From the President on downward, the White House now seems resigned to losing the fight over the "public option", a government-run insurance plan that would complete against private plans. It's time to re-assess the playing field in light of this development.
Is the public option really dead? Probably.
Perhaps the better question is whether the public option was ever really 'alive', meaning that it ever had enough votes to pass both the House and the Senate. We estimated based on committee votes that a bill containing a fairly weak public option -- like the one approved by the House's Energy and Commerce Committee -- would be a favorite to pass the House but probably only by a slim margin, with between 220-225 votes for passage (a minimum of 218 are required). And arguably, the conditions have worsened somewhat for health care reform since the Commerce Committee's compromise passed on July 31st.
It's the Senate side, though, where the public option was encountering most of its difficulties. Only 37 Senators, according to the whip count at Howard Dean's website, were firmly on board with the public option, whereas at least a few Democrats (Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Kent Conrad) had stipulated their opposition to it. There were nevertheless a number of scenarios under which one can imagine a bill with a public option having passed -- Lieberman, Landrieu, et. al. might be nominally opposed to a public option, but is their opposition so firm that they would vote to filibuster any bill that contained one?
The White House has evidently concluded that this is a real threat. I don't see any real obvious reason to doubt their assessment. For those who have come to a different conclusion, I'm all ears -- give me a detailed scenario by which a bill containing a public option passes both chambers. But I don't see it.
Keep in mind that, even if a bill with a public option made it to the Senate floor, it would be subject to an amendment which could strip that provision. Considering that virtually all of the 40 Republicans would vote for such an amendment, it would only need perhaps 10-12 Democratic votes to pass, something which it could quite possibly achieve. Now, progressives could try to filibuster that amendment. But if they did so, senators like Landrieu and Ben Nelson could then filibuster the overall bill with a clear conscience.
Why doesn't the public option have the votes for passage? You'd think that a provision that is both fairly popular and money-saving was a good bet for passage. But the insurance industry really, really does not like the public option. We'd previously estimated that its lobbying influence has cost the public option something like nine (9) votes in the Senate.
This is an unpleasant truth. But jus because it's an unpleasant truth doesn't mean it's not the truth.
Is a bill without a public option worth passing (if you're a Democrat)? From a near-term political standpoint, almost certainly yes. Bill Clinton suggested on Thursday that the President's approval rating would get a five-point boost the moment that health care legislation passed with his signature. I don't know if that's exactly right, but this is certainly a better scenario for Democrats than the world in which health care reform fails and they're getting blamed by pretty much everybody and have nothing much to run on in 2010.
From a long-term political standpoint, some of the less effective versions of the House and Senate bills could create problems for Democrats down the road. For example, I've argued that the compromise floated by Max Baucus's Senate Finance Committee could wind up making quite a few folks upset, since it contains rather ungenerous subsidies and an individual mandate but no public option and no true employer mandate. If your employer drops your health coverage a few years hence and you have to buy an expensive plan on your own without much help from the government, you're probably going to be fairly peeved about the country having spent $900 billion to put you in this predicament. Hopefully, if the Democrats are giving up on the public option, they're at least getting something for their willingness to compromise, such as a stronger employer mandate and more aggressive regulations on insurance premiums.
Forget politics for a moment -- what about from a policy standpoint? The fundamental accomplishments of a public option-less bill would be to (1) ensure that no American could be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition or because they became sick; (2) subsidize health insurance coverage for millions of poor and middle-class Americans.
These are major, major accomplishments. Arguably, they are accomplished at too great a cost. But let's look at it like this. The CBO estimates that the public option would save about $150 billion over the next ten years -- that's roughly $1,100 for every taxpayer. I'm certainly not thrilled to have to pay an additional $1,100 in taxes because some Blue Dog Democrats want to placate their friends in the insurance industry. But I think the good in this health care bill -- the move toward universal-ish coverage, the cost-control provisions -- is worth a heck of a lot more than $1,100.
Can progressive Democrats in the House block a bill without a public option from passing? If they want to, they probably can. We estimated earlier that a bill with a weak public option would garner about 220-225 votes in the House, assuming no liberal objections. Perhaps a bill with no public option at all could do a bit better -- maybe 230 to 240 votes, gaining some ground among Blue Dogs and a maybe a very few moderate Republicans. That would mean that you'd only need between about 15-25 progressives voting against such a bill to block passage; FireDogLake reports that they've already found 12 who are willing to do so.
But I'm not sure where that would leave progressives. If you re-inserted a public option, you might lose as many Blue Dog votes as you gained back from progressives. Even if you managed to avoid that, the public option would probably get killed by the Senate. Maybe you could gamble on a bill with a public option passing the House, a bill without one passing the Senate, and then the House bill winning the floor fight on the conference report. But this is usually not what happens. Instead, the Senate tends to win floor fights over conference reports, since they can filibuster them.
But don't progressives need to draw a line in the sand somewhere? I'm sympathetic to this argument from a game-theory standpoint. But (1) lines in the sand won't mean anything if they're washed to sea by a wave-like 2010 election; and (2) I'm not persuaded that the lack of progressive willpower is responsible for compromises on bills like health care, climate, and the stimulus package. The stimulus package passed the House with only 26 more votes than were required for passage and had just one vote to spare in the Senate. The cap-and-trade bill passed with just one extra vote in the House and has yet to pass the Senate (and probably won't). A health care bill, even under somewhat best-case scenarios and even without a public option, is unlikely to gather more than about 230-240 votes in the House and perhaps 62-64 in the Senate.
It doesn't seem to me as though the Democratic leadership (including President Obama) is unnecessarily watering down bills for the sake of achieving a "bipartisan" outcome. It seems, rather, that they're calibrating things relatively well, and squeezing about the most juice they can out of these initiatives given the institutional imperatives of the Congress.
By all means, try to change those institutional imperatives. Organize primary challenges against Senators and Representatives who are too conservative relative to their districts; these can have somewhat dramatic -- if probably somewhat temporary -- effects on Congressional behavior. Try to build some momentum against the filibuster. Expose Senators and Representatives who are voting against the best interests of their district because of special-interest money. Push Democrats to end the seniority system in its selection of committee chairs and floor leaders. And work on shifting the Overton window where you can. But I don't think the problem is that progressives are disempowered. It's simply that they don't constitute a majority. Non-Blue Dog Democrats make up 47 percent of the House. They probably do make up a majority of the Senate (although this is arbitrary; the Blue Dogs aren't formally active in the upper chamber), but in the Senate, a mere majority isn't good enough -- you need a supermajority.
Incrementalism seems to be a popular meme these days -- could the public option do better as a standalone provision? While bearing in mind that bargaining is the third stage of grief, this seems to me to be a somewhat realistic hope, especially if Barack Obama is elected to a second term. If a health care reform bill passes, then the government will paying for private insurance coverage for some low-to-middle income individuals. This will tend to give everyone a more direct interest in cost containment: if a low-income family's insurance coverage is costing more than it should because of the absence of competition from a public option, it will be the taxpayers making up the difference. Of course, there would be some people arguing to blow the whole thing up entirely for this reason. But if someone then proposed a public option -- a provision that would spare $150 billion from the public dole and which would give consumers more choices -- it would seem to have a fairly compelling case. Part of the problem the public option faces is that it's a somewhat popular, cost-reducing measure which is mired in a somewhat unpopular, thousand-page, $900 billion bill. When taken as a standalone measure, its cost savings would be more transparent and its opponents would have less ability to confuse the public about its costs and benefits.
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Obama needs to insist that all bets are off unless those two traders want to be responsible for destroying Citi. If this goes through, it will be obvious who is running the show. This game about what their contracts say is getting old and should have been shut down months ago. Citi was insolvent so let's quit pretending as though that wasn't the case. They are alive only because of the generosity of the US taxpayer so to allow $130 million in bonus money to two individuals will be too insulting to everyone who is struggling to get by. It's a free job market so if the traders don't like it, let them find another company.
Quit the hand-wringing and bet wetting and show some executive leadership ability.
Senior Obama administration officials were wrestling on Friday with how to handle an explosive executive pay issue involving two traders? compensation package of nearly $130 million that Citigroup says is exempt from government review.
Citigroup?s decision leaves top White House and Treasury Department officials unable to do much about some of the highest-paid employees at the deeply troubled bank just two months after the administration announced, with great fanfare, the appointment of an official to crack down on lucrative payouts at companies that have become wards of the state.
On Friday, Citigroup, which is facing a government deadline, submitted the pay packages for its 25 senior executives and highest-paid employees. People involved in that process said Citi advised the Treasury that an energy trader named Andrew J. Hall, due $98 million, was exempt from federal review, and so was a second unidentified trader who received more than $30 million.
As Heinlein once said, I laugh because otherwise I'd cry (and scream, and pound my head against[...]
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Matt writes about my panel at Netroots Nation.
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You know it's a slow news weekend when the biggest national news was the O family taking a trip to Yosemite. The first black first family doing the camping thing is kind of cool, so maybe the news cycle is running on low, but this is nice news to hear about. At least I think it is.
Us black folks don't do the camping thing too much. (Present company excluded of course.)We just don't get out and enjoy the wonders of nature enough. Most of us live our lives in large urban areas and some of us never leave. We rarely expose our kids to the wonders of the outdoors, and that's kind of sad. Oh field, give me a break. Black folks don't have time for that crap. We are too busy trying to work two jobs and make ends meet. Camping and enjoying the great outdoors and A-merry-ca's parks is expensive. That's for white folks.
Okay, I admit it might be expensive, and it might take some sacrifices to come up with the ends to take a field trip. But I was reading my girl Carmen Dixon over at AOL Black Voices, and she had some quotes from a black park ranger (When was the last time you saw a black park ranger?) which I found interesting:
"It's bigger than just African Americans not visiting national parks. It's a disassociation from the natural world,' said Johnson, who has worked in Yosemite for the past 15 of his 22 years in the Park Service. 'I think it is, in part, a memory of the horrible things that were done to us in rural America.'The rejection of the natural world by the black community, he said, is a scar left over from slavery.'All Snoop Dogg has to do is go camping in Yosemite, and it would change the world,' said Johnson, 51. 'If Oprah Winfrey went on a road trip to the national parks, it would do more than I have done in my whole career.."
Well, I don't know if we want Snoop in Yosemite there Ranger Johnson, all that crip walking might scare the bears, but I get your point. Look, as a people we need to force ourselves to be exposed to certain things. We need to expose our children to things that they might or might not enjoy. Just because we might not like hiking, fishing or camping, doesn't mean that our kids won't enjoy or learn to love those activities. Exposure to different things and different ways of life is never a bad thing.
I don't know, instead of throwing Rev. Love a C note for the church building fund, buying that 32 inch color television for the basement, or spending three hundred a month on our note for the whip instead of six, maybe we could plan a nice trip to one of the national parks with the kids for a weekend. I am just sayin. We can't let other people have all the fun.
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On the heels of desmoinesdem's good news about gays in the military comes this interesting bit about women in the military. There's no two ways around it: War sucks, and the Iraq War was wrong. But, every cloud has a silver lining, and just as World War[...]
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(h/t Heather @ VideoCafe)
Always willing to milk every possible drop out of an Obama scandal, even one of their own imagination, Fox News host Martha McCallum asks Bush's former Press Secretary Dana Perino--a highly impartial source, to be sure--if sending out "unsolicited" emails is a problem for the Obama White House.
Of course, the ever-so-concerned Perino thinks it is, and of course, thinks the Obama White House is getting a free ride on it:
PERINO: Imagine this: imagine if it was three years ago, and all of the sudden, people across the country who, unsolicited, started getting emails from Karl Rove. The media would have gone ballistic. They would have demanded answers, and I would have felt obligated to give some. And I think that standard should be?.that the Obama administration should be held to the same standard. I know that if I all of the sudden started getting emails, I would wonder how did they get my email address. People get your email address through various ways, but when it?s the White House Political Advisor, it?s a little bit different and kind of creepy.
Honestly, I'm not sure what the big deal is. I got an email from David Axelrod myself. It was hardly unsolicited, as I know that the Obama administration kept their campaign email list, of which I was also a part. In fact, I was on McCain's email list as well, so I could keep tabs of what he was sending out to supporters. Methinks Fox News would not be so up in arms if President McCain had sent out an email to his supporters list.
But the attempt to claim that the mean ol' media would have beaten up on poor, persecuted Karl Rove for a similar infraction is laughable on its face. Karl Rove LOST FOURTEEN MILLION EMAILS which could potentially have implicated him in a whole host of infractions and the media yawned. Rove was improperly using his RNC email address to avoid the oversight law demands, and the media shrugged. Karl Rove had his stubby, sticky little paws in sandbagging Don Siegelman, the fired US Attorneys and the media didn't say boo. In fact, the media was so deep in the pocket of the Bush administration that they were part of the reason that the Valerie Plame investigation didn't go further than Scooter Libby.
So, yeah, Dana, let's try to draw an equivalency over Axelrod sending emails to a list culled from passionate supporters over a two year campaign and all manners of impropriety and illegality that Rove committed. It's so fair and balanced of you.
You’re returning home from Netroots Nation 2009 all fired up, or maybe you couldn’t afford to go this year, and the thought enters your mind: wouldn’t it be great if I could get paid, just a little, to support or justify my blogging habit? The reality is there are millions of blogs out there, the vast majority receive precious little attention, let alone enough page visits to interest advertisers. But don't let that stop you. The demand for quality online content is growing and the medium is still in its infancy.
Being a science writer, one of my favorite haunts is Scienceblogs owned by Seed Media (Which also includes a science jobs posting site). Most of the writers there, or sciblings as we call them, are research scientists or graduate students. But the Seed Overlords are interested in hearing from anyone with a flair for writing and a deep knowledge of any field of science or science policy issue. It’s been awhile since I talked to anyone there about it. So bearing in mind my figures are unofficial and could be wildly off, I believe the average scibling makes between 100 and 500 dollars a month. You wanna apply, email me and I'll pass it on.
I started writing for The Examiner.com a couple of months ago. They’re part of Clarity Media, owned mostly by the conservative Anshutz family. But my editor has never complained to me about my strongly worded progressive content -- in fact he eggs me on! They are actively recruiting democrats and progressive political writers, along with folks versed in topics as diverse as entertainment, art, or sports. There are sci-fi and even Michelle Obama Examiners; the recruiting emphasis is on local and niche experts. So far I average about 25 dollars a week. Writers who have built up a reading base routinely make over 500 dollars a month. You wanna apply, go here.
Some Congress persons, corporations, and non-profits employ an online communications person, either full time or in addition to other duties. And while much of that site content is quite good, I surf sites everyday that would greatly benefit from the kind of creative writing and formatting talent shown by diarists here on any day of the week ( And that's a nice way to say it, some of it is just awful). That pay varies widely, from interns working purely for college credit to full time online communications directors making well over 60,000 dollars a year. Medium and largish companies also have internal websites dedicated to employees. I've been tapped to write on a couple, neither of which lasted due to cutbacks unfortunately. But if you can sell the idea to your company, you might just create yourself a pretty cool and potentially influential niche within it.
Don't underestimate your value: a handful of colleges and universities have just barely begun to offer basic classes in this stuff, usually as an elective for a technical or creative writing degree or communications major. Most of you guys and gals are on the cutting edge, way, way ahead of the curve simply by having existing relationships with bloggers, a familiarity with the medium, and screen names on popular sites like this one. If you love to write, are already posting somewhere, can handle basic html tags, format and/or edit images, and manage a lively, often critical comment thread without losing your sanity, you have nothing to lose by least trying to see if your blogging habit can generate a little wampum.
And that's the main reason I wrote this post, so that you peeps -- who are literally creating this industry whether you know it or not -- can chime in with your own experiences and tips. Good or bad, new or old, other venues that are hiring or contracting online content. And as an added incentive, a few highly rated or productive comments will be elevated into this post, along with links to your site if applicable, right here => ...
Thoughts and Ideas from a PaleoPunker, megabeasts and other things ancient and awesome.
MadScientist -- I'm definitely interested.
Pen to Paper -- Musings on pop culture, Philadelphia, and my many other penchants.
CharlieHipHop -- a blog for music lovers, musicians, and lovers of musicians.
Some new developments today in the Whole Foods boycott. The purpose, to reiterate, is a show of[...]
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