Comments: Why health care reform is not a "huge progressive victory"

If I didn't agree so much I might bother to quibble over "every country" vs. "every OECD nation" or something, but what the hell was Bob Dole's 1994 bill?

Ahh, I see:

For instance, the bill requires insurers to renew policies and prohibits pre-existing condition limitations in new policies, while protecting insurers by allowing reasonable waiting periods. It also limits premium variations to differences based on age, family size, geogra- phy, and other risk factors, but not health condition. Further, the bill blocks states from mandating insurers to include costly benefits that buyers do not want. It introduces malpractice reforms to reduce legal costs, and reforms the antitrust rules to make it easier for groups of physicians or other providers to do business.

The bill also encourages the creation of purchasing groups, including non-employer associations, to bargain for good insurance rates. But wisely, it does not mandate health alliances, or force- employers to pick plans for their employees. Thus, Americans could join health insurance purchasing associations based on, say, a church, a union or a farm bureau, not just an employer-sponsored pool.

http://www.heritage.org/Research/SocialSecurity/EM385.cfm

That's a good zinger.

Posted by buermann at March 8, 2010 09:26 PM

Obama can do like 10 chinups!

Posted by Guest at March 8, 2010 09:38 PM

the debate over access to health care was in itself a capitulation to the most superficial anxieties of the american middle class. health & health care aren't remotely the same thing, and i fail to see why this issue has gotten so much more traction among "liberals & progressives" than the number of homeless or food insecure or imprisoned or any number of issues. if you want a healthy population, rather than a diabetic obese blob of people w/access to "health care," why not work for a 35 hour work week, no exceptions, or a mandatory month's vacation for all workers, or, for heaven's sake, mandatory sick leave for all workers (something 40% of americans do not have)?

never understood this pressing concern about health care w/so many other more basic issues afflicting equally as many americans.

Posted by anon at March 8, 2010 09:52 PM

weirdly, in the streets you had democrat-leaning activists fighting *against* medicare and republican-leaning folk fighting *for*.

Posted by hapa at March 8, 2010 09:56 PM

@anon: medical costs are eating all budgets.

Posted by hapa at March 8, 2010 10:42 PM

I think that this health care reform is simply an attempt to show Obama as doing something ....

If it were not for the health care agenda, he would be expected to be talking about employment and the financial system or Middle East negotiations.

Obama must be seen to be doing something.

Not to say that there is not a need or a desire for health care reform, but it has been deliberately mishandled and dragged out in order to have Obama look busy.

And now, as the debate comes to a close, Obama will look "determined" and "strong".

I'm also curious as to what happens to the Medicare/Medicaid trust funds which I understand contain 250 billion each.

Will Obama get immediate access to these trust funds once his health care reform is passed?

Will it be the same trip as what happened with Bill Clinton and Welfare Reform and where Clinton redistributed the monies with little effect or change?

No changes to health care are scheduled to take place until Obama leaves office in 2016, but I suspect that access to the trust funds will be immediate and Obama will be able to use these funds to have it appear that the budget crisis as being lessened.

Calm

Posted by Calm at March 8, 2010 11:02 PM

It's better to call things a victory than a defeat. It's more energizing. It puts progress on your side. And there is truth in the fact that any bill getting passed will be viewed by the right as a defeat, and they will try to undo it. So isn't that a victory. It doesn't mean Paradise has arrived and there's nothing left to do. We just need to go get some more and even better victories.

"Most people . . . knew that universal coverage in some form was inevitable. It was just a question of how. (The insurers certainly understood this, which is one reason why they agreed not to fight this bill.) The status quo wasn’t just bad, it was unsustainable."

--Oh really. All efforts for universal health insurance since the time of Teddy Roosevelt have been thwarted, so that's a century of an unsustainable situation, which is pretty sustainably unsustainable if you ask me.

Reviving the left by passing health care, as though it's CPR, strikes me as a poor substitute for a real plan to revive the left. If the left acquires discipline and keeps working, it will recover bit by bit as capitalism sucks everyone's blood, and the left may make progress quite a bit faster once a tipping point is reached and everyone starts to be severely anemic.

This post also posits that "Obama came into office with every whim of history leaning in his direction." Well, that is I think an incorrect assessment. Nothing unpredictable has happened at all. In general, much this same thing happened when Clinton came into office, and someone who took a close look at the last century of our history would see that it happens A LOT. The stability of our system is actually based on this method of absorbing and dampening change within the two-party structure and the structure of the government itself (thank James Madison and Alexander Hamilton for that).

So we need to change the system, and not just with term limits for God's sake! But in the meantime, if we let health care get defeated, we will hurt some people who need help, help our enemies, and set back an important cause. Those are my reasons for favoring passing a health care reform bill as a first step and continuing efforts to improve it once it is passed. I wish it were better, but it can still be improved down the road. And to make that more likely, let's call it a huge progressive victory. Nothing succeeds like success.

Posted by N E at March 9, 2010 12:46 AM

Until the anti-trust exemption is revoked for insurance companies there will be no real reform. They talk about "choice and competition," but in many areas of the country this is no, and there won't be any, competition.

Posted by David H. at March 9, 2010 01:26 AM

Until the anti-trust exemption is revoked for insurance companies there will be no real reform. They talk about "choice and competition," but in many areas of the country this is no, and there won't be any, competition.

Posted by David H. at March 9, 2010 01:27 AM

Reminds me of the cartoon of the vampire sucking blood out of the neck of the patient in the hospital. The currently proposed
"health reform" consists of transfusing more bags of blood into the patient but leaving the vampire clamped on her neck. The patient cannot hope to get better until the vampire is eliminated, not just fed more effectively.

Oh, and speaking of not worrying about passing a flawed bill because we'll fix it later, that worked really well with NAFTA, didn't it? (But Bill promised he'd fix it later....!)

Posted by steve the artguy at March 9, 2010 03:21 AM

steve the artguy

NAFTA was only a good idea only if free trade is a good idea. I'm not so crazy about free trade, because capital mobility is destroying the world while giving us all these great cheap electronics produced by people barely surviving. So the NAFTA bill wasn't just flawed, in my opinion it was a step in the wrong direction.

Show me that the health care bill is a step away from universal health care and actually will hurt people more than it will help people, and I'll oppose it. But if the argument is that it's just supposedly a "wasted opportunity" because it could have been a better bill, I'm unimpressed. Of course it could be better. It should be better. And it can still be made better over time

Posted by N E at March 9, 2010 09:02 AM

It may not be a great victory, but it is a victory. Considering the gyrations required to get here, it may be the best victory we can get.

Posted by Chris Gerrib at March 9, 2010 10:21 AM

Posted by N E at March 9, 2010 12:46 AM
But in the meantime, if we let health care get defeated, we will hurt some people who need help, help our enemies, and set back an important cause.

Actually, you’ll be hurting plenty of people that will be forced to buy insurance and yet will see no proceeds from that government-mandated theft due to co-pays, deductibles, and new loopholes that are yet to come. Attorneys I’ve worked with and spoken to in the insurance business express absolutely no doubt that this new framework will allow companies to deny care to new inductees with little effort. We haven’t been guaranteed care; we’ve been forced to buy insurance and that has fuck-all to do with medical care. Whereas Republicans are obviously trying to kill me and mine, this bill’s supporters do the same and expect me to thank them for the privilege. This is why the response to so-called progressives backing this bill should not be a calm refutation but a simple “fuck you.”

When the poor and middle-class realize that it was “liberals” who foisted this monstrosity on them, they will quite rightly place such creatures up against the wall with their Republican equivalents.

Passing a bill that hurts a group of people in the name of those people isn’t mere arrogance, it is an invitation to violence. And it sure as hell isn’t a stepping-stone for better legislation. That idea passes from the warm bosom of stupidity straight into self-aggrandizing delusion. By what magic or legerdemain is Obama or his buddies made more likely to revisit this issue in the future as the result of passing this bill? How is the blinkered belief that this bill will somehow enable more health care getting to the poor any different than the now-tired rightwing meme that fighting them “over there” offers magical protection from terrorism?

Claiming that this advances progressive politics is laughably wrong but there’s no inherent malice in the declaration. Claiming, however, that this bill is a blessing for those it so clearly hurts is nothing short of an insult.

I humbly invite the people claiming that this is a victory to pay the new premiums of me and mine or, barring that, go fuck themselves.

Posted by No One of Consequence at March 9, 2010 11:06 AM

No One of Consequence

There are legitimate concerns in that rant, and that's some first-rate profanity too. I caution you to not believe attorneys just because they have some insurance expertise, however, or the next thing you know you'll have to start believing me.

The big question for me is whether this legislation will become a Trojan horse. I don't have a crystal ball and am not a substantive expert on health care, so I can't say. That is obviously what the health insurers will try to make happen, and they have plenty of resources to get it done. Plus, because keeping poor and uneducated people from being victimized is never easy, that is sure to happen to some extent. That doesn't mean the legislation is a step in the wrong direction.

You obviously have some energy and passion, and despite what you have called yourself, that can make you of considerable consequence. A person doesn't have to fly a plane into a building to make a difference. Work to stop that from happening. Just bear in mind that if this legislation is shot down, that will be a setback for perhaps another generation. That won't help the poor.

And if you think the poor aren't already paying for this problem in plenty of ways, I disagree. The poor are dying earlier, getting taxed more, and generally getting the short end. Nothing new there. I'd say progressive should get the country to take as big a step forward as possible and keep working.

Finally, don't think I can't understand being pissed. Believe me, I'm plenty pissed.

Posted by N E at March 9, 2010 12:08 PM

Superb piece--a cursory reading of which refutes the predictable attacks on it emanating from Obamapologists above and likely elsewhere.

One very minor qualm: why is the "Ezra" in question referred to as "Ezra" in the piece? The assumption which is communicated, if not intended, by identifying him on a first name basis is that we have a basic affinity for him which contrast with our relationship with for example, right wing blowhards like "Dick" Cheney and "Chuck" Krauthammer.

But in fact, we need to see neo-liberals and their propagandists for who they are: the enemy. They are not our pals. This should by now be clear not just to those who are getting their wedding parties blown up by drone attacks but to everyone with their eyes open.

That goes for "Barack", "Hillary" and "Ezra" just as much as it does for "Sarah", "John" and "Pat".

Posted by John Halle at March 9, 2010 12:54 PM

N E - I wholeheartedly agree with you that NAFTA was and is a disaster. I was just using it as an example of how things are promoted as being "flawed but necessary" with the promise of them being "revisited and fixed" in the future without anything of the sort actually happening, exactly as this health stuff is being presented. Flawed, necessary, can be fixed. That's blind faith in the future.

"Show me that the health care bill is a step away from universal health care and actually will hurt people more than it will help people, and I'll oppose it."

I personally don't know enough about the ins and outs of politics and the health care world to make a convincing argument, but here's someone who thinks they can- Marcia Angell on Moyer's show:
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/03052010/watch3.html

Posted by steve the artguy at March 9, 2010 07:03 PM

steve the art guy

She has many good points, and it's hard to get fired up about defending something that should be better in so many ways. I guess the problem is that in some ways as a policy matter it is a step in the right direction, as she herself points out, whereas in other ways it definitely is not. And then there is the huge issue of the political effect that it will be for the GOP to stop this altogether.

I have felt for a long time that Obama has been making a mistake patterning after Lincoln and trying a compromising approach with his political enemies. Politically, he really hasn't made enough good use of being President.

Posted by N E at March 9, 2010 09:36 PM

The comment on patterning after Lincoln has been the most significant mistake of this presidency. It has weakened Obama and the administration, possibly beyond repair. Relying on people like Rahm is ultimately like pouring sugar in the gas tank. And to top it off, my brown brethren and sisthren are beginning to think they were sold a cat instead of a rabbit, as the saying goes in Spanish, and the restlessness is reaching critical point, as is being well, pointed out.

Posted by Jesus B Ochoa at March 10, 2010 10:39 AM
I have felt for a long time that Obama has been making a mistake patterning after Lincoln and trying a compromising approach with his political enemies.

The Republicans are not Obama’s enemies. They are competitors.

I, and given the nature of this site, much of we, are his enemies. If “we” had the presidency, Obama would be one of hundreds charged with treason and on their way to the chair. This isn’t a matter of vindicitiveness (in and of itself) -- the last few administrations have all committed high treason and that will get you the death penalty. This is black letter; there is no real ambiguity here. This is why the rule of law cannot be allowed by the presidency to apply to the presidency in the least.

Republicans don’t want Obama dead, they want his policies to soley benefit themselves. Between Obama and Republicans are spoils; between Obama and the poor and brown of the U.S. are life and death. The latter makes enemies. The former makes competitors.

I guess the problem is that in some ways as a policy matter it is a step in the right direction, as she herself points out, whereas in other ways it definitely is not.

This is the wrong way to apprehend the subject. The first issue is who does the policy kill and harm? The poor. It reduces their ability to spend money on essentials and grants them virtually no benefit. It wastes political capital they desperately need.

If any of you ever, even once, even for a second, believed the Democratic mantra of “keeping your powder dry” during the Bush era and you support this bill, you are a hypocrite and worse than useless to the destitute in this nation. (“Worse than useless” is not being snide; plenty of smug “leftwingers” put Obama into office thinking they were doing a favor to black people. I’d happily see voters stay home instead of doing that to us again.) The pool from which the political capital expended here is drawn is finite, reducing the ability to make further policy changes.

Intangible sacrifices aside, this will inevitably kill poor people. If you have written off the poor, this bill could be an advance -- callously disregarding the lives of the poor means that you can concentrate on the gains of the middle and upper-middle class here. Assuming you are not filth, however, means that one is faced with a bill that steals from the poor and gives. . . well, likely nothing, since the point of insurance (for insurance companies) is to not pay for a service. This is saving the village by burning it. It is not a victory. It is not an advance. You can’t (literally, not figuratively) kill a friend of mine and then claim that, down the road, he’ll be better off. Hence the “fuck you” I mentioned several times earlier.

In fact, this bill, as it gives political cover to the Democrats, is even worse politically for the middle class than for the poor (since it can’t be any worse than it already is for the poor, since it is an actual source of harm). We need the middle-class as disenchanted with the Democrats as humanly possible now, and this bill will distract them from their justified concern and anger. How is further dividing one’s own desperately fractured political base a source of political strength? This is too stupid for words.

The comment on patterning after Lincoln has been the most significant mistake of this presidency. It has weakened Obama and the administration, possibly beyond repair.

Good. If only it did the same to his apologists outside the administration, and, while we’re wishing, to his Republican counterparts.

Posted by No One of Consequence at March 10, 2010 03:48 PM

No One of Consequence

Part of my problem with all that is that it's mostly just feiry rhetoric. Yes, a very long list of things suck, but your statement that "we need the middle-class as disenchanted with the Democrats as humanly possible now,and this bill will distract them from their justified concern and anger" sounds an awful lot like WANTING failure and more suffering so that people will wake up and give the Dems a resounding FU. (Hell, the GOP applauds that.)

I'm not enthusiastic about that goal, or optimistic that it would generate an improvement even in the long term. Anger without discipline just dissipates, and it certainly isn't usually what I'd call smart. People need more than anger. What they need to learn to do is organize and put their anger to work.

Posted by N E at March 10, 2010 04:48 PM
Yes, a very long list of things suck --

We aren't talking about a long list of abstract things. We're talking about one thing.

Of course I want failure -- of this bill. It's not wrong to want a bad thing to fail. We aren't talking about every single thing Obama does (as Limbaugh was when he said "I hope the President fails") we're talking about this bill.

What they need to learn to do is organize and put their anger to work.

They aren't all angry, so we're not there yet.

Posted by No One of Consequence at March 10, 2010 11:44 PM

Between Obama and Republicans are spoils; between Obama and the poor and brown of the U.S. are life and death. The latter makes enemies. The former makes competitors.

very succintly capturing a whole political ethos. excellently written, NOoC.

Posted by almostinfamous at March 11, 2010 01:12 AM

I agree with NOoC and Dennis Kucinich - this so-called "health care reform" bill is worth than nothing and should be defeated.

I disagree with NOoC on another point, however - that a substantial number of past and present public officials should be charged with treason [this part I agree with] and "on their way to the chair." I don't think they should be sent to the chair. I think, if they are executed, it should be by a ceremonial firing squad of Marines in dress uniforms in the White House Rose Garden, televised worldwide at dawn (our time - mid-day in Europe, afternoon in the Middle East).

But seriously, I don't think governments should kill people if it's not really necessary - so life imprisonment at hard physical labor is what I would advocate.

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at March 11, 2010 08:45 AM

life imprisonment at hard physical labor is what I would advocate.

if you aim for the stars, you may at least land on the moon. also, we could SO make a reality show out of this premise!

Posted by almostinfamous at March 11, 2010 10:02 AM

1) an anti-Obamacare column from the left:

http://counterpunch.org/lindorff03102010.html

2)Comrade Ochoa writes "my brown brethren and sisthren are beginning to think they were sold a cat instead of a rabbit, as the saying goes in Spanish" - which reminded me of the following, posted in the Fafblog! comments years ago:

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - CAT-PIE.


WHILE he is mark'd by vision clear
Who fathoms Nature's treasures,
The man may follow, void of fear,
Who her proportions measures.

Though for one mortal, it is true,
These trades may both be fitted,
Yet, that the things themselves are two
Must always be admitted.

Once on a time there lived a cook
Whose skill was past disputing,
Who in his head a fancy took
To try his luck at shooting.

So, gun in hand, he sought a spot
Where stores of game were breeding,
And there ere long a cat he shot
That on young birds was feeding.

This cat he fancied was a hare,
Forming a judgment hasty,
So served it up for people's fare,
Well-spiced and in a pasty.

Yet many a guest with wrath was fill'd
(All who had noses tender):
The cat that's by the sportsman kill'd
No cook a hare can render.

1810.

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at March 11, 2010 10:58 AM
Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at March 11, 2010 08:45 AM

I don't think they should be sent to the chair. I think, if they are executed, it should be by a ceremonial firing squad of Marines in dress uniforms in the White House Rose Garden, televised worldwide at dawn (our time - mid-day in Europe, afternoon in the Middle East).

I want this, too.

It MUST be this way, in fact. We need a formal repudiation of their policies. This is why I hate the idea of armed revolution. Besides the fact that it has a deplorable track record and ends up killing lots of the people we need to protect, we need to make it clear to the world that the American people, not just a bunch of rabble, have said “enough!”

I spoke euphamistically of what the death penalty means (“the chair”). In fact, since it isn’t clear that the chair is painless, a bullet to the head is the only real “humane” choice. I’m against the death penalty for persons not in power, but I risk severe hypocrisy by willing it be applied to politicians. I admit my grounds are shaky so I won’t explore them here. But you have to admit -- formal excecution of those involved makes for a better narrative (if I may wax irreverent).

Posted by No One of Consequence at March 11, 2010 11:52 AM

@ N E:

Marcia Angell doesn't say the bill is good as a matter of policy. In fact, she explicitly says that it's not and it's better for this bill to go down as a bad bill.

Posted by Susie at March 11, 2010 03:05 PM

@ N E:

Marcia Angell doesn't say the bill is good as a matter of policy. In fact, she explicitly says that it's not and it's better for this bill to go down as a bad bill.

Posted by Susie at March 11, 2010 03:05 PM

Dave Lindorrf has a lot of good points, but being good policy just isn't enough. You know, grumbling almost inaudibly--the MICFiC! (I still love that lower-case 'i'!)

Goethe had a lighter touch than I realized. I like that poem. Here I thought he just wrote about the curse of knowledge and suffering, suicidal young romantics. In looking over some of his pithy saying online, I see a surprisingly practical side to him too, one Obama might even invoke.

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."

But my favorite Goethe quote online is this:

"Know thyself? If I knew myself I would run away."

That "run away" of course reminds me of Monte Python and my favorite hare, a hare with a big cat's personality. I wonder what that crazy hare would have tasted like in a pie!

Posted by N E at March 11, 2010 03:17 PM

Susie

What I read Marcie Angell saying is that the bill is overall bad policy because it forces people to buy insurance and that it is so far from what it should be that she is just disgusted with our politic system (as I am). Sorry if I wasn't clear in recognizing that. But I think she did say that the bill does include a few policy improvements, which is what I was referring to. In terms of policy, the bill isn't a step back in EVERY way.

Posted by N E at March 11, 2010 03:31 PM

Is one-eighth of a loaf better than none, taking into account that you've got to pay for the entire loaf?

A)Marcia Angell in dialogue with Bill Moyers last week:

And I'm not so sure that if this bill goes down, it's going to make it any harder for them politically. So I think it's difficult times for the President and for the Democrats. But if you look at it as a matter of policy, the President's absolutely right that the status quo is awful. If we do nothing, costs will continue to go up. People will continue to lose their coverage. Employers are dropping health benefits. Things will get very bad. The issue is will this bill make them better or worse? And I believe it will make it worse.


B) Here's a scene by novelist Patrick O'Brian, used in the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World:

Two weevils crept from the crumbs. 'You see those weevils, Stephen?' said Jack solemnly.

'I do.'

'Which would you choose?'

'There is not a scrap of difference. Arcades ambo. They are the same species of curculio, and there is nothing to choose between them.'

'But suppose you had to choose?'

'Then I should choose the right-hand weevil; it has a perceptible advantage in both length and breadth.'

'There I have you,' cried Jack. 'You are bit - you are completely dished. Don't you know that in the Navy you must always choose the lesser of two weevils? Oh ha, ha, ha, ha!'

C)If Dr. Angell and Congressman Kucinich subscribe to the lesser-weevil principle of choice, they have concluded that the continuation of the status quo is preferable to the results of passing Obamacare. My inclination is to trust their judgment (in a way I do NOT trust the judgment of our President, e.g.)

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at March 12, 2010 10:51 AM

As precise a pre-post mortem on liberalism’s last gasp as I’ve seen. And so instructive to see the blogo-worms, like klien’n’kos, feeding on the corpse. I hope everybody that reads your words cross posts them to the all the bloggers who seem to realize what a sham this bill is but are willing to take one for the gipper, or at least not wade in, lest Obama be seen as a failure. And maybe this is the biggest problem. Obama’s first political hero wasn’t JFK or even LBJ, it was Ronald Regan. This was the man who got his Grandma’s vote and informed Obama’s idea of a successful political persona. Hence, at this late hour, it is not about the policy but about the man. So, at the last minute he has a televised summit in which any criticism from the left is excluded, then he goes on the stump and talks about ‘my bill’ as if it is a referendum on him and not policy. When this piece of crap is finally enacted, it will be he alone that is given credit, the blame not to accrue until post 2012, after he has squeaked into a second term. Well, my hero remains Kucinich, a guy who always makes it about policy first, who takes his responsibilities seriously and never responds to his critics with the kind of ad hominems that are regularly thrown at him.

Posted by john in california at March 12, 2010 12:59 PM

N E, I do take your point, but Angell also says that the good things in the bill could be passed without a lot of the potentially toxic sludge that goes along with them in this legislation.

Angell may be wrong, she's human and she's been wrong before. But she sounds persuasive here.

Posted by Susie at March 12, 2010 05:27 PM

N E, I do take your point, but Angell also says that the good things in the bill could be passed without a lot of the potentially toxic sludge that goes along with them in this legislation.

Angell may be wrong, she's human and she's been wrong before. But she sounds persuasive here.

Posted by Susie at March 12, 2010 05:27 PM

Susie

Of course the good things in the bill could be passed without the dreck, but getting that accomplished in our abysmal system is absurdly difficult. So we're stuck with the lesser weevel question.

john in california

Obama has never said Reagan was his hero. He said Reagan was a transformative President, which he was careful not to say about Clinton. There was surely politics in that, but Obama was right on both counts. The results of that Reagan transformation weren't good, and the real Reagan and the media creation didn't have much in common, but it sure was a transformation.

I like Kucinich too, but he has an easy role to play, because he doesn't really ever have any power. There are real consequences to legislation this important failing, and those flatulent, corrupt Senators and the Big Money behind them really do have a lot of ability to kill or ruin legislation like this. So what Obama has had to do is very difficult.

mistah charley

Marcie Angell knows way more than I do about this, and she seems trustworthy. My head hurts when I try to figure out what all the political effects would be, so maybe it's just better to not support things that stink too much. But since those are the only things we get to choose from, that's just sooooo depressing.

Apropos of nothing, we watched Precious tonight. My God what a movie.

Posted by N E at March 13, 2010 01:11 AM

"So what Obama has had to do is very difficult."

You're presupposing that what Obama wants is what you want. That's impossible to determine, but from the evidence of who he has hired (a bunch of centrists) and the positions he's been taking, he's a centrist Democrat along the lines of the Clintons. He seems naive in that he apparently expected (as centrists sometimes do) that all he had to do was reach out to the Republicans and peel away the moderate ones and then he'd have this centrist coalition that he could rely on and then spit on people to the far left and far right. Hasn't worked out for him yet, but that's what I think he had in mind.

Posted by Donald Johnson at March 13, 2010 12:58 PM

Donald Johnson:

I'm not talking about Obama's heart or intentions. I just presume he is trying to accomplish more or less what he started out saynig, but that he is drifting right because that's the way the current takes him. The Clintons and the Democratic party built by and around them preceded Obama, so he was sort of stuck with the legacy of that. I don't think he ever had much chance to avoid being centrist in practice.

I think Obama was trying to do basically what you think he was trying to do--reach out to centrists and even enemies, as Lincoln did, and make everyone get along, as Lincoln supposedly did. I doubt he thought he had much chance of doing much else, but a problem I have with the approach is that it treats mythic history as real history and then tries to recreate it. (Unless Obama's reading of Doris Kearns Goodwin was just PR, which is possible.) I'm very skeptical that such an approach to national politics has actually ever really happened, let alone with the right wing in opposition. I think you have to take the battle to them.

The thing I'm least confident about is whether Obama could have done anything that would have worked any better for him/us.

Posted by N E at March 13, 2010 06:09 PM

N E writes

My head hurts when I try to figure out what all the political effects would be, so maybe it's just better to not support things that stink too much. But since those are the only things we get to choose from, that's just sooooo depressing.

There comes a time, in my opinion, when something DOES stink too much [metaphorically speaking] to support it. In the colorful words of the poet e.e. cummings in "i sing of Olaf glad and big"

Olaf(upon what were once knees)

does almost ceaselessly repeat

"there is some shit I will not eat"

It IS depressing. But Congressman Kucinich said something in a recent interview I saw on tv (on the al Jazeera channel, of course) - when asked about all the voters who are disillusioned after campaigning for Obama and reform, Dennis said (and I paraphrase) - "disillusionment is a good thing - you have to know what's actually going on to deal effectively with it."

The song about Olaf grew out of cummings' experience with U.S. militarism at Camp Devens, Massachussetts, shortly after he was drafted into the Army in July of 1918. [A personal aside: I spent time at Devens because it was my late father Colonel Charley's last active duty posting.] Ismael Hossein-zadeh, author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, teaches Economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, and writes in his most recent Counterpunch dot org piece

the New Deal and Social-Democratic reforms that evolved out of the Great Depression and World War II were not courtesy of “benevolent” capitalism, voluntarily bestowed upon the poor and working people.... Those reforms were, rather, the product of years of struggle by the working class and their allies against the brutalities of the capitalist system—struggle that often entailed great sacrifices, including occasional loss of life. The anti-Depression and anti-war struggles of the 1930s and 1940s compelled the capitalist class to “carry out reform in order to prevent revolution,” to paraphrase President Franklin D. Roosevelt....

The government, as the executive body of the financial/economic oligarchy, is now trying to undermine those social safety net programs, and revive the pre-New Deal/pre-Keynesian economic orthodoxy, that is, the economic model of the survival of the fittest. This sinister, profit-driven effort at undermining the poor and working people’s hard-won basic needs programs can be stopped only through a renewed and compelling pressure from the grassroots—pressure that must be exerted not through the Democratic Party machine but independent of the so-called two-party system.

Is Obama struggling against the brutalities of the capitalist system, or is he the spokesmodel for the financial/economic oligarchy [the Military Industrial Congressional Financial Corporate media complex]?

As Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot just by watching."

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at March 13, 2010 07:09 PM

Wise words mistah charley, but until the system is changed we have the lesser weevol choice, and within the crappy system the spokesman of the MICFiC is more like Vanna White than people think. Of course Obama isn't struggling against the brutalities of the capitalist system--even politicians like Kucinich don't think like that--but there is a difference between the real dreck and Obama. Undermining him without creating the conditions where a better alternative is possible doesn't strike me as moving forward.

I'll call your Yogi Berra and raise with Yogi Berra: "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there."

Posted by N E at March 14, 2010 02:58 PM

N E, I regret that I personally cannot be any more clear than I already have. Let me just point to the Medium Lobster's most recent post at Fafblog, "The National Anthem", viewable at tinyurl dot com slash ykqqyoh. The focus is on foreign policy, rather than domestic affairs, but there's a similar process involved in finding the difference between the real dreck and Obama.

May the Creative Forces of the Universe have mercy on our souls, if any.

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at March 14, 2010 06:58 PM

mistah charley

That Medium Lobster is exceptionally rare! (Seriously, that's great stuff.) S/he made me think of David Foster Wallace (the blessed genius who wrote a book I just can't tackle but essays I can, such as Consider the Lobster, or perhaps the Medium Lobster. I shall definitely consider herhim henceforthwith, because I frankly have not figured out anything that will work yet. I just think I see a lot of things that won't work (which is sort of like finding dirt on a farm.)

I still think old Barack probably means well, sucker that I am, but frankly I am just whistling out my ass because I don't know him, and really it hardly matters if he is worth a damn. Nixon didn't mean well at all, the rotten bastard, but he ended up doing a few good things that cooked his goose with the MICFiC (though he did plenty of evil shit too, which they didn't mind at all). What good Nixon did he did because he thought he had to do it politically, to get reelected and be Great and all that. Which meant our politics was at least sort of roughly almost working then, because that made the turd better than he was instead of worse, but the Right fixed that little problem. And fixed is what it all remains nearly 40 years later. So people better wisen up, if possible, because the Creative Forces of the Universe have a little broader agenda and aren't going to intervene. We're gonna have to fix this mess.

Probably more of these tiny lobster revolutions is the best approach to fixing everything. That's where I'm putting my greenhouse gases.

May our souls find their way to the Creative Forces of the Universe, if any. (By the way, what created the Creative Forces, the chicken or the egg?)

Posted by N E at March 14, 2010 11:30 PM

re: May our souls find their way to the Creative Forces of the Universe, if any.

if any should modify souls, not the CFU. As explained by the Monty Python applied philosophy collective,

The gradual growth of a person's soul [which, contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine, does not exist ab initio] is promoted by guided self-observation - a process unfortunately thwarted by man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.


re: (By the way, what created the Creative Forces, the chicken or the egg?)

I'm afraid that this question may be beyond the computing capacity of most three-pound pieces of specialized meat - speaking strictly for me, I'm baffled by it. I've heard "It's turtles all the way down." My personal inclination is to follow a neoWittgensteinian approach: "Of that which one cannot speak, one must whistle."

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at March 15, 2010 07:07 AM