Paul Krugman wrote on November 30, 2007 that Obama was “giving aid and comfort to the enemies of reform“. Krugman also made the argument in his very title that Obama was “mudslinging” in his attacks on Hillary Clinton over health care reform.
Today Paul Krugman amplifies on the charge that Obama is and will be the enemy of reform of the healthcare system in the United States.
But lately Mr. Obama has been stressing his differences with his rivals by attacking their plans from the right — which means that he has been giving credence to false talking points that will be used against any Democratic health care plan a couple of years from now.
Krugman should not be surprised at Obama employing Ripublican talking points. Obama has long been taking George Bush’s low road on a high horse. Krugman is not taken by surprise by Obama’s “cheap shot” arguments however. Krugman first takes on Obama’s low-brow argument on mandates – the enforceability of the legal requirement that everyone get health insurance:
First is the claim that a mandate is unenforceable. Mr. Obama’s advisers have seized on the widely cited statistic that 15 percent of drivers are uninsured, even though insurance is legally required.
But this statistic is known to be seriously overstated — and some states have managed to get the number of uninsured drivers down to as little as 2 percent. Besides, while the enforcement of car insurance mandates isn’t perfect, it does greatly increase the number of insured drivers.
Anyway, why talk about car insurance rather than looking at direct evidence on how health care mandates perform? Other countries — notably Switzerland and the Netherlands — already have such mandates. And guess what? They work.
Krugman employs the polite phrase “false claim” while we use the shorter and more accurate term “lie” when describing Obama’s 15 Million Lies. Krugman’s counter on Obama’s false claim on the “affordability” question:
The second false claim is that people won’t be able to afford the insurance they’re required to have — a claim usually supported with data about how expensive insurance is. But all the Democratic plans include subsidies to lower-income families to help them pay for insurance, plus a promise to increase the subsidies if they prove insufficient.
In fact, the Edwards and Clinton plans contain more money for such subsidies than the Obama plan. If low-income families find insurance unaffordable under these plans, they’ll find it even less affordable under the Obama plan.
By the way, the limitations of the Massachusetts plan to cover all the state’s uninsured — which is actually doing much better than most reports suggest — come not from the difficulty of enforcing mandates, but from the fact that the state hasn’t yet allocated enough money for subsidies.
Here now is the crux of the current damage being done to Democrats and reformers by Obama:
Finally, Mr. Obama is storing up trouble for health reformers by suggesting that there is something nasty about plans that “force every American to buy health care.”
Look, the point of a mandate isn’t to dictate how people should live their lives — it’s to prevent some people from gaming the system. Under the Obama plan, healthy people could choose not to buy insurance, then sign up for it if they developed health problems later. This would lead to higher premiums for everyone else. It would reward the irresponsible, while punishing those who did the right thing and bought insurance while they were healthy.
Here’s an analogy. Suppose someone proposed making the Medicare payroll tax optional: you could choose not to pay the tax during your working years if you didn’t think you’d actually need Medicare when you got older — except that you could change your mind and opt back in if you started to develop health problems.
Can we all agree that this would fatally undermine Medicare’s finances? Yet Mr. Obama is proposing basically the same rules for his allegedly universal health care plan.
Krugman underlines yet again the damage Obama is doing to Democrats and reformers:
My main concern right now is with Mr. Obama’s rhetoric: by echoing the talking points of those who oppose any form of universal health care, he’s making the task of any future president who tries to deliver universal care considerably more difficult.
I’d add, however, a further concern: the debate over mandates has reinforced the uncomfortable sense among some health reformers that Mr. Obama just isn’t that serious about achieving universal care — that he introduced a plan because he had to, but that every time there’s a hard choice to be made he comes down on the side of doing less.
Let’s repeat that final sentence which sums up Barack “Never There When You Need Him” Obama: “EVERY TIME THERE’S A HARD CHOICE TO BE MADE HE COMES DOWN ON THE SIDE OF DOING LESS.”
Obama is lying about the entire healthcare issue. What is particularly nefarious is that Obama compounds his lies by accusing Hillary of being the liar. This is not a new tactic. In fact it is a tried and true tactic that is difficult to counteract unless you have the gifts of a Keith Olberman, who said about Obama: He is willing to be divisive enough to attack another Democrat for being divisive. It‘s like an M.C. Escher drawing
Lowlife Bill Bradley, another Big Media darling, perfected the “lie then call the other guy a liar” technique in 2000. For those wanting more information on this “liars shouting liar” technique, Eriposte at The Left Coaster dissects the Bradley “mendacious” (big word for “lie”) campaign in a good series on presidential politics.
The second phase of the “liars shouting liar” technique which Obama has borrowed from Bush and Bradley and other lowlifes is to employ a surrogate to shout “liar” too and polish the accusation by bemoaning the accusation as “unfair” or “sad” or somesuch nonsense. In the present case Obama called on disgruntled Bob Reich to throw mud while ostentatiously lamenting that Hillary was to blame for all the present ills. The bottom line of course is that Hillary Clinton is telling the truth, Obama is lying and Bob Reich is an idiot liar himself.
Gene Sperling went under the bridge and took Reich to task on the mandate issue:
I encourage Bob or anyone else interested in this issue to review the overwhelming consensus of credible independent experts who have found that an individual requirement is a necessary component of any plan designed to cover all Americans. [E.g. Jonathan Gruber, MIT (12/05/07); Diane Rowland, Kaiser Family Foundation (New York Times, 11/25/07); United Hospital Fund (December 2006); California Medical Association (July 2005); Henry Aaron and Bruce and Virginia MacLaury, Brookings Institution (CQ Congressional Testimony, 9/11/07); John Holahan, Urban Institute (October 2005); Len Nichols, New America Foundation (US Fed News, 6/26/07); Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation (New York Times, 11/25/07)].
Sperling politely states Obama/Reich are lying 15 million times:
Reich’s assertion that Senator Clinton “has no grounds for alleging that [Senator Obama’s plan] would leave out 15 million people” is simply wrong.
For Bob to suggest that it is a cheap shot to make this highly supported point is puzzling. A recent study in the Journal of Inquiry found that in a voluntary system like the one Senator Obama advocates, “Even if the . . . subsidies were designed to be as effective as possible at covering the uninsured, at most half of the uninsured would gain coverage.” Assuming that Senator Obama’s child mandate would cover all children, his plan would still leave half of the adult uninsured population without healthcare. That’s well over 15 million. Indeed, a number of independent analysts have confirmed that Senator Obama’s plan would leave at least 15 million uninsured, including the Washington Post [6/9/07, “[T]he Obama plan could leave a third of those currently uninsured lacking coverage.”], the Wall Street Journal [12/04/07, “Mrs. Clinton charges that Mr. Obama’s plan would leave 15 million people without insurance. Outside experts agree that number is in the ballpark.”], Jonathan Gruber of MIT [12/05/07, “The 15 million estimate that [Senator Clinton] used was validated by myself and other experts.”] Jonathan Holohan of the Urban Institute [New Republic, 12/03/07, “Obama would still leave about 22 million, 23 million, but he has a mandate for children, about 9 million uninsured kids, so assuming you get most of them, you get pretty close to 15 million.”], Len Nichols of the New America Foundation [New Republic, 12/03/07, “Every reasonable model out there . . . will show you that the kind of subsidies that we could do, 50 percent or so, are going to get you half [the uninsured] . . . The way you go from half to 15 [million] is the kid mandate.”], and George Miller and Charles Roehrig of the Altarum research institute [New Republic, 12/03/07, “We’ve done some very crude hand calculations that suggest that the estimate of 15 million uninsured under an Obama-like plan (no individual mandate, coverage of all children, incentives) is in the right ball park.”].
Bob is certainly free to disagree with these experts, but where is the validity in launching the steep charge that “HRC has no grounds for alleging that O’s would leave out 15 million people”? (emphasis added).
Like Krugman, Sperling emphasizes that Hillary Clinton’s UNIVERSAL health care plan has better affordability provisions than Obama’s 15 million lies program:
Reich’s statement that Obama’s plan “puts more money up front” than Senator Clinton’s plan is not accurate.
Senator Clinton’s plan includes the most detailed financing framework of any of the Democratic plans. She has committed an up-front investment of $110 billion per year and has made the affordability of healthcare a centerpiece of her proposal. Bob says he wants details from Senator Clinton, but then praises Senator Obama for “proposing a reinsurance mechanism for catastrophic illnesses” for which he has offered virtually no details at all. A robust reinsurance mechanism is very costly and could, depending on its design, swallow up the majority of the $65 billion that Senator Obama has committed to his plan. Bob attacks Senator Clinton for lacking specifics, and yet claims with confidence that the Obama plan “contains sufficient subsidies to insure everyone who’s likely to need help,” when his plan contains fewer financing details to determine what it could or could not do. I understand that it is hard in a campaign season to adjust and calculate the moving parts of a comprehensive health care plan. Indeed, I admire all three of the leading Democratic candidates for putting out health care plans that far surpass what any Republican candidate has ever put forward in terms of coverage or detail. But I cannot understand or fathom for the life of me, how Bob could level such harsh critique on the detail in Senator Clinton’s plan when there is less detail in Senator Obama’s plan.
As much as Krugman and Sperling understand the dangers of a weak concilliating Obama, it is a conflicted Ellen Goodman that understands what this election is about. This should not be a consensus election. Democrats need to make strong arguments about how to organize this modern American society. Then Democrats need to WIN. The culture wars need to be WON, not just papered over. The fiscal responsibility argument needs to be WON not papered over. A House divided against itself cannot stand – one side must prevail.
To begin with, if Obama represents the “post-polarization” generation, what was the “pre-polarization” generation? The idea of some tranquil 1950s America is surely exaggerated. There were great struggles over McCarthyism and nuclear testing, to name just two issues.
As for the consensus that existed in the 1950s? Columbia’s Todd Gitlin says, “There was a consensus that nothing much ought to be done to yank the former Confederacy out of the age of Jim Crow. There was complacency about the position of women. Complacency about the belligerence with which the U.S. occasionally overthrew uncongenial foreign governments.” Are we nostalgic for that?
The ’60s opened up huge and important conflicts. It was not all about boxers or briefs, inhaling or not. Issues surfaced around black and white relationships, male and female relationships, gay and straight relationships, all kinds of authority and our place in the world. These still go on. Not because they are relics of old college dorm fights but because they are still important and unresolved. Now we come to the 2008 primary season. Barack Obama is an appealing icon of change. He has the capacity to turn a problem around, roaming across its many surfaces. He gets it. His philosophical frame of mind appeals to the educated elite of the Democratic Party. His largest group of supporters are college-educated. But I am forced to ask, against my own grain, whether Democrats need a philosopher or a combatant.
Ellen Goodman, appears conflicted, but like most of us she knows the fight for social justice is worth fighting. The fight for humane and economically necessary UNIVERSAL healthcare is not only necessary but requires, finally, a winner. All the battles Gitlin outlines need a winner. We need to fight these tough necessary fights and WIN, then and only then can we move forward:
In his stump speech, Obama says, “I don’t want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights. … I don’t want to pit red America against blue America.” Neither do I.
Sometimes, I approach politics like a parent watching her children: “I don’t care who’s right and who’s wrong; just stop fighting.” But of course I do care who’s right, who’s wrong, who’ll win. What if red America is pitted against blue America?
Obama is a notoriously uneven performer. Alone on a stage, he is often eloquent and inspirational, if I may use an Oprah word. But on the debate platform with his opponents, he is, well, less impressive. Temperamentally he prefers to be above the fray. But the campaign against any Republican will take place in the fray.
Gitlin, author of “The Bulldozer and the Big Tent,” says, “In a family situation, we need a healer.” But in an era of ugly politics? “We don’t need healing but resounding defeat. … The bulldozer can’t be kissed into submission.”
Maybe I am suffering from too little “audacity of hope.” Or an excess of experience. The Democratic nominee won’t have the luxury of a do-good campaign. Even a post-polarization candidate would face a polarized politics.
There’s still a difference between being an icon of change and an agent of change. And there is a difference as well between being a fine philosopher king and a strong presidential challenger.
“The bulldozer can’t be kissed into submission.”
Americans need a leader. Democrats need a fighter. Obama promises reforms without results.
Obama Is Never There When You Need Him.
Obama Won’t Be There When We Need Him.
Hillary Will Get the Job Done On Day One.