Bold Progressives? At least be honest!

I consider myself a bold progressive. I speak my mind, and I am a progressive that cares about policy. For me, being a bold progressive requires that when there is legislation that is far from perfect but is a step forward from the status quo, I cannot sit by, bitch and put out triumvirate calls to "kill the bill." No progress is ever made in one fell swoop. That's why I cannot see my progressive self telling me to do anything other than to support the passage of the Senate health care bill, which is ridden with imperfections and concessions to the insurance industry, but still takes us light-years ahead of where we are today.

I wrote yesterday about FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher's rant about killing the senate bill, and posted a point-by-point rebuttal. So what do you know, I get an email today, from the Progressive Change Campaign Committe at Boldprogressives.org. I will be quoting parts of it and pointing out how dishonest the email is - just to serve the purpose of getting people to sign their petition. You can see the whole email right here (click to enlarge):


So what was in it that was so dishonest? Well, here we go again, point-by-point.

We have one more chance to change this bill. Progressives in Congress can say they will block any bill without a public health insurance option.
Oh, yes, that'll be bold alright. And also, stupid. And anything but progressive. This whole idea is that chance to change the bill = we must threaten to kill the bill holds about as much water as the idiots on the right who went around screaming that the only way to change North Korea's mind about its nuclear ambition is to threaten to bomb them. They did threaten that, under Bush. And North Korea got nukes anyway. The wholly merit-less idea that the way to improve the bill is to threaten to kill it is about as good as George Bush's argument that in order to stop Iraq from selling WMD to terrorists, we must bomb them. Remind us how that turned out?

You don't change or improve the bill by threatening to kill it altogether. You do it by doing the hard legislative work. Something that Adam Green, the public face of the PCCC, has presumably never done. Campaigning and governing are not the same.

So let's go on:
Without a public option, this bill doesn't change the structural, long-term problems with our health care system. Instead, it's a raw deal that the insurance companies love: mandating that millions of Americans buy their junk products.
This argument has some merit. But as I pointed out yesterday, the bill's mandate is only applicable to you if you can find insurance that meets all the criteria of the bill (free preventive care, no extra charging for pre-existing or other health conditions other than tobacco use, covering all medically necessary services) for less than 8% of your income. If that's available - and it will be through the insurance exchanges once they open - it is quite reasonable to expect one to get it or pay a 2% tax that could be put in a fund for when these people show up in emergency rooms after a slip-and-fall. The mandate is rather weak, and the penalty is small. I find it amusing for Adam Green to argue in the same breath that the bill doesn't do anything for the long-term problems of our health care system and then complain about the mandate. You cannot have universal coverage or universal cost containment without a universal mandate for those who can afford it.

And then,
If just one brave senator says they will block a final bill without a public option, that will force President Obama and Senator Harry Reid to make a choice. They can either force Joe Lieberman and other corporate Democrats to accept the public option OR they can pass the bill through "reconciliation," a Senate procedure that only needs 51 votes.
Yes, reconciliation. That would be great, if we could do it. Except the reconciliation process would not allow any of the insurance reforms that are part of the current bill. You cannot pass a ban on exclusions based upon pre-existing conditions through reconciliation. You cannot pass mandated coverage of preventive health services through reconciliation. You cannot pass mandated mammograms for women through reconciliation. Is it possible they can pass the public option through reconciliation and the rest as another bill through regular procedure? Yes, it's possible. But who honestly believes that Lieberman, Nelson, Landrieu, Lincoln, etc. will ever let a vote on the insurance reforms happen if they are crossed on the public option and it's taken up through reconciliation?

If you reverse the timeline, however, it might be a different story. Pass the bill as is now. Keep the caucus together for the series of 60 votes required. Get this thing signed into law and put it away for good. Then later, a public option can be passed through or a different process. But of course, who at "Bold" Progressives can be counted on to do a little bit of strategic thinking? Not Mr. Green, apparently.

But here is where it gets juicy.
P.S. Progressive senators are already moving in the right direction. Russ Feingold made big news Sunday by criticizing the White House's "lack of support" for the public option. And last night, Bernie Sanders went on MSNBC and listed reason after reason the Senate bill is bad for the public.
Obviously, Adam Green thinks that people on his email list are all morons. Yes, Sen. Feingold took on the White House for not pushing the public option internally. Rightly so. But he has also voted with the Democrats in 2 procedural votes that held the Democratic caucus of 60 together to derail Republican filibuster on the bill that is currently on the Senate floor - that would exclude the public option. He has given no indication whatsoever that he would be willing to block the bill in order to play some sort of a cat-and-mouse game.

And Bernie Sanders? This is even juicier. For all of Mr. Green's rallying cry about how Sen. Sanders listed "reason after reason the Senate bill is bad for the public," I will let you watch the video of the appearance.



So to recap, Sanders is voting for the bill. Reluctantly, but he's voting for the bill. He stressed the $10 billion additional for community health centers - which is real health care for real people. 25 million more of Americans will have access to affordable health care and dental care, the lowest cost prescription drugs and mental health care to be exact, if you believe Sanders. It will pay for 20,000 additional primary care doctors and dentists and nurses. As Sanders puts it, it will lead to a revolution of primary health care in this country. But of course, you would never hear Adam Green discussing that. God forbid a progressive senator was actually successful in putting something progressive in the bill to actually, well, make it better without threatening to kill it! Why, that undercuts Mr. Green's whole argument about why people should sign his petition!

Sanders went on to say that the alternative is to defeat health care legislation and all that goes with it: 31 million more people with health care, the community health center expansions, insurance reform and many other important things. He is not ready to let 45,000 people a year die for 5, 10, 15 more years while we fight about how exactly to reform the system. He pledged to start trying to improving it the day after this bill is passed and becomes law. Maybe Adam Green should listen to Bernie Sanders and keep fighting even after the bill becomes law rather than to threaten to go nuclear before anything passes at all.

I'm with Bernie Sanders on this. And Tom Harkin. And Howard Dean. I don't have the luxury Adam Green does to try to stop health insurance reform because somehow our progressive ego was hurt because the public option was taken out. The public option was tremendously good policy. But taking it out is not by itself sufficient reason to kill a bill that will cover 31 million people who don't have health insurance, lower the federal budget deficit, deliver real health insurance reform, expand Medicaid, and expand community health centers in a big way.