Monday, March 22, 2010

The Democrats' health-care win

Karoli at Crooks and Liars has provided a handy list of Ten immediate benefits of HCR [health care reform] 03/21/10.

I don't know of anyone who consistently reflects the press corps conventional wisdom, for better or (usually) worse, than the San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead. So I was glad to see her headlining article, Houses passes health care bill 219-212 03/22/10, because I know of no more reliable source for the press CW on national issues.

It's good to see her mentioning the racist protesters from Saturday:

Before the final debate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco locked arms with her Democratic lieutenants, including civil rights veteran John Lewis, D-Ga., to enter the Capitol through a phalanx of angry protesters. It was an emphatic show of solidarity after several ugly incidents on Saturday when demonstrators hurled racial slurs at several African American members of Congress and anti-gay insults at Rep. Barney Frank, the gay Massachusetts Democrat.

But there's plenty of Republican spin rolled in there as well, in this case at least a reference to the Republican slogan about "one-sixth of the economy":

When fully implemented in four years, the landmark legislation will reshape one-sixth of the U.S. economy and expand health insurance coverage to nearly all U.S. citizens, including an estimated 8 million uninsured Californians. [my emphasis]
This is also worded in a way that highlights several dubious Republican talking points:

Costing $940 billion for the next decade - about the price of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars so far - the bill is paid for with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. It will require future Congresses to make tough decisions to ensure that its promise of $1.3 trillion in deficit reduction materializes over the next two decades.

In four years, it will require all Americans to carry insurance or pay a $700 fine. It will create a new federal entitlement of subsidies to help people shoulder the cost. Most people earning less than $200,000 a year are likely to see clear benefits, while those earning more than that will pay higher taxes. Small businesses will get a 35 percent tax credit to cover employees, and those employing fewer than 50 full-time workers will not be required to provide coverage. Larger employers, however, will pay fines up to $2,000 per worker if they do not provide coverage.

Republican-enacted Medicare Advantage plans that offer a range of extra benefits to the elderly beyond standard Medicare will be greatly cut back to help expand coverage to the uninsured.
If that last comment is even technically accurate in any sense, it's a very contorted way to state it. Is this her way of describing what's called "the closing of the donut-hole" in the Medicare Advantage plan, whose actual result will be to make medication more affordable for Medicare recipients. Weirdly, she later returns to it in discussing the original passage of the program and says, "Democrats battled that bill to its final moments, but on Sunday expanded it by closing a coverage gap in drug benefits to seniors." I suppose it could theoretically be true that the current health care reform both expands and greatly cuts back Medicare Advantage. But I can't say that her reporting on that is even close to clear.

She does eventually get around to saying:

Broadly speaking, the bill is modeled on an overhaul implemented in Massachusetts in 2006, and will generally align the U.S. health care system more closely with those in several European countries, such as Switzerland and the Netherlands that provide universal coverage mostly through private insurers.
Peter Nicholas offers the following analysis for the Los Angeles Times, Healthcare fight was Obama's proving ground 03/22/10. He telegraphs what is likely to be the script followed by some of our Pod Pundits in the next few weeks:

On Sunday night, the president who was criticized for winning a Nobel Prize without much of a record finally won a signature achievement -- victory on the kind of massive healthcare overhaul that Democrats had sought and failed to achieve for nearly half a century.

In the months ahead, Obama will face the question of whether his healthcare victory is a high-water mark for a now-exhausted administration, or instead becomes the leaping-off point for victories on other big issues, such as energy, immigration and financial regulation. [my emphasis]
A "now-exhausted administration"? After 14 months in office?

Bob Kuttner in Defining Moment Huffington Post 03/21/10 is hopeful that the course of the health care fight will make Obama more willing to fight openly for progressive goals. But he knows that we have reason to be concerned, too:

We have just witnessed what could be a turning point in the Obama presidency. In many respects we can thank Scott Brown. For it took the humiliating loss of Ted Kennedy's senate seat, and the even deeper incipient humiliation of lost health reform, for Obama to be reborn as a fighter. It remains to be seen whether he will match the resolve that he finally summoned on health reform with comparable leadership on all of the other challenges he yet faces.

But even those of us who were lukewarm on this bill should savor the moment and honor Obama's odyssey. His Saturday speech was simply the greatest of his presidency. It reminded us of the inspirational figure in whom so many of us invested such hopes last summer and fall. If you have been on Jupiter and somehow missed the speech, you owe it to yourself to watch it.

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