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January 24, 2007

Ruth Marcus's Cloud Castle

Ruch Marcus's column, written, no doubt, from her cloud castle set miles above the tawdry pettiness that passes for politics amongst us bickering mortals, is some piece of work. It resignedly wonders whether "if Bush picked a plank right out of the Democratic platform -- if he introduced Hillarycare itself -- and stuck it in his State of the Union address, Democrats would churn out press releases denouncing it." Let him try, and we'll see. Marcus writes, without a whisper of self-awareness,:

And, yes, it's fair to argue that a more comprehensive approach -- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has proposed one -- is needed.

But Democrats -- if they care more about addressing health-care needs than scoring political points -- ought to be finding ways to improve and build on the Bush proposal, not condemning and mischaracterizing it.

Parse those two paragraphs again. Senator Ron Wyden has proposed a comprehensive, constructive approach to solving the health care crisis. So what Ruth marcus thinks Democrats should do is "improve and build on the Bush proposal," which she admits "should be more progressive, structured with refundable tax credits rather than a deduction, so that all can share equally in the benefit," and worries "that the already-teetering employer-based system will collapse as healthy individuals use their tax deduction to buy cheaper, private insurance, leaving employers with the older and the sicker." Focusing on a comprehensive, fully-realized solution as opposed to Bush's risky, inadequate proposal is, to Marcus, "scoring political points."

To the rest of us, rejecting an inadequate, perversely constructed tax change that would encourage the dissolution of the risk pool, effectively paying the young and well to purchase cheaper insurance that'll price the old and the ill out of care is exactly what we elected the Democratic majority to do. The question is, why doesn't Ruth Marcus write a column proposing that the President encourage the moderate, thoughtfully constructed Wyden proposal, and seek a comprehensive solution to the health crisis, rather than a change to deductibility?

From Marcus's comments on the absurdity of the system, you can tell her perfect solution would be much closer to Wyden's than Bush's. Yet what's important to her isn't the policy, it's the process. The rapidity of Democratic opposition to the Bush plan was unseemly, discomfiting. That Democrats have proposed better, stronger, smarter solutions that would not push "the already-teetering employer-based system to collapse" is immaterial. The cloud castle of the punditocracy is built upon a gossamer web of bipartisanship and compromise, and the structural integrity of its shimmering foundations is far more important than the quality of health care in this country.

Update: Kevin has more.

January 24, 2007 in Health Care | Permalink

Comments

Maybe I am misunderstanding the SOTU, but I thought that Bush suggested a $7,500 personal or $15,000 family exemption from the payroll tax. Wouldn't this cause Social Security and Medicare to go into an fiscal meltdown?

Posted by: poofla | Jan 24, 2007 2:33:39 PM

I know your initial semi-approval of Bush's plan is embarrassing to you now, but it was the first thing I thought of when I read Ruth Marcus: here was one of the foremost healthcare wonks on the Democratic side willing to give Bush's plan a chance, and rejecting it only once the details showed it to be insidiously destructive.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jan 24, 2007 3:01:43 PM

Right on, Ezra. It's part of the media narrative that Bob Somerby so ably characterizes each day.

The Media Narrative and the associated Millionaire Pundit Values are the primary obstacle to liberal goals.

Posted by: Chuck | Jan 24, 2007 3:04:22 PM

Let him try, and we'll see.

Ha. Exactly.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Jan 24, 2007 3:05:23 PM

"as healthy individuals use their tax deduction to buy cheaper, private insurance"

Where is private insurance cheaper than an employer's group rate?

Posted by: CParis | Jan 24, 2007 3:17:28 PM

Yet what's important to her isn't the policy, it's the process.

Because she doesn't know squat about policy; at least she understands that. It's very easy to be a pundit who talks about our political process. "X says this, Y says that, look at what she's wearing, is that a toupee, blah blah blah."

When pundits say "keep it civil," they mean "don't say anything that would cause the other side to throw a tantrum and refuse to come on my show with you." And since it's the conservatives who have been electing the massive crybabies for the last, oh I don't know, 230 years, it's the progressives who are called on to bear the responsibility for this "civility."

And when Marcus calls for the Democrats to seriously consider Bush's latest attempt to line his friends' pocketbooks at our expense, it's because she knows that hearings and attempts to "improve and build on the Bush proposal" will be column fodder, whereas outright rejection closes the matter.

Posted by: Stephen | Jan 24, 2007 3:22:09 PM

Where is private insurance cheaper than an employer's group rate?

In extremely high-deductible plans, or those that only provide catastrophic coverage, while you pay everything else out-of-pocket. Those are probably cheaper than employer-provided plans, because the latter sometimes provide decent coverage.

Posted by: mds | Jan 24, 2007 4:34:56 PM

I'm amused that Marcus thinks "Hillarycare" is the holy grail for us Bush haters.

Posted by: KCinDC | Jan 24, 2007 9:14:55 PM

When the Republicans were running all three shows it was the "bitter partisan atmosphere" that pundits like Marcus regretted.

Now that the Dems have taken over Congress it is the "bitter partisan Democrats" who are to be blamed.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr | Jan 26, 2007 12:45:05 PM

But Ezra - its even *worse* than just advocating bipartisanship for its own sake - these pundits define bipartisanship as "democrats moving closer to republicans" and NEVER the reverse.

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