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Friday, August 28, 2009

"Beware Authoritative 'Inside Washington' Sources"

Robert Reich says incremental reform of health care won't work, and he gives an example to illustrate why incremental reform isn't always the best way to proceed:

Beware Authoritative "Inside Washington" Sources Who Say The Public Option is Dead, by Robert Reich: ...Years ago, as the story goes, Britain's Parliament faced a difficult choice. On the European continent drivers use the right lanes, while the English remained on the left. But tunnels and fast ferries were bringing cars and drivers back and forth ever more frequently. Liberals in Parliament thought it time to change lanes. Conservatives resisted; after all, Brits had been driving on the left since William the Conquerer's chariot. Parliament's compromise was to move from the left to right lanes -- but incrementally, on a voluntary basis. Truckers first.
But his main point is to be careful of reports of authoritative voices saying that "the public option is dead, that the President won't be able to get a comprehensive health care bill, and that the White House and congressional leadership already know the best they'll be able to do now is move incrementally":
 Washington, D.C. is an echo chamber in which anyone who sounds authoritative repeats the conventional authoritative wisdom about the "consensus" of inside opinion, which they've heard from someone else who sounds equally authoritative, who of course has heard it from another authoritative source. Follow the trail to its start and you often find an obscure congressional or White House staffer who has seen some half-assed poll number or briefing memo, but seeking to feel important hypes it a media personality or lobbyist who, desperate to sound authoritative, pronounces it as truth. In any other place on the planet it would be called rumor, gossip, or drivel. In our nation's capital it's called "inside information." The process would be harmless except that it creates self-fulfilling prophesies. Since most of our elected representatives would rather not stick their necks out lest they lose their heads, they tend to rush toward whatever consensus seems to be emerging -- which, of course, is based on authoritative reports about the emerging consensus.

In the last few days authoritative sources have repeatedly told me that the public option is dead, that the President won't be able to get a comprehensive health care bill, and that the White House and congressional leadership already know the best they'll be able to do now is move incrementally... The rightwing media fearmongers and demagogues have won.

Don't believe it. The other thing about Washington is how quickly conventional authoritative wisdom changes, especially when the public is still in flux over some large matter. Rightwing fearmongers and demagogues thrive only to the extent the mainstream media believes they're thriving. Although polls continue to show that while most Americans like the health care they're getting, they also dislike their insurance companies, worry that they or their families will be denied coverage, and are anxious about the increasing co-payments, deductibles, and premiums they're facing. Most are still eager for reform.

In addition, we've come to the point where health-care incrementalism won't work. [explains why, and also explains the need for a public option]... When you go through the logic, it starts to look a lot like comprehensive reform. ...

So forget the authoritative sources. Mobilize and organize. We can get comprehensive, meaningful health care reform if we push hard enough. And we must.

    Posted by on Friday, August 28, 2009 at 11:07 AM in Economics, Health Care | Permalink  Comments (11)


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