Moby Dick 1, President Obama 0

Below the fold is my post from last summer about the health care bill.  Still seems right to me.

The White Whale of Comprehensive Reform

posted by Gerard Magliocca


Two years ago I wrote an article about patent trolls that said the problem (if you think it is a problem) could not be solved by a broad legislative approach.  Trolls only affect some industries (mostly software and technology.)  Business groups that rely on patents but are not burdened by opportunistic licensing, therefore, would always oppose a sweping bill because it could not help but might harm them.  Even though the patent reform proposal first introduced in 2007 is now a shadow of its former self, this watered-down legislation still can’t get through Congress because of opposition from drug companies and others.

This brings me to health care.  Unlike some of my co-bloggers, I do not support the proposals coming out of Congress.  I am generally suspicious of anything with the word “comprehensive” in it and want to head for the hills when I hear any President say “we cannot afford to do nothing.”  Most of the time, we actually can afford to do nothing.  Moreover, the alternative to a broad overhaul is not nothing.  It’s incremental change.

Even if you like comprehensive proposals (on Social Security, global warming, or immigration), the reality is that they cannot pass unless there is a loud public clamor for action or years of effort to assuage the overwhelming number of interest groups with a stake in the outcome.  Neither is true now, just as it was not true for President Bush’s major domestic proposals.  Sure, if you take a poll people might say they’d like health care reform, but there is no intensity behind those preferences. Moreover, a landmark bill such as this cannot be slapped together in six months.  (This is where the thickening thesis that I mentioned a few weeks ago might be relevant.  Maybe in the past when there were fewer organized lobbying groups you could rush things though, but it’s a lot harder now.)  I suspect that there will be a health care bill for the President to sign eventually, but only if he climbs down from his desire to reinvent the wheel.

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4 Responses

  1. Frank Pasquale says:

    To complete the nautical theme, here is my post from a month ago:

    My bottom line is that the GOP’s ideological political opposition to simple reform ideas (like the public option and Medicare buy-in) has been so intense that those pursuing universal coverage have been forced to bargain with (and even become identified and intertwined with) the very entities they are trying to force to act responsibly. Glenn Greenwald describes the consequences:

    “[T]he central pledge of the Obama candidacy, beyond any specific issues, was his vow to change the way Washington works. It is his failure to do that which has become the party’s greatest liability. A candidate who railed against secret deals and lobbyist influence negotiated this health care plan in secrecy with industry lobbyists, got caught entering into secret deals with the pharmaceutical industry. . . . Worse still, two of the most popular provisions — the public option and Medicare expansion — were jettisoned . . . .”

  2. Let’s rephrase Prof. Pasquale’s “bottom line”:

    “…the [Democrat’s] ideological political opposition to simple reform ideas (like the [tort reform]and [multi-state insurance offerings]) has been so intense that those pursuing [less expensive insurance] coverage [options] have been forced to [the sidelines by] the very entities they are trying to force to act responsibly.

    You can rail all you want about the GOP’s intransigence on the cluster****s coming out of Congress but in the end, it was the Dems, negotiating amongst themselves, that went into secret mode and it was the Dems who jettisoned the supposedley popular Medicare and public option provisions.

    Bottom line then seems to be that Republicans forced Dems to bargain with Dems – but not having to deal with conservatives was, I thought, part of the hope and change so many of you were crowing about a year ago.

  3. Logan says:

    Maryland Conservatarian – As Jon Stewart duly noted on his show last night, Republicans didn’t force the Democrats to do anything; Democrats wouldn’t be able to pass any substantional legislation if they had 100 seats in the Senate and 435 seats in the House.