Friday, December 21, 2007

A snipe at Reid, and big table fantasies.

So Harry Reid is going to keep the U.S. Senate in session over the holidays, lest the shrub make any recess appointments of scumbags the Senate finds "objectionable".

"We're going to go into pro forma session so the president can't appoint people that we think objectionable," Reid said on the Senate floor as the chamber prepared to wrap up business for the year.

Yeah, because God forbid that Harry Reid -- whose unintentionally pornographic-sounding name is certainly an apt description of his thin and bendy tenure as capitulation leader -- should let the shrub's appointees be placed in lifetime positions to fuck the country over with anything less than the official seal of approval from the U.S. Senate.

Anyway, here's an interesting take on Giuliani from the American Conservative, I mean, magazine (posted on my discussion forum). When even the nutzoid right thinks you're a creepy loon, that's got to take a toll on your morale.

But let's get to the meat of this entry. The New York Times' Paul Krugman gave an excellent analysis of Barack Obama's unrealistic thinking on health care solutions.

Over the last few days Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards have been conducting a long-range argument over health care that gets right to this issue. And I have to say that Mr. Obama comes off looking, well, naïve.

The argument began during the Democratic debate, when the moderator — Carolyn Washburn, the editor of The Des Moines Register — suggested that Mr. Edwards shouldn’t be so harsh on the wealthy and special interests, because "the same groups are often responsible for getting things done in Washington."

Mr. Edwards replied, "Some people argue that we’re going to sit at a table with these people and they’re going to voluntarily give their power away. I think it is a complete fantasy; it will never happen."

This was pretty clearly a swipe at Mr. Obama, who has repeatedly said that health reform should be negotiated at a "big table" that would include insurance companies and drug companies.

On Saturday Mr. Obama responded, this time criticizing Mr. Edwards by name. He declared that "We want to reduce the power of drug companies and insurance companies and so forth, but the notion that they will have no say-so at all in anything is just not realistic."

Hmm. Do Obama supporters who celebrate his hoped-for ability to bring us together realize that "us" includes the insurance and drug lobbies?

It's a very valid point. One wonders if Obama is pandering to the very industries that are helping to destroy America by way of unrestrained greed. Krugman continues:

O.K., more seriously, it’s actually Mr. Obama who’s being unrealistic here, believing that the insurance and drug industries — which are, in large part, the cause of our health care problems — will be willing to play a constructive role in health reform. The fact is that there’s no way to reduce the gross wastefulness of our health system without also reducing the profits of the industries that generate the waste.

As a result, drug and insurance companies — backed by the conservative movement as a whole — will be implacably opposed to any significant reforms. And what would Mr. Obama do then? "I’ll get on television and say Harry and Louise are lying," he says. I’m sure the lobbyists are terrified.

As health care goes, so goes the rest of the progressive agenda. Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world.

Which brings me to a big worry about Mr. Obama: in an important sense, he has in effect become the anti-change candidate.

There’s a strong populist tide running in America right now. For example, a recent Democracy Corps survey of voter discontent found that the most commonly chosen phrase explaining what’s wrong with the country was "Big businesses get whatever they want in Washington."

And there’s every reason to believe that the Democrats can win big next year if they run with that populist tide. The latest evidence came from focus groups run by both Fox News and CNN during last week’s Democratic debate: both declared Mr. Edwards the clear winner.

Krugman makes many common sense points about the success of economic populism in Democratic campaigns in his latest book, The Conscience of A Liberal. It's worth reading because it explains rather well the conditions that led to the economic collapse that ultimately made F.D.R.'s New Deal possible, and a success for decades. Krugman, a respected and extremely knowledgeable economist I think should be made federal reserve chairman if John Edwards becomes president, is not someone whose analysis is to be dismissed lightly -- or at all. Krugman closes by writing:

So what happens if Mr. Obama is the nominee?

He will probably win — but not as big as a candidate who ran on a more populist platform. Let’s be blunt: pundits who say that what voters really want is a candidate who makes them feel good, that they want an end to harsh partisanship, are projecting their own desires onto the public.

And nothing Mr. Obama has said suggests that he appreciates the bitterness of the battles he will have to fight if he does become president, and tries to get anything done.

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