Monday, December 21, 2009

Politics over Policy

Nate Silver did yeoman's work yesterday picking apart the absurdity of the "bill killers" argument against the current health care reform bill (here, here and here). Ezra Klein delivered something of a coup d'grace and Jacob Hacker, the dude who "invented" the public option, is on board too ... and yet there are still haters.

Why? Largely because process and politics are trumping sound policy in these corners.

We've noted this before, but bill killers have no interest in public health or policy. They want to stick it to PhRMA and the insurance companies. I don't blame them, but let's cut the shit about what Obama could have done or what the bill should have looked like. It's the view of the bill killers that no one in this country should be insured if drug and/or insurance companies make so much as a dime from the endeavor.

That's just ridiculous.

What's most important to the bill killer is reclaiming a niche that has been dormant for much of the last 10 years -- that of the far left -- with the aim of eventually pulling the rest of the party and/or political apparatus along with it. This is exactly what happened to the GOP during the 1990s.

Looking on the right, there are no shortage of people who have enjoyed long and profitable careers as opinion-makers and advocates for various conservative causes. Think Grover Norquist, Gary Bauer, Team Shlaffley, the late Jerry Falwell, the Bradley Foundation, Human Events, et al. There isn't that kind of infrastructure on the left just yet -- it's still being built. Howard Dean has been angling for just such a position since losing his bid for the presidency in 2004. He started his own PAC, got elected DNC chair, and now consults for a lobbying firm (on biotech issues, it should be noted). He clearly doesn't mean to go back to private practice in Burlington, VT.

We've made the argument in the past that the country is about due for a swing to the left. There will be jobs for people like Dean who give a voice to like-minded individuals who oppose a left-of-center government from the left. Health Care Reform is the first opportunity to make themselves heard. (One can't rule out the possibility that Dean is also still a little bitter about not getting picked to be HHS secretary.) So let's not pretend for an instant that opposition to the HCR is a valiant stand by a few outsiders speaking truth to powerful interests. Their motives aren't a pure as most would believe.

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