There has been an intense and worthwhile dialogue in the online world of thinking people–which is sometimes referred to as “the liberal blogosphere”–about whether or not to support the current health care bill being debated in the Senate. Those who support it claim that providing insurance subsidies to 30 million Americans is simply too important an action to let it pass by. Some of those who want to kill the bill argue that a better bill is possible through reconciliation–a Senatorial procedure that would require only 50 votes plus Biden to pass–and that the bill as it stands is shameless gift to the insurance companies, a point many supporters of the bill reluctantly accept.
I think that one of the most interesting questions in this debate was posed on a post at Democratic Underground back in early November, when writer Truth2Tell asked: What if Bush had proposed this bill? (Others may have written about this also, but I haven’t seen it.) The author concludes,
“I believe that if Bush had proposed the exact health care reform bill that passed the House yesterday, all but maybe a dozen members of Congress would have voted in the opposite way as they did.”
I doubt this is true of the House bill, which is superior to the Senate bill and contains elements–like the public option–that it’s hard to imagine Bush and congressional Republicans supporting, but I do think that if we focus on the Senate bill instead of the House bill I can agree with the author’s sentiment.
The most contentious part of the Senate bill is that it contains an individual mandate but no public option and not enough regulation to properly control costs, which is why it’s far inferior to the Dutch system. If Bush had proposed legislation like that–a system in which every citizen was forced under penalty of the law to purchase private insurance–liberals and Democrats would have gone fucking nuts, and rightly so.
For the sake of argument, let’s even say that Bush said he’d provide subsidies to those who couldn’t afford insurance; granted that doesn’t sound very “Conservative,” but the idea of transfering massive amounts of wealth from citizens to corporations is something Bush could’ve theoretically gotten behind.
Critics would have claimed, as many are doing now (see Greenwald’s absolutely essential post today about the growing tendency towards corporatism in our government), that the Republican-proposed individual mandate was a crime, a way of using government power to deliver the money of citizens straight to corporate pockets. They’d be right to say it, and right to fight a mandate with no meaningful mechanism for cost control.
Can you really imagine elected Democrats and liberal bloggers claiming that this would be a positive step towards meaningful reform and better coverage in the future? That seems wholly unbelieable to me. They would have argued that the theortical Bush Plan would only further entrench those powerful interests, an argument many are making now.
The extent to which one’s allegiance to a party dominates one’s political objectives will determine whether or not supporting the bill makes sense so the Democrats get their “win,” but it seems to me that if a bill would be worth opposing if proposed by the other party, it should be opposed under all circumstances.