the one that Ezra Klein on March 8, 2010 believed supported his premise that the current version of Health ReformTM is a Deeply, Deeply ProgressiveTM victory. Chris' post is titled:

The complete list of ways progressives strengthened health reform legislation

Chris says up front that:

Does this list of concessions mean that progressive health reform activists have won resounding victories up to this point? Certainly not--the current state of health reform legislation is far from ideal, and much closer to the right-wing proposals that passed Congressional committees in 2009 than the left-wing proposals that passed out of committee.

(Even the best proposals that passed out of committee are a far cry from what many progressives wanted. Then again, there are some conservative Democrats who want no reform at all. As such, I am only looking at proposals that passed committee, since those were the only viable proposals on either side.)

Still, it is an impressive list that should make any progressive activist who participated in the health reform fight proud, even if dissatisfied. You really did improve the bill, and have the opportunity to keep improving it.

In the extended entry, I provide extensive justification for this list of progressive improvements to the health care bill.

Chris does a good job documenting the list of topics where improvements were made. Here's a table where I list the topics and the grade Chris assigned to each, documenting, in his view, which interest group in Congress ultimately won on each topic - "Conservadems" or "Progressives".

# Topic Who Ultimately Won, in Chris' words
1 The public option Total Conservadem victory
2 Repealing the health insurance industry's anti-trust exemption Current Conservadem victory, but pending
3 Instituting a minimum medical loss ratio for insurance policies Mostly Progressive victory
4 Expanding primary care in low-income areas through Community Health Centers Mostly Progressive victory
5 Medicaid expansion Even wash
6 Exchange subsidy levels Mostly Conservadem victory
7 Tax structure for funding the bill Mostly Conservadem victory
8 Insurance exchange structure Unclear
9 Reproductive rights Mostly Conservadem victory
10 Mandate Mostly Conservadem victory

So, according to Chris, out of the 9 major areas of interest where the outcome was clear, Conservadems won 6 of the battles. He believes progressives won 2 out of the 9 and the remaining 1 was an "Even wash" (let's give that to progressives for the sake of being Fair and Balanced). In summary, the fact that conservative Democrats won on 67% of the key policy areas and progressives only won on 33% of the areas is a sign, to Ezra Klein, that Health ReformTM is a Deeply, Deeply Progressive VictoryTM and to Chris that "Progressives really did make the bill better in substantial ways". This is the ultra-thin gruel that we have to eat and then down the koolaid that gets delivered to us by these Highly Informed, ProgressiveTM bloggers.

Not to worry. There's this other guy Chris Bowers, who also happens to post on the same site Open Left, who wrote this a day later on March 8, 2010:

One reason why the Progressive Block was largely ineffective

Last night I produced a list of changes in health reform legislation that progressives have, so far, been able to make to the most right-wing health reform policies that passed through either a Congressional committee or a full branch of Congress. It is a pretty decent list, but the overall analysis still makes it clear that the more conservative Democratic proposals largely won the day.

Two thoughts:

1) Should we laugh or should we cry, that this is the state of "progressive" analysis today?

2) Don't forget to click and read - The Votes are There to Fix it Later! Yay!

eriposte :: 3:37 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!