Friday, August 21, 2009

Spare Change.

When President Obama ran as the candidate for president who represented change, he often spoke of improving the tone in Washington. That idealism was commendable, but it was not why I voted for him. The "change" part? Yeah; that was it.
"Change" to me means focusing on the poor and the middle class; the rich have been pandered to for a generation, and--frankly--they don't need our help. "Change" to me means stricter regulation of the financial sector. "Change" to me means going full-tilt into the development of renewable, clean energy. "Change" to me means a rededication to science and education. "Change" to me means keeping religion out of government. "Change" to me means affordable health care for all.
It's that last one that is the big issue of the day, of course. And it's the one that is in danger of slipping through President Obama's hands.

From TPM:

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), one of the "gang of six" Finance Committee members negotiating a health care reform bill, said today that the committee's bill will not include a public option.

"We have not had the public option on the table," Snowe told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. "It's been co-ops, and addressing the availability and affordability of plans through the exchange."

Snowe's comments affirm weeks of speculation and hints that the committee would not incorporate the public option into its bill.

When asked later about her statement, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said only, "The president has said over and over that his goal is to offer more choices to bring costs down ... and the best way to do that is a public option." But if there are better ideas out there, Burton said, President Obama is open to them.

"Change" to me doesn't come in the form of a transformational president being held hostage by a half-dozen centrist lawmakers, three from the president's own party.

Paul Krugman wondered last month whether a different "gang of six"--Ben Nelson (D-NB), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and two Maine Republicans, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe--were working to doom reform:

Will the destructive center kill health care reform? It looks all too possible.

What’s especially galling is the hypocrisy of their claimed reason for delaying progress — concern about the fiscal burden. After all, in the past most of them have shown no concern at all for the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.

Case in point: the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which denied Medicare the right to bargain for lower drug prices, locked in overpayments to private insurance companies, and did nothing, nothing at all, to pay for its proposed outlays. How many of these six self-proclaimed defenders of solvency voted no on the crucial procedural vote? One. (Joe Lieberman, to my surprise.)

And let’s not forget that Ben Nelson, who appears to be the ringleader, has fought tooth and nail against competition from a public option — which would almost certainly save a significant amount of money, as well as providing much-needed competition.

If the Gang of Six really does kill reform, remember their names; they will bear the responsibility for vast, unnecessary suffering over the years to come.

Here are the six senators on the Finance Committee who are fighting a public option:

Max Baucus (D-MT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

Remember their names, too.

"Change" to me means that Democrats who argue against a public option should change parties. "Change" to me means what I'll be open to when it comes to casting future Democratic votes if a public option isn't included in final health care reform legislation.

BeltwayBlips: vote it up!

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