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Friday, January 22, 2010

Paul Krugman: Do the Right Thing

The the Senate health care bill is "much, much better than nothing":

Do the Right Thing, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: A message to House Democrats: This is your moment of truth. You can do the right thing and pass the Senate health care bill. Or you can look for an easy way out, make excuses and fail the test of history.
Tuesday’s Republican victory in the Massachusetts special election means that Democrats can’t send a modified health care bill back to the Senate. That’s a shame because the bill that would have emerged from House-Senate negotiations would have been better... But the Senate bill is much, much better than nothing. And all that has to happen to make it law is for the House to pass the same bill, and send it to President Obama’s desk.
Right now, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, says that she doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate bill. But there is no good alternative.
Some are urging Democrats to scale back their proposals in the hope of gaining Republican support. But anyone who thinks that would work must have spent the past year living on another planet.
The fact is that the Senate bill is a centrist document, which moderate Republicans should find entirely acceptable... very similar to the plan Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts... Yet it has faced lock-step opposition from the G.O.P., which is determined to prevent Democrats from achieving any successes. Why would this change now that Republicans think they’re on a roll?
Alternatively, some call for breaking the health care plan into pieces so that the Senate can vote the popular pieces into law. But anyone who thinks that would work hasn’t paid attention...
Think of health care reform as ... a three-legged stool. You would, rightly, ridicule anyone who proposed saving money by leaving off one or two of the legs. Well, those who propose doing only the popular pieces of health care reform deserve the same kind of ridicule. Reform won’t work unless all the essential pieces are in place. ...

So reaching out to Republicans won’t work, and neither will trying to pass only the crowd-pleasing pieces of reform. What about the suggestion that Democrats use reconciliation — ...which bypasses the filibuster — to enact health reform?
That ... may become necessary... But reconciliation, which is basically limited to matters of taxing and spending, probably can’t be used to enact many important aspects of reform... it’s not even clear if it could be used to ban discrimination based on medical history.
Finally, some Democrats want to just give up on the whole thing.
That would be ... utter political folly. It wouldn’t protect Democrats from charges that they voted for “socialist” health care... Congress ... already passed reform. All it would do is solidify the public perception of Democrats as hapless and ineffectual. And anyway, politics is supposed to be about achieving something more than your own re-election. ...
Now, part of Democrats’ problem since Tuesday’s special election has been ... waiting in vain for leadership... Mr. Obama has conspicuously failed to rise to the occasion.
But members of Congress, who were sent to Washington to serve the public, don’t have the right to hide behind the president’s passivity.
Bear in mind that the horrors of health insurance — outrageous premiums, coverage denied to those who need it most and dropped when you actually get sick — will get only worse if reform fails, and insurance companies know that they’re off the hook. And voters will blame politicians who, when they had a chance to do something, made excuses instead.
Ladies and gentlemen, the nation is waiting. Stop whining, and do what needs to be done.

    Posted by on Friday, January 22, 2010 at 12:33 AM in Economics, Health Care, Politics | Permalink  Comments (76)


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