Holding Firm on the Public Option
On Memeorandum right now, there is an avalanche of commentary about the White House’s signaling that it’s ready to cave on the public option. Because there is so much progblog analysis, and because there are so many distinct issues involved with this legislation, I’ve decided to organize the progblog analysis by the talking points.
First, it’s important to be clear about why the public option has become this huge lightning rod. If you think it’s because the American people ‘don’t want government-run healthcare,’ no gold star for you. If you think it’s because the private health insurance industry (a) hates a public option (any public option) and (b) has half of Congress (conservative estimate) in its pocket, you can redeem your gold stars for the expensive medical test of your choice.
Second, the public option does matter, and it’s not dead. To be sure, key members of the Obama administration — including Obama himself — have been doing their best lately to “preemptively surrender” the option, but that does not mean it’s dead. If it were dead, a health care reform bill that did not include a public option would have been passed by both houses of Congress and Pres. Obama would have signed it. Even then, a public option could be added down the road, so the option is not dead. It just needs progressive activists and lawmakers who believe in it to fight for it, is all. The ability to add and subtract helps, too.
No one on the liberal/progressive side believes that a public option does not matter, or that health care reform would be just as fine without it. However, there are those in liberal blogtopia who argue that it should not be a deal-breaker. The three best-known bloggers I’ve seen make this argument are Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, and Matthew Yglesias.
As for me, I’m torn. But Silver, Klein, and Yglesias are all intelligent, thoughtful writers and they’ve proved over many years that they care about health care reform. I can respect what they’re saying.