I’ll be on Dylan Ratigan around four, on MSNBC and Parker Spitzer on CNN around 8 tonight, by the way. The book is here.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a new Think Again column on Sarah Palin and Blood Libel here, called “The Gift Who Keeps on Giving.”
And my Nation column is called “A “worm” in the Neocon war plans?” and that’s here.
For the Daily Beast I did “The GOP’s Health Care Kabuki” and that’s here.
I'm about finished with my history of postwar American liberalism, at least the first draft of it, and if someone asked me, who, over the past six or seven decades, displayed the best judgment, morally, politically, intellectually and in policy terms of any of the politicians I've studied, I think I'd have to say, in historical order, "Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Sarge Shriver..."
This is really interesting from Time, Friday, Jan. 03, 1964: “Man Of The Year: Martin Luther King Jr., Never Again Where He Was.”
More reasons I could not imagine life without TCM. “Screen Directors Playhouse.” Never heard of it before they showed ten of them on Tuesday night. Almost all were wonderful. There was a even a John Ford/John Wayne show that nobody’s seen in over fifty years. Incredible stuff. And perfect productions values, far better than those kinescope dramas released a year or so ago, because, I’m guessing the sponsor Eastman Kodak wanted to show off its stuff. Anyway, the whole thing is first rate and given that none of us knew about it before, a little bit thrilling. I watched all of them as I was doing my reading and writing yesterday.
More tomorrow. Now here’s Reed
Speaking of Kabuki Democracy
My apologies to the good doctor for appropriating his new book’s title, but that is exactly what our House of Representatives wrought last night’s vote, a legislative tale told by you-know-whats full of sound and fury signifying nothing, a reality that even Fox News had to acknowledge, calling the vote a “symbolic move.” Still, freshly minted Speaker John Boehner seemed undaunted by the prospect of clearing the hurdles of a Democratically-controlled Senate and a sure-fire presidential veto in the next two years, throwing out a boilerplate quote about how:
“Congress can do better in terms of replacing Obamacare with common-sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance and expand access for more Americans.”
Being all for commonsense, I wandered over to the Congressional Republicans’ website to read more about all these neglected health care reform policies that will comprise the second half of their two-stage “repeal and replace” strategy. Thankfully, right there on the Health Care Solutions page I found a prominent link to a summary of the House GOP’s proposed replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act. If you like, you can go directly to it here. Don’t worry, it won’t take long to read.
Yes, that’s right, as of today, it is a link to nowhere. As far as symbolic moves goes, I think these beat last night’s conservative dramaturgy on C-Span hands down. “Give us a break, we’ll get around to it this spring,” seems to be their excuse. Of course, one could easily argue that promoting the wholesale repeal of a comprehensive law that addresses perhaps the most pressing problem facing our society with nary a peep about specific alternatives isn’t a serious attempt at governance. But, in a way, it does makes sense—dare I say, commonsense?—since Republicans’ plans to replace the Affordable Care Act with anything approaching full, affordable health care access for all Americans are, in effect, nonexistent. (And no, malpractice reform and a couple hundred billion more in tax cuts for the rich doesn't qualify.)
Admittedly, the incredulous tone of the media coverage of this pseudo-event was a bit better than I expected, although few news organizations made more than a passing mention (if they mentioned it at all) of the noticeable absence of any concrete alternative proposals by the Republican House leadership. And now, take a breath, but I have to give due credit to Fox News.com. Not only did this article make a point of calling out the “death panels” bromide as the lie that it was and is (and, by extension, define Sarah Palin as an “extreme case”), it did a better job than many other news outlets in spelling out the specious reasoning behind the Republicans’ claims that full implementation of the ACA will result hundreds of thousands of lost jobs. Keep this up (for a loooong time), and they just may lose their title of Most Distrusted Media Outlet in America.
To be completely fair, however, the GOP isn’t all talk and no policy walk on this issue. In 2009, the Republicans were shamed into at least taking a crack at crafting a health care reform plan. How’d that go? Well, here’s a refresher:
“According to CBO, the GOP's alternative will shave $68 billion off the deficit in the next 10 years. The Democrats, CBO says, will slice $104 billion off the deficit. The Democratic bill, in other words, covers 12 times as many people and saves $36 billion more than the Republican plan.”
According to Republicans, the major problem wasn’t that their healthcare reform plan was exposed as an embarrassingly ineffective policy failure, it was that the analysis by those government bean-counters over at the CBO—lacking in commonsense, no doubt—were either biased or just naive. In fact, the Republican response to the CBO’s stark judgment two years ago was to skew and/or ignore its findings to suit their political needs in what might be considered a Congressional Republican’s version of “Whatevs!” In fact, just today, the House GOP’s website reinserted the text of this woeful bill as a placeholder on its Health Care Solutions page (24 hours earlier, that link was dead as well.)
Turns out, that bashing and distrust of the CBO was merely a coming attraction. Nowadays, it seems like the most popular parlor game among conservatives. During the buildup to last night’s vote, there were the by now requisite slings and arrows of “unconstitutional,” “socialism” and “tyranny,” to describe the ACA, but also littering the debate were new entrants—supposedly damning phrases like “discretionary spending,” “implausible assumptions,” “double-counting” and “doc-fix,” all of which are an effort to purportedly unravel the CBO’s dastardly double-dealing over the GOP’s costly plans for repeal. (If you’re so inclined, Ezra Klein, over at the Washington Post, provides a good blow-by-blow fisking of many of these GOP talking points.) And at the risk of maligning the good, honorable people who actually pick cherries for a living, I’ll just say that it won’t take you three guesses to figure out which governmental budgeting office the Republicans turn around and repeatedly cite for their claim that the ACA will kill 650,000 jobs.
When the Democrats managed to successfully thread the legislative needle by meticulously (or arduously, take your pick) passing a healthcare reform law that levels the insurance playing field to a large degree, provides a pathway to healthcare for pretty much every American and lowers the deficit—three public policy goals that both parties, at least rhetorically if not practically, support—the Republicans were left with a choice. Debate, on the merits, the elements of the law that do need fixing (as is invariably the case in such a large undertaking) or engage in a full-throated repeal campaign that demagogues the ACA as a “government takeover.”
The rhetoric during the recent mid-term elections made clear the GOP’s choice, but last year’s lame duck session showed the depths of their intransigence on even those parts of the ACA where there is bipartisan support for improvement. And it is of a piece with the GOP’s preference for rolling back financial reform, reinstating DADT and returning non-discretionary spending to the pre-stimulus levels found at end of Bush’s second term. In short, it’s a broad-based attempt at undoing the last two years of Obama’s presidency, while he’s still in office.
But this attempt at what I call The Great Regression is simply governance by spite, pettiness masquerading as principle. For House Republicans to spend the next two years operating in an alternate reality that says the best way forward is to simply take our country back to the swarming crises of 2008 is to demand a willing suspension of disbelief among Americans that ultimately harms our democracy. After all, for most of the past decade we watched this theatrical production unfold on Capitol Hill and the White House and the ending, we know, is tragic.
Editor's Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.