[Posted by Karl]
Kirsten Powers, David Brooks and Michael Kinsley are not exactly charter members of the VRWC, but they do not have much nice to say about Obamacare — or the way Pres. Obama is trying to sell it to a skeptical public. Here’s Powers:
An analysis of a new poll from the centrist think tank Third Way finds that Obama needs to radically alter how he’s selling his plan to America.
Obama’s central message so far has focused on the promise of lower costs for health coverage and more accessibility. But the poll (conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group) suggests that these aren’t the most potent issues.
In fact, a mere 29 percent of respondents agreed with the promise that their premiums would go down as a consequence of reform. And regarding “accessibility,” only 9 percent said that in the last five years they were without coverage all or most of the time.
Moreover, when asked, “Who do you think will benefit most from reform?” a whopping 60 percent chose “other people, but not [me].”
Third Way labels this the “what’s in it for me?” phenomenon. It argues that Obama must convince the middle class — which largely has health care and is satisfied with that care — that his plan would benefit them.
David Brooks, while floating ideas that would make a government takeover of the US healthcare system even less politically saleable, recognizes the facts on the ground:
As Alec MacGillis reported in a front-page piece in The Washington Post this week, “All signs in Washington suggest that cost considerations will be kept at arm’s length as health-care legislation moves forward.” As my colleague David Leonhardt wrote in his column this week, “The current health care system is hard-wired to be bloated and inefficient,” and health care economists don’t see the current bills doing enough to fix that.
The basic problem is that the American people have gotten used to high-tech, all-everything health care, under the illusion that they don’t have to pay for it and that it’s always better for them. Politicians are unwilling to force voters and donors to give up that sort of system, even the parts that are ineffective.
Michael Kinsley piles on:
[P]eople, even liberals, are starting to get unnerved by the cost of all this. We now talk of trillions the way, even a few months ago, we spoke of billions. In mid-June, the Senate health committee put out its version of reform and was horrified when the Congressional Budget Office figured that it would cost a trillion dollars over 10 years (over current spending) and would still leave millions uninsured. The committee retreated to its lair and re-emerged in early July with a revised plan “scored” by the CBO as costing only $600 billion and leaving only 3 percent of the population uninsured. Six hundred billion doesn’t sound like all that much to achieve, or come close to achieving, an important and long-standing goal such as universal health care. But keep in mind that health-care reform is supposed to save money. Its premise is that the current path is unaffordable. In that sense, a “mere” $600 billion extra is total defeat.
And that’s before you recognize that the $600 billion figure is an accounting shell game – the program’s total outlays remain somewhere between $1 and $1.3 trillion. This dynamic is playing out even in the solidly Democratic House, where at least 40 members of the Blue Dogs were demanding changes to key aspects of the joint House bill and threatened to derail the leadership’s timetable.
Getting a pair of bills to a House-Senate conference and beyond requires that the House pacify enough Blue Dogs and that the Senate persuade enough centrists not to filibuster. It seems as though the recent efforts by Democratic leadership to adopt a more partisan approach has provoked a backlash in Congress and the punditocracy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Maj. Ldr. Harry Reid may have tipped their hands too soon.
Update: Roll Call reports that “House Democrats’ health care bill has been delayed indefinitely as leaders continue negotiations with fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats…”
Update x2: But wait, there’s more! From the Politico:
–Forty members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition – representing just enough votes to kill a party-line vote – articulated their “strong reservations about the process and direction” of an early preview of the bill offered by chairmen of the Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor and Ways and Means committees.
—A pair of junior members of the House garnered 60-plus signatures on a letter siding with prescription-drug makers and President Obama and against the call of Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to reinstate some price controls.
—A group of 22 wayward New Democrats expressed their hope that government-sponsored health coverage would piggyback on Medicare’s pre-existing network, despite earlier opposition to the idea from caucus leaders.
—And finally, a mix of 20 rural and Western Democrats made their case for why the bill should fix inequities in the reimbursement rates Medicare pays to health care providers in “low-cost, high-quality” states.
Also, deranged Rep. Pete Stark updates us on the cost: “Right under $1 trillion… We’re trying to do it on the back of an envelope, but I don’t have any more than a guess.”