Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More on Healthcare Polyannaism

Yesterday I questioned Jon Chait’s assumption that comprehensive healthcare reform carries the same urgency for most Democratic House members that it carries for old-school liberal politicians and most liberal pundits. Here’s a good empirical test of that proposition: if Chait is right, now that the only remaining path to comprehensive reform consists in the House’s passing the Senate bill on the understanding that it will subsequently be amended through reconciliation in the Senate, at least the most liberal members of the House Democratic caucus should be willing to swallow hard and throw their support behind the bill that they expect to emerge from the reconciliation process. If they’re unwilling to press ahead under these desperate circumstances, it can only be because they don’t regard achieving something close to universal health insurance coverage as the “monumental achievement” that Chait thinks it is.

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Dennis Kucinich, one of the House’s most doctrinaire liberals, will not support the White House’s compromise healthcare proposal. A windfall for insurance company shareholders, in his view, is too high a price to pay.

“With some antiabortion Democrats likely to bolt, White House and Democratic leaders are hoping they can persuade a handful of liberals who voted “no” on the House-passed health care bill last year to switch to “yes” on President Barack Obama’s compromise. One name floated as a possible switch, liberal gadfly and presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

“Think again. Asked about the matter by Washington Wire, the congressman from Ohio released this statement about the president’s compromise: ‘The new proposal starts with a wholly unacceptable Senate health care bill and, with a few exceptions, continues to make it worse. It’s a much better bill for insurance company investors than it is for the American people.’”
Granted, Kucinich’s complaint with the White House proposal is that it’s not liberal enough; he wants a single payer system or failing that, a system with a strong public option. I'm as mystified as Chait is that some liberals don't regard even the Senate bill, much less the Obama compromise proposal, as being better than nothing. But would Kucinich really be willing to squander a rare, and maybe the last, chance for comprehensive healthcare reform if he really thought of socializing health risks and healthcare costs as an overriding ideological objective?

Kucinich's liberalism is not your father’s liberalism.

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