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November 13, 2007

Health Care As Good As Congress Gets

In comments to the post below, serial catowner says:

Edwards is saying the same thing a lot of people say- Congress is tickled pink with their socialized medicine but won't let the rest of us have it. I get this as a forwarded e-mail from my elderly mother quite regularly.

If the "big thinkers" in the Democratic Party want to lose the next election, they should just keep up the backbiting and quibbling. The average voter may not know much about healthcare, but almost all of them think the Congress gets a real sweetheart deal in this regard.

First, I'm glad to know this sort of thing has made the e-mail forwards. But we're also getting into what's worthwhile about this stunt: It's probably better if Congress opposes it.

There are two applause lines that the Democratic health care proposals have been designed to enable: The first is, "if you like your current insurance, nothing changes for you." The second is, "you will get insurance exactly like what members of Congress have." These are the arguments Democrats are relying on to sell their plans. They are arguments that weren't true for the Clinton plan in 1994. They are true now.

What Edwards' stunt does is dramatize how much Congressmen like the health care they currently receive. How far they'll go to defend it. And how hollow the inevitable protestations of dangerous, socialized medicine really are. If Congress wants to block this bill, the follow-up point, which can be made in a speech to the nation, is "if your health care is so good, why shouldn't every American be allowed to have it?" What Edwards wants to do isn't take away the health care of Congress, but expand it to the country. They can battle that approach, of course. But it's not going to be popular. And Congress-critters don't like to do unpopular things.

November 13, 2007 | Permalink


Really, is universal health care such a hard sell to the country? Yeah, there will be groups spending a ton of money trying to stop it, but isn't it pretty much inevitable given current sentiments? Isn't this basically fighting yesterday's battle?

I'm just curious because on issues like health care and environment, I have a hard time finding independents and Republicans up in arms against universal health care or bold energy plans. Granted I don't really like Edwards as a candidate or president, but this just seems way too much like a stunt than anything substantive or some grand scheme to alter the political climate.

Posted by: gqmartinez | Nov 13, 2007 2:14:09 PM

Actually, gaming out the political dynamics, this is awesome.

One of the big winners for the Dems in '06 was "Congressman X voted against the minimum wage, but then he took a pay raise", or "Congressman X voted against health care for veterans, and then he took a pay raise". Voters respond to the attack against funding votes if their tied to "performance" somehow, as if to say "Congressman X is doing a crappy job, but he thinks he's doing great". If you get a vote on the edwards proposal, you'll give the DCCC some very, very, potent ammunition in the midterms.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Nov 13, 2007 2:19:37 PM

Anyone know how many Congresscritters voluntarily refuse the federal health insurance to which they're entitled? Admittedly, you'd have to do some crosstabs for the 'critters who are basically of Medicare-entitlement age, but I'd like to know just how many ardent fiscal conservatives prefer having their staffers on the phone to the HMO.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Nov 13, 2007 4:11:43 PM

By the way, the fact that Congressmen and -women will (hypothetically) fight tooth and nail to preserve their coverage is strong evidence that it is "compensation" under the 27th Amendment. This isn't a benefit that is interchangeable with $300 or whatever the premium is. It is an attractive element of what you get if you're a rep or senator, to the point that congresspeople will fight to keep it.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 13, 2007 4:56:34 PM

IS there any REAL 'liberal outrage' over this? From what I've seen, the people 'outraged' by this are most blue dog Democrats and the kind of people that have traditionally supported this, limousine liberals who NEVER support any policy that would restrict their special privileges, and Hillary Clinton supporters that hate everything John Edwards says (Think Big Tent Democrat or GFR).

Of the groups, only the first two are honestly 'outraged', and they are 'outraged' because they are corrupt bastards. They may hide behind liberal language, but they use it to try and oppose progress.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 14, 2007 8:30:42 AM

I agree most people think Congresscritters get a sweetheart deal on healthcare, but that doesn't mean "most people" know what they are talking about. The truth is that that Congresscritters get the same federal coverage as any other federal employee, and that coverage is good, but not wonderful-- the federal govt covers only about 3/4 of the premium. It's not "socialized medicine"-- it's employer based, insurance company provided coverage.

Posted by: Doh | Nov 14, 2007 8:44:15 AM

It's nonsense. The ploy isn't designed for the actual fight for health care. It's designed to win points among Democratic primary voters. And judging by Edwards' performance thus far, it's not getting it done.

It can't be designed for actually fighting for health care reform, because it will never reach that point. Edwards says that if Congress hasn't passed health care reform by July 2009, then he will try to pass this this measure through Congress.

Presumably, this means that he would have a health care reform plan on his agenda that would propose as soon as he gets into office. The fate of Edwards plan will be set and won or lost in the first 6 months of his presidency then. If he convinces enough people and members of congress, it would go through. If he doesn't, it would fail. If the convinces public opinion but not Congress, then perhaps, though still unlikely, there is a place for the stunt. However if there's one thing that the American Congress is sensitive about is public pressure. They would feel the pressure stunt or no stunt. But again, whether they get it or not doesn't depend on the stunt; it depends on whether JE wins the argument in a span of 6 months.

Moreover, politicians of every stripe aren't stupid. They know how to adjust or bury a popular measure they disagree with, especially when they re in the majority and they have advance notice. They can design a cheap ploy of their own or more predictably allow the proposal to die unceremoniously in a committee or a filibuster vote.

There's also a reason why political stunts work when they come as a surprise and are not announced a year and half in advance. They have the element of surprise and the momentum that can only be found during unique junctures!

In other words, the question of pursuing this stunt or not in July of 2009 will be moot.

This ploy elicits the visceral reaction it seeks among voters. Especially less engaged and militant voters. But it doesn't pass the second thought test or the implementation test. While all politicians do on occasion such cheap tricks, they re called cheap for a reason. The people who nod their heads in approval today will be the first to be disillusioned when this ploy fails miserably and predictably. And the people who disagree are the people who John Edwards should have persuaded about his seriousness as a President if he wanted to be viable. Instead he shows that he underestimates our intelligence while behaving like an ambulance chaser...

Posted by: Nick Kaufman | Nov 14, 2007 9:18:20 AM

Edwards' crazed, radical threat to starve and jail members of Congress who disagree with him will fail due to the courageous resistance of Congressional parliamentarians, and thankfully we will return to the enormous record of success that more balanced, moderate, nuanced Democrats had from 1994 through 2006.

Posted by: El Cid | Nov 14, 2007 9:37:01 AM

Nick, Nick, Nick...

You don't like Edwards. Fine. But your argument above is nonsense. It's probably why you need several paragraphs to essay it. Saying 'ambulance chaser' is not an argument, BTW. Also, my guess is that you have good healthcare yourself, unlike 47 million of us out here. Furthermore, I don't see you offer any political alternative - note: POLITICAL alternative. And congress can't bury or filibuster a bill without any consequence to themselves individually if the president refuses to shut up about it.

You don't like Edwards. That's not an argument either, but an opinion, which you are entitled to. Perhaps you'll get a chance to vote for Sam Waterston or some other 'nice' person.

Posted by: jonnybutter | Nov 14, 2007 11:31:02 AM

I really wonder if some of you understand the kind of power a President can wield if he's willing to use it. It is virtually impossible to 'bury' a popular initiative introduced by a popular President. That President will have the power to veto everything you propose. He will have the power to make sure your campaign donors don't see a federal contract for 4-8 years. He can force you to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to face off against a primary challenged. Some of these abilities are unlikely to be used because of tradition, but they exist if a President wants to force the issue. Can you really think of a congressman or Senator is who is likely to be more popular amongst Democrats in their district than a newly elected Democratic President after 8 years of Bush's rule?

Besides nick, you support Hillary Clinton. It's hard to take you seriously when you talk about ethics or honest campaigning as a reason why you do or do not support such and such a candidate.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 14, 2007 4:38:05 PM

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