Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cage Match

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and Mike Madden of Salon square off over the future of the health care reform legislation. Matt thinks it’s been doomed from the start:

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. The situation we have here is an angry and desperate population that at long last has voted in a majority that it believes should be able to pass a health care bill. It expects something to be done. The task of the lawmakers on the Hill, at least as they see things, is to create the appearance of having done something. And that’s what they’re doing. Personally, I think they’re doing a lousy job even of that. […] But these Democrats aren’t even pretending to give a shit, not really. I mean, they’re not even willing to give up their vacations.

This whole business, it was a litmus test for whether or not we even have a functioning government. Here we had a political majority in congress and a popular president armed with oodles of political capital and backed by the overwhelming sentiment of perhaps 150 million Americans, and this government could not bring itself to offend ten thousand insurance men in order to pass a bill that addresses an urgent emergency. What’s left? Third-party politics?

Mike sees a glimmer of hope among all the dealing.

What supporters of reform take pains to note is that none of the current slowdown was all that surprising, even though Obama had originally set an August deadline that neither the House nor the Senate will wind up meeting.

And in the end, Obama — and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate — should still have the final word. The bill could shift to the left again in later negotiations between the House and Senate, even if it has to shift to the right now to stay on track. “Because you want three Republicans to come along on this, we’re going to betray what the American people want? I don’t think so,” Brown said. “Just because Finance was slower doesn’t mean that they’re stronger or that their plan will carry the day … I’m very certain that whatever comes out of the Finance Committee, [healthcare reform] won’t look like that when President Obama signs it.”