Thursday, December 24, 2009

Obama, Krugman Respond to Left on Senate Bill

NPR interviewed President Obama yesterday and asked him about anger from the left over the Senate's health care bill. From Political Junkie with Ken Rudin:
And so I actually think that, considering how difficult the process has been, this is an end product that I am very proud of and is greatly worthy of support. This notion, I know, among some on the left that somehow this bill is not everything that it should be, that we still need a single-payer plan, et cetera, et cetera, I think, just ignores the real human reality that this will help millions of people and end up being the most significant piece of domestic legislation at least since Medicare and maybe since Social Security.
And in his New York Times blog, Paul Krugman pointed out that it could have been much worse:

Howard Fineman, last summer:

When the history of President Barack Obama’s first year in office is written, scholars will try to answer this puzzling question:

How did a gifted, charismatic young Democrat — who won the White House by a large margin and brought in huge congressional majorities — manage NOT to enact fundamental health care reform, a goal his party has been seeking since Truman?

Yes, I know, someone is going to tell me that this isn’t fundamental — but the truth is that the bill the Senate is about to pass looks a lot like the Obama campaign plan, so something real has happened. Give credit to Obama, or Harry Reid, or whoever; the fact is that four months ago the usual suspects were gleefully writing the obituary for reform, and have been sorely disappointed.

I have to say he has a good point. I still have big problems with the fact that the public option ended up being dropped and I think the Senate bill is deeply flawed. We should work hard to make sure the bill that comes out of conference committee looks better, and in a way that can actually pass through the sausage factory again. But I remember those miserable August days all too well--it looked as if Jim DeMint and the Republicans really were going to succeed in turning health care reform into "Obama's Waterloo."

Earlier this week I wrote that it might be a good idea to kill the bill and start over. It's now clear to me that not only is it flat out not going to happen, it would be a terrible idea--to start over now wouldn't mean starting over, it would mean giving up. I say that because the political will would be exhausted and the media would immediately set an "Obama failed" narrative that would be very difficult to overcome. Even if we could start over, it would add months to the process and stick a big fat do-nothing label on the current administration and congress, in an economy that is likely to generate anti-incumbent feelings anyway. On top of all that, we could still end up with a bad bill.

So let the bill pass. It's not perfect, but neither was the first Civil Rights Act--and barely a year later, activists forced Washington to pass something that actually had teeth. We can learn a lesson from that great legislative victory. Progressives should keep fighting for a single-payer system that would guarantee basic coverage to all Americans, regardless of ability to pay. But for now, we've pulled off something pretty impressive.

1 comment:

Drew said...

I'm glad that you came around to seeing that this bill, while perfect, is immensely helpful to working class Americans. To kill the bill, along with the excellent points you made, would have been electoral suicide. Tom would have been finished - unfairly - guilty by association with a inept, spineless majority party.