Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Newt Gingrich, Pitch Man

There's a joke about Newt Gingrich to the effect that he has 100 ideas each day, 99 of which are obviously bad and the other of which is also bad but fools a handful of prominent pundits for a while. Or something like that. The real punch line is that Gingrich doesn't actually have ideas - he seems to operate more like a political incarnation of the late Ed McMahon - push some money into his hand and he'll happily advance an 'idea' on your behalf.

Gingrich is getting some attention right now for being for health insurance mandates - just not, as he later attempt to explain, a federal mandate. Or a mandate that the health insurance you purchase actually be what normal people would recognize as health insurance. What's his game? He's been pushing low-coverage, high deductible health insurance plans for years, to be coupled with health savings accounts (never mind that most people couldn't afford to fund their accounts, let alone at the level necessary to cover their routine health care). Those plans are very lucrative for their purveyors.

Gingrich is smart enough to know that if you create a federal plan, or federal coordination of health insurance reform, you create a context in which few people will qualify for that type of (lack of) coverage - the Health Care Reform Act puts significant restrictions on the population eligible to purchase the plans he (and his corporate sponsors) must wish to foist upon the public. So he advocates mandates ("you have to buy these plans") and subsidies ("with your own, or government money,") but wants to keep the mandate at the state level where it will be easier to push people into the low-coverage plans he views as ideal for everybody... but himself and his family. (Seriously - were he enrolled in such a plan, wouldn't he be shouting it from the rooftops?)

He didn't announce a run for the presidency with the idea that he could win. The people who think he's brilliant should have figured that much out by now - his IQ would have to be somewhere below room temperature to regard himself as a likely winner of the nomination, and even at that he would have to expect to lose the general election. But what a wonderful opportunity to act as a prominent spokesperson for his corporate clients. Sure, he can't fly for free on their private jets for a while, but I'm confident that he'll somehow get enough 'donations' to support private jet service until his campaign officially ends. (Thank goodness for Citizens United.)

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