Tuesday :: Mar 23, 2010

Irrational Exuberance: The Triumph of Politics Over Policy


by Turkana

Rush Limbaugh is in full meltdown. So are John Boehner and John McCain. None of that is a surprise. It is equally unsurprising, but depressingly unexpected, that many on the ostensible left are in near religious ecstacy. It is the triumph of politics over policy.

This was a horse race, as if but another election campaign. Polls and whip counts and dishonest framings of the issues, and in the end, people are primarily celebrating victories and losses based entirely on the politics. The president and the Democrats won. The Republicans and the Conservadems and Blue Dogs lost. This may help the Democrats in next fall's elections. That's what matters. That the policy was only barely worth passing is irrelevant.

As Ezra Klein wrote, a few weeks ago:

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.

E.J. Dionne followed:

Yes, Democrats have rallied behind a bill that Republicans -- or at least large numbers of them -- should love. It is built on a series of principles that Republicans espoused for years.

Republicans have said that they do not want to destroy the private insurance market. This bill not only preserves that market but strengthens it by bringing in millions of new customers. The plan before Congress does not call for a government “takeover” of health care. It provides subsidies so more people can buy private insurance.

Republicans always say they are against “socialized medicine.” Not only is this bill nothing like a “single-payer” health system along Canadian or British lines. It doesn’t even include the “public option” that would have allowed people voluntarily to buy their insurance from the government. The single-payer idea fell by the wayside long ago, and supporters of the public option -- sadly, from my point of view -- lost out last December.

Big Tent Democrat cuts to the core of the absurd Medicare comparisons:

Medicare adopted a public insurance based approach and Obamacare took a regulated private health insurance market approach. One is the progressive approach - Medicare. One is a conservative approach - Obamacare. Whatever the merits of the health bills, surely adherence to progressive ideas on health care is not one of them.

And Brad DeLong concurs:

The conservative DNA of ObamaCare is hardly a secret. "The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan,” Frum wrote. “It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to ClintonCare in 1993-1994."

So why are none of the talking heads on your TV screen and none of the op-ed writers in your newspaper talking about how this health plan is a big victory for Mitt Romney and Republican policy analysts? Because there has been a conspiracy of silence among those working for the bill and those working against it....

Over in that alternative branch of the quantum-mechanical multiverse in which Mitt Romney was elected President in November 2008, this health-care bill—with much smaller subsidies and no tax increases on the rich, and with other tweaks and modifications—passed the House of Representatives 352-83 and passed the Senate 79-20, with near-solid Republican support. Left-wing Democrats whined that it was not real reform. The David Broders and David Brookses of the world trumpeted it as an extraordinary victory for American bipartisanship.

Instead, we are here—where a nearly identical plan appears very, very different.
We truly live in a weird world.

Republicans being idiots is nothing new. But Democrats celebrating passage of what is, essentially, a moderate Republican bill is a bit of a change.

Turkana :: 11:08 AM :: Comments (11) :: Digg It!