Monday, November 23, 2009

Trade Health Care for More Stimulus?

The weekend "victory" in the Senate has Pyrrhic written all over it as 2000 pages of proposed legislation is on its way to being held hostage by the likes of Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson et al. What we have now is an abortion of a bill that will only get worse as the back-alley bargaining goes on.

Here's a radical idea for the President of Change: Take most of it off the table until after next year's elections and put your full weight behind another stimulus that would speed up economic recovery, create jobs and shove it down the throats of Republicans who are using the incoherence of health care reform to confuse Americans who are terrified about the economy.

"Most economists I talk to," Paul Krugman writes today, "believe that the big risk to recovery comes from the inadequacy of government efforts: the stimulus was too small, and it will fade out next year, while high unemployment is undermining both consumer and business confidence.

"Now, it’s politically difficult for the Obama administration to enact a full-scale second stimulus. Still, he should be trying to push through as much aid to the economy as possible. And remember, Mr. Obama has the bully pulpit; it’s his job to persuade America to do what needs to be done."

It would take political guts for the President, after all his talk about the urgency of health care reform, to take most of it off the table temporarily and put the effort and money into turning the economy around.

Settle for passing the noncontroversial elements now--i.e., no cutoffs for preexisting conditions--and move on to a full-scale assault on what is really worrying Americans.

Democrats who have to face the voters in less than a year should be able to unite and help him get something meaningful done.

Update: Joe Lieberman, dubbed by Joe Klein, "the Senator from Aetna," is digging in on the public option, in what the Wall Street Journal calls his "trademark sonorous baritone" but others would call a weasely whine, promising to filibuster against the public option. Harry Reid may buy him off before the final vote, but it's saddening to see a pivotal role being played by someone rejected by his own party's voters in the last election. Is this the way to get health care reform?

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