The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The rule of Bush applies to Obama and Congressional Democrats

Dean, the man who should have been president:

“The biggest time bomb in the short run is the Public Option. Without a Public option, basically the activists of the Democratic party sit on their hands in 2010. Obama is not on the ballot. There’s no reason to go out and vote for a Democratic Congressman or give them any money if they can’t pass a healthcare bill that’s worth anything. And that’s a huge problem for the Democrats if its not in there and so it looks like some of the, a few of the folks aren’t going to let it in there. [snip] [The Public Option] has been watered down, it’s about as as watered down as it can get and still be a real bill. So there’s not a lot left in this bill. For example, there’s really no insurance reform in this bill. … I think Sanders has got the right idea. You might as well kill this thing because the people are going to be furious if it passes if it doesn’t have a Public Option.”

Dean has carried a lot of water for Obama on health care, despite Obama’s blatant disrespect of Dean when he stepped down from DNC.  For him to being saying this is… interesting…  He’s also made the point that if Democratic Senators won’t vote with their party on procedural votes, it’s the death of fundraising for the DSCC—for years they’ve talked about getting to 60, now they have, and they still can’t pass anything that isn’t crap.  What next, 65?

2010 is shaping up very nicely for the Republicans.  Their base is motivated, the Democratic base is less and less motivated, and by 2010 will be demoralized.  The economy will not have recovered by the time of the election, Republicans have effectively demonized stimuluses and deficits, so no new meaningful stimulus is likely to pass, so there’s nothing Democrats can do to fix the job situation.  Of course, 700 billion of stimulus, done right, would have created a lot more jobs than the lousy stimulus bill Obama put through.

Not doing things right when you can, has consequences.

Imagine that.

As you sow, so shall you reap.  Pity Obama and Democrats incompetence, venality and cupidity will cause so much real world suffering.  But in 2011 at least they’ll have a good excuse for doing nothing or passing only conservative bills.  Which is good, because whenever they do something they screw it up anyway.  As with Bush, if you believe in a policy (say stimulus) the last thing you want is for Obama and this Democratic Congress to do it, because they’ll screw it up beyond measure and thus discredit it.


About Freaking Time


The Mod Society


  1. So basically liberals are going to bite off their nose to spite their face.

  2. It should be noted, methinks, that Dean is still defending the “public option” brand, which was the vehicle by which he carried the water for watered-down “reform.”

  3. Robert, it doesn’t work like that in our tribal world.

    “Liberals” are applying carcinogens to their nose and refusing to clean them off, lest someone call them “Naderites.”

  4. Robert probably has it right. Let’s say that the single-payer ponyists have their wish, and progressive congresscritters vote the bill down. It’s not going to result in getting the single-payer pony. The vilification of the concept of reform itself is going to be enormous and loud. It’s going to shut down any possibility of health care reform in the USA for another generation, or at least until the current US health care system has achieve Mad Max levels of breakdown as it inevitably will.

    If the Stupak amendment survives, they might be able grab a little bit of cover on the pretext of supporting choice, but not much.

    Democratic activists are increasingly likely to sit on their hands in 2010. Sure. However, it doesn’t mean that a better Democratic party is around the corner. It just means even more opportunities for Obama to capitulate to Republicans. It may be true, but it still cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  5. gtash

    I am beginning to think having the public “angry” is exactly the prescription. The Republican base is already “angry” and has chosen to appeal to that anger. Progressives are trying their damndest to appeal to rationality, and the moderates to fear and anxiety. Of the emotions in play, anger wins. Rationality tries very hard not be be emotional. It loses. Maybe Dr. Dean’s analysis is not only correct, but needed.

  6. S Brennan

    In every area that he has focused this administration, Obama has created future disaster.

    I am pretty tired of the:

    1] Obama is a hapless victim.

    2] Obama is a hapless incompetent.

    Story line.

    Yes, he doesn’t understand, military matters, economic issues, energy policy and how bad medical insurance is, but the problem is really that he’s not willing to learn about the suffering of others because his narcissistic/borderline sociapathic brain learned early on that is not a path to success.

    Obama is Bush’s third term…and the decline in this country is now owned by both parties and their faithful followers.

  7. Not doing things right when you can, has consequences.

    Imagine that.

    I mean, the question is: was there ever a possibility of doing things right, starting out of the gate? The answer is quite clearly “no”.

    So what are the closest things to right that you can get?

  8. I am pretty tired of the:

    1] Obama is a hapless victim.

    2] Obama is a hapless incompetent.

    Story line.

    3] It doesn’t actually matter what Obama thinks.

  9. What next, 65?

    Awhile back, I half-facetiously calculated the requisite number to be 79, based on the average number of Democrats who could be counted on to break ranks on any issue. In reality, I don’t think they could get to cloture on a health care bill that had either single payer or a viable public option even if every Senator was a Democrat.

    You’re right, though. This is the danger that Democrats face – the progressives sit it out (except for politicians we like), and the voters sit it out, too. Democrats are less likely to vote than Republicans in off-year elections anyway, and the complete lack of results is just going to make turnout that much worse.

    I’d be very surprised if the Democrats lost control of either house, but it’s not out of the question.

  10. The root cause of the malaise is the absolute refusal to consider any option other than a reboot of the financialization of the economy. That’s why Serious Liberal economists can talk about the main error having been the refusal to bail out Lehman Brothers before it collapsed.

    The financialization of the economy is synonymous with the destruction of its productive capacity. That means a reconsideration of trade policy orthodoxy. Solve *that* problem, and many other problems will almost solve themselves.

  11. Ian Welsh

    Mitigators who constantly say you can never do anything right, that there’s no possibility of doing so, are why the US is so fucked.

    Yes, Obama could have done things differently. He had a mandate and he had the levers early in his reign. No one forced him to do a shitty stimulus bill, for example. No one forced him to support TARP.

    Yes, things are going to get worse before they get better. The idea that liberals always have to accept the lesser evil ignores human nature. People do not get excited by the lesser evil. So what is going to happen is another, even worse, Republican administration and Congress. Might as well get it over with, because it is all but inevitable.

    And the consequences of a bad health care bill can easily be as bad or worse than no health care bill at all. All liberals aren’t going to take one for the team, and anyone who expects them to is far more foolish than they are.

  12. Mitigators who constantly say you can never do anything right, that there’s no possibility of doing so, are why the US is so fucked.

    There is a possibility of doing so. There’s just no evidence that it’s on the time scale that we’re talking about.

    Who argued that Obama couldn’t have done things differently? The question is, why didn’t he? And knowing that, what are the available courses of action? In fact, why wasn’t everything done differently? I’m sure we’d have a different outcome if we had President Kucinich or something. So, why didn’t the USA elect President Kucinich? Or defeat Ronald Reagan? Or…or…or?

    (I hand out a big FAIL to anyone who says it’s because the Kos Kidz didn’t push hard enough while simultaneously arguing that the Kos Kidz have no real influence.)

    And the consequences of a bad health care bill can easily be as bad or worse than no health care bill at all. All liberals aren’t going to take one for the team, and anyone who expects them to is far more foolish than they are.

    OK, let’s lay out these consequences. What are the political implications of no health care bill at this point? What are the economic ones? What are the political implications of the current bad bill relative to those of no bill? What are the economic ones relative to those of no bill?

    The economics ones are easy. It’s pretty much the same form for both of them. Some variety of economic and health catastrophe. Probably on roughly the same scale, maybe different timing.

    The political ones hinge on exactly one point. On no bill (that is, to be specific, the failure of the current one), at what point will the Congress take up the cause again? Will the single-payer pony arrive sooner or later? If sooner, can anyone describe any plausible political contingencies that would lead up to the happy event?

    And this is really the same issue as above. If optimal policy is politically optimal, you would see the political system as a whole eventually but noticeably shift towards optimal policies. If you assume that a bad bill is worse than no bill, then what we are seeing is actually the opposite. You yourself list other examples.

  13. And like I said on the other thread, I would just not count the Democrats out so easily in 2010. Yes, there’s a higher-than-50% chance that they will lose the House. But there’s also reason to believe that the population will not, at the ballot box, see a bad bill as a reason to elect what would be by then a monolithic block of right-wing populists.

    Yes, Obama could have done things differently. He had a mandate and he had the levers early in his reign. No one forced him to do a shitty stimulus bill, for example. No one forced him to support TARP.

    By the way, we live in a world in which the Well-Meaning Centrists (by this I’m talking about DeLong and the fairly influential parties he is representing, effectively) are still smacking their foreheads at the failure to rescue Lehman Brothers, as though none of this would ever have happened if the bailout had been performed earlier.

  14. Yet another way of putting it is: why has the USA now had two presidents in a row with this characteristic? (Assuming Clinton is exempt, which of course I don’t but whatever…)

  15. anonymous

    Personally, I hope it fails unless it is improved significantly. I don’t buy the argument that a bad bill can be improved. Maybe Bill Clinton could do that, but not Mr unilateral concessions. Not just because of the Dems, but because the modern Republikans are held completely unaccountable and have no incentive at all to try to do what’s best for working class American. And you laugh, but I’m praying for Dean to primary Obama’s worthless ass. Of course he only knows how to fight dirty against Dems, but with all his rotting failures and hanging around his neck, that’s going to be a lot harder to pull off next time. And I hope it the primaries are absolutely ugly for everyone in Congress, left or right, like a year of teabagger townhalls.

  16. Ed

    Obama is actually the 6th Bush term. The first was in 1989-93. Not a lot of difference between the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama on the big ticket economic or even war and peace issues.

  17. Hugh

    Dean has been consistently dishonest about the public option. In some cases, I remember him trying to sell it as a form of single payer and then go on to say that he was all for private and multiple insurers like we have now. It wasn’t coherent. Even now he is pushing the line that while the PO has been watered down we still have a real healthcare bill. This isn’t true. It hasn’t been true for quite a while now. If you go back and look at Obama’s early statements on the healthcare debate, his strategy has not changed much. Unlike progressives who are constantly drawing new lines in the sand as they fall back from one position to the next, the Obama strategy of cutting Medicare, cutting deals with industry, and cutting the public option period has remained essentially unchanged. The same could be said of his political strategy of working with Blue Dogs in the House and “centrists” in the Senate, confident that mainline Democrats will follow, and that progressives will cave as needed.

    What we see is a truly awful bill. It should be killed. In theory, there are enough members in both Houses to do it in either. In reality, however, none of our politicians have the stones.

    The one point I keep making is that the economy is going to hit the wall in a serious way in 2011. Real healthcare may come about in the end simply to avoid social unrest.

  18. S Brennan

    Whatever Clinton’s faults,

    And he had many, unlike the the Bushies and Obama

    Being a borderline sociapathic was not in his personality.

  19. John B.

    Yes, S Brennan, I think that is right. Bill had/has his faults, but he wasn’t actively trying to hurt people, like Bush did. Obama just seems clueless to my eye and in way over his head; like someone who doesn’t understand basic human nature and has no idea how to get from point A to point B. Clinton governed in a time of rampant republican majorities and for 6 years basically tried to take the edge off of their distopian rhetoric and legislation. Obama had a chance; it was brief, but he did have a chance. Now it is gone and it is really fucking too bad…we will all pay for it in many, many ways and I think our host here gets most of this spot on, IMO.

  20. Pat

    Obama’s stimulus bill is actually a great example of what is wrong with the we can’t do _____ because it is too progressive meme that is rampant in the Beltway and is the apologist version of how to do some things. And why that is both a stupid and losing starting point.

    There should never have been any tax cuts in the original presentation. Why? Because anyone with a brain would know that tax cuts would be added to the final stimulus in order to get passage. Tax cuts have little stimulative value. So why add them to begin with. Oh, to make it attractive. But if you know there is still going to be negotiation why weaken your position to start…OH, you didn’t know there was still going to be negotiation – or you didn’t want the strongest bill possible – or you are just stupid and have no real strategy. Any explanation for not presenting a bill that was at minimum 25% higher then you actually needed with little or nothing the other side would demand was at best naive, at worst deceptive.

    As we watch more and more things from the White House, we at least have gotten rid of the multidimensional chess fantasy. Soon we have a final answer are they stupid or deceptive and bought for those who haven’t figured it out yet.

    Let me spell it out. In health care, you know you will need a mandate and some taxes to cover, you will need some cost controls over the situation especially since this has been sold to the public as being about health reform that will lower costs. And that means either serious regulatory authority which will lower the profitability of private companies or a real public option that forces them to do it themselves in order to stay in business. To attain that you don’t lose the single payer/medicare for all position until you get something for it – it weakens your ability to negotiate. Unless your position is that mandates are great even if means huge tax subsidies without any cost control mechanism because Insurance companies are awesome campaign contributors, and the public are stupid.

    Which only means something that some of us got awhile ago – Rahm and many other of the beltway insiders are the ones who do not get it. The public may deceive themselves for a while, but they don’t keep the stupid hats on for long when they can’t pay their bills or protect their children.

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