Monday, February 15, 2010

Bipartisanship vs. Delusional Thinking


Ross Douthat, I suspect, is hoping to flatter and redeem Republicans when he writes,
For President Obama, being “bipartisan” means incorporating a few right-of-center proposals into an essentially liberal legislative package. For Republicans, it means doing only those things that legislators of both parties can agree on — a far more stringent standard, and one that would produce a very different bill.
In what country, in what government, and in what era, has what Douthat describes as the Republican model of "bipartisanship" existed? For that matter, and with all due respect to how good politicians can be at lying with a straight face, is there a Republican in either the House or Senate who could provide that "definition" without at least smirking? We're not that far out of the Bush Administration....

Douthat, not at all surprisingly, is nebulous in his criticism of the current House and Senate bills:
The right seeks a functioning marketplace in health care, subsidized but not micromanaged by the government.
Both bills, of course, do that. They preserve the present system.
However many small steps the Democratic legislation takes in that direction, its biggest step goes miles the other way — toward a world where consumers are required to buy a particular kind of health insurance, insurers are required to sell it to them, and the cost of health care gets held down, ultimately, by price controls and bureaucratic supervision.
What language in either bill does Douthat believe requires consumers "to buy a particular kind of health insurance"? I mean, other than the kind that is provided by private health insurance companies. As for insurers being "required to sell it to them", translation: allowing people with pre-existing conditions to obtain health insurance, that is actually something that the Republicans want as well - at least in theory. The price of health care being held down by "by price controls and bureaucratic supervision"? Where can I find that in either bill? Dropping in the word "ultimately" is not an excuse for misrepresenting what is actually in the proposed legislation.

If Douthat's comments are to be construed as consistent, his argument becomes laughable:
Like the Democratic bills, [Senator Judd Gregg's] proposal would mandate that everyone buy health insurance — but it would emphasize catastrophic coverage, rather than comprehensive plans.
The individual mandate goes hand-in-hand with forbidding insurance companies from denying coverage based upon pre-existing conditions. Douthat just got through telling us that the Republicans don't want to restrict insurance companies from denying coverage. Now it's a cornerstone of what he apparently believes to be the best GOP idea for reform? And let's not forget that another cornerstone of the Republican Party's objections to the Democratic bill is the mantra that "people like the insurance they have" - Is Douthat calling that claim out as an obstructionist lie? Because "emphasiz[ing] catastrophic coverage" (that is, replacing comprehensive health insurance policies with catastrophic coverage and HSA's) would drastically change the health insurance coverage enjoyed by the typical American, and not in a manner many are likely to view as change for the better. Douthat follows up on his distortion that the Democratic bills will require consumers "to buy a particular kind of health insurance" by advocating for Gregg's proposal that is designed to do exactly that?

Beyond a single Senator's proposal, like Newt Gingrich and John C. Goodman before him, rather than admitting that the GOP has a dearth of ideas Douthat resorts to the ideas of people outside the Republican Party.
Writing in The Weekly Standard, for instance, Jeffrey H. Anderson has proposed covering an extra 10 million Americans with a mixture of tax credits for the uninsured and better-funded risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions. One could imagine Republicans taking Anderson’s “small bill” into negotiations with the Democrats and emerging with a compromise that spent somewhat more money but kept the basic mix of tax credits and risk pooling intact.
An individual projecting that his proposal, unscored by the CBO, will eventually insure 10 million Americans. That's better than the GOP's actual proposal, projected by the CBO to insure 3 million over ten years, but remains a pale shadow of what the Democratic proposal is projected to achieve. Further, Anderson's editorial relies over and over again upon his conception of what "the American people" supposedly want. Leaving aside the fact that we don't live in a direct democracy, the American people overwhelmingly support a public option. Do Douthat and Anderson support that as the will of the people, or are they only concerned about "what the people want" when poll results coincide with their own pre-existing views? (Obviously, that's a rhetorical question.)

Douthat admits,
“Imagine,” of course, is the operative word.
Obviously. Beyond Judd's proposal, which Douthat hasn't indicated is supported by even one other Senator and which implicates most of the objections Douthat claims the Republicans have with the Democratic proposals, Douthat's defense of the GOP relies entirely upon his imagination. So when he whines, "The Democrats haven’t shown any interest in a fresh start," really, what does he expect? That they give up bills that have achieved majority support under Douthat's conceit that it's reasonable to complain that a bill is not "bipartisan" unless the minority party agrees to every detail?

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