Notes From the Revolution: Politics, current events, failures of the mainstream news media and Living in the Age of Stupidity.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
How Obama folding on the public option sunk the Democrats in 2010
With the Republican House majority promising a vote January 12 to repeal Obama's 4 humped camel of a healthcare bill its worth reviewing how and why Obama's personally selling out of the public option when the votes were there to pass it and the Democratic congress' inability to defy him and pass it anyway, were directly the cause of the Democrats suffering the worst political defeat by either party in 80 years.
In June of 2009 a CBS News poll showed that 72% of the American people wanted the public option and amazingly, 66% said they were willing to pay higher taxes to get it. A CNN poll showed 66% wanted the public option. It was one of the most popular, important, not to mention effective ideas on public policy to come along in decades.And when Obama sold it down the river and pulled what Matt Tabibii in Rolling Stone called a bait and switch with his own health care reform bill, dropping the one aspect of healthcare reform that insurance companies feared most, and with the congress deciding to reluctantly go along,it spelled the end of the Democratic majority.
Based on every poll conducted on the public option, lot more people wanted the public option than wanted Obama as president. Even as recently as January 2010, two polls - the Kaiser Family Foundation poll and a Washington Post poll showed that 58% wanted the public option and this after a year of Republican disinformation which Obama had no skills in refuting.
Based on the original CBS poll, everyone who voted for Obama in 2008 plus another 18% of those who didn't, approved of and wanted the public option. Those are the people who stayed home on election day and handed the Democrats and Obama their catastrophic defeat.
One would have thought that passing the public option, something the CBO said would actually cut the deficit by $160 billion would be a no brainer not only in terms of sweeping healthcare reform that would have solved more problems and done more good than anything since the Civil Rights Act in 1964, but unlike the Civil Rights Act which had fierce opposition, would also be enormously politically popular.
Unfortunately the no brainer along no backbone and no cojones ( as James Carville pointed out) was in the White House with a president who couldnt or wouldnt stand up to a loud, vocal minority and who caved in when criticism from the right became too hot.
Given that Obama and the Democrats had the biggest congressional majority in 50 years, it was especially galling for people to swallow the dropping of the public option since passing it would have been a breeze with reconciliation. It was a no brainer from day one who supposedly was ready to be president from day one,but as people quickly saw, it was Obama and the Democratic leadership in Pelosi and Reid who proved to have no brains politically, any spine either in terms of policy and politics.
Many Democratic pundits, politicians like Reid and Obama, and of course the press, missed the point entirely. Lawrence O'Donnell on Joe Scarbrough's MSNBC morning show sounded like he had spent the last two years in a coma when he blamed the pursuit of healthcare reform for the Democrats loss when it was actually the failure to deliver on the public option that was the Democrats' Waterloo.
No liberal or moderate Democrat and no independent supported Obama's mess of a health care bill in place of a public option. Howard Dean was on all the talk shows saying the Democratic congress should kill it and start from scratch. Those in the senate and the House who voted for it could only call it "better than nothing". Almost all the Democrats in the House opposed it but in the end, like with the tax cut cave in, went along.
But it was Obama who killed the public option and the Democratic congress after all the promises he made about the public option, promises which Obama after the fact, lied about and said he never made.
And Obama's lying about healthcare hasn't stopped. As recently as three weeks ago he complained that liberals were "sanctimonious purists" and didn't give him credit for his healthcare bill, claiming that " we got health insurance for 30 million people" while,according to him, the public option would have only helped 2 million.
Obama probably went into the Guiness Book of World Records for cramming more lies into a single sentence with that statement than anyone in history. First, Obama didn't get any insurance for anyone. What Obama got was 30 million new customers for the insurance companies by mandating that the uninsured buy insurance.
Second, he said that the public option would only affect 2 million people where his bill would ":get insurance for 30 million".. If he claims he is getting insurance for 30 million uninsured and the public option would have helped 2 million, then the minimum number of people the public option would have helped would have been 32 million -- the 30 million uninsured Obama is claiming to "help" by forcing them to buy insurance plus the 2 million he claims would have been helped by the public option. This of course doesn't include the tens or even hundreds of millions who would have switched to the government run option because it was so much cheaper and provided better coverage. So Obama showed how twisted he can actually get with his facts. As Woody Allen once said, when you tell the truth all the time you don't have to remember anything.
Healthcare reform was the signature Democratic issue of the Democratic congress and Obama sunk the Democrats when he deceitfully killed the public option by making a back door deal with healthcare lobbyists because he is not a leader, has no convictions and couldn't stand the criticism from the right. And the Democrats in congress sunk themselves with the 72% of those who wanted the public option when they didn't stand up to Obama and pass it.
People felt betrayed and lied to. Which they were. And those people let their feelings known on election day when they either voted Republican or stayed home in retribution, unwilling to have their vote be interpreted as giving any approval to Obama and his healthcare bill or the Democrats who they felt sold them out.
Had Obama actually believed what he was saying publicly, something that's been absent his entire political life, he could have passed healthcare reform with a public option back in June of 2009 using reconciliation. If he had, the healthcare issue would have been resolved quickly and he could have focused on the economy and jobs. Healthcare would not have even been an issue but a public option would have eased the health insurance burden on the unemployed and the Democrats would have gotten credit for that even with high unemployment numbers, something both Obama and the Democratic leadership didn't have the vision to see.
Instead Obama put the country and the Democrats in congress through a year of unnecessary political bloodletting and angst to play some amateurish political game he still plays about bi-partisanship.
When the Republicans were in power they cared nothing for bi-partisanship. They passed all the Bush tax cuts using reconciliation. Republicans still care nothing for bi-partisanship which is why they told Obama take it or leave it on the tax cuts for the wealthy -- its all or nothing and without so much as a whimper, Obama took it.
Obama groveled for a year for one Republican vote which he didn't get, let Joe Liberman steam roll him when a smarter president could have handled Lieberman easily, and then when the right wing heat got too hot, melted completely and made a back alley deal with healthcare lobbyists to drop it. Maybe he thought no one would notice.
When a proposition is supported by as many people as the public option,. when you have promised this proposition as Obama had countless times both while running for the presidency and after taking office, when you have the votes to pass it and then sell it out and lie about it as Obama did, you're going to get a lot of angry voters
Pelosi said after the healthcare vote that "we don't have a public option because the president didn't fight for it and didn't stand up for it". Liberals, independents and Democrats stayed home on election day because of it. The size of the Democrats defeat was in direct proportion to the size of their failure in not passing a public option. And those who stayed home on election day will do it again in 2012 if Obama is the nominee.