Kevin Drum

Healthcare Bleg

| Sun Aug. 16, 2009 9:28 PM EDT

On the flight home from Pittsburgh I sat next to Jane Hamsher and we chatted about healthcare reform.  Our conversation got me wondering about something.

As you may know, there's a group of liberal Democrats in the House who are threatening to vote against any bill that doesn't include a public option.  Obviously they're hoping that this threat will be enough to force the conference committee to include a public option in its final report.

But even if this works, no one thinks that such a bill can get 60 votes in the Senate.  This means the only way to pass it would be via reconciliation.

So here's my question: supposing this happens, what are we likely to lose if we go down the reconciliation road?  The basic rule is that anything that doesn't affect the budget is off limits and would have to be discarded, but in practice only an expert could tell us which provisions are likely to fall foul of the reconciliation rules.  So who's an expert on this kind of thing?  I don't have a clue.  But before I decide what I think of this whole idea, I'd sure like to have a better sense of what I'm likely to get out of it.  On one side, I lose the public option but the rest of the bill has a pretty good chance of passing.  That's straightforward.  On the other side, I get a bill that includes a public option but loses a bunch of other stuff that can't survive reconciliation.  Like, say, community rating, which I suspect doesn't have enough budgetary impact to stay intact.  Ditto for just about everything else that reforms the private sector insurance industry.

So this is kind of a bleg.  Who knows enough about this stuff to give us the lay of the land?  If I have a choice between a bill that ditches the public option vs. a bill that keeps the public option but ditches a bunch of other stuff, which is better?  It all depends on what the "other stuff" is.  If anyone has any idea how to go about figuring this out, let me know in comments.

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Reappointing Ben

| Sun Aug. 16, 2009 8:42 PM EDT

Video of my session at Netroots Nation doesn't seem to be available anywhere, which means that I can't watch it to see how it went.  However, I got this from a friend who watched it live:

I thought you might enjoy the attached screen capture.  You couldn't see it, but throughout there were ads on the screen, most of which keyed off your name.  We got ads for Canon toner DRUMS and oil DRUMS and all sorts of musical DRUMS and don't you just love the way "targeted" advertising works on the Internet?  I'm watching Kevin Drum so it follows that I might be in the market for a good oil drum.

Ain't the intertubes great?  On a more substantive note, not a single one of the panelists was opposed to reappointing Ben Bernanke.  Not even Dean Baker!  Et tu, Dean?  This suggests to me that Bernanke is a shoo-in for winning a second term.  If you can't even get a bunch of liberals at Netroots Nation to oppose him, what are the odds that anyone else is going to lead the fight?

Podcast: NetRoots Nation Dispatch

| Sat Aug. 15, 2009 5:14 PM EDT

If you didn't get a chance to watch Kevin's NetRoots Nation keynote live, this week's MoJo podcast is a short Pittsburgh dispatch from him. In it, we talk about the NetRoots Nation male-to-female ratio, Arlen Specter on the "death panels," and how fellow attendees are feeling about Obama. Listen to the podcast here.

Get Your Kevin Fix

| Sat Aug. 15, 2009 12:49 PM EDT

Hey Drum fans—today at noon Kevin is set to moderate the keynote Netroots Nation panel on "Building a 21st Century Economy" with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Change to Win Chair Anna Burger and economist Dean Baker. Rumor has it that C-Span may pick up the feed; you can also check out the live video below. While you wait, why not browse some of MoJo's fine economics coverage—Kevin's pieces on cap and trade and bank nationalization, James Galbraith on why the stimulus isn't big enough, David Corn's expose of Phil Gramm's role in bringing about the financial crisis, Nomi Prins' timeline of the debacle, and last but not least David Cay Johnston's modest proposal for fixing the tax code.

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Friday Cat Blogging - 14 August 2009

| Fri Aug. 14, 2009 3:00 PM EDT

Just because I'm in Pittsburgh doesn't mean you don't get Friday catblogging.  Today I present "Still Life With Cat – 2009."  Clearly a masterpiece.

Specter on the Death Panels

| Fri Aug. 14, 2009 11:52 AM EDT

Arlen Specter just told the Netroots Nation audience that as soon as he got off the stage he was going to call Chuck Grassley and set him straight on the whole death panel thing.  "Come on out and watch me dial," he said.  I wonder if anyone did?

UPDATE: From comments, apparently Specter did indeed dial but couldn't get hold of Grassley.  A Twitter war ensued.

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The Hillary Narrative

| Fri Aug. 14, 2009 11:39 AM EDT

Yesterday Paul Krugman reminded us that preferring Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton because you wanted to avoid the Clinton psychodrama of the 90s was always a vain hope.  Back in early 2008 he wrote, "Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false."  Ezra Klein, chatting online about town hall hysteria, added, "This is how the conservative movement organizes against major pieces of liberal legislation. It's not about a particular moment or leader."

This is unquestionably true, but I'd just like to add one thing.  If Hillary Clinton had won last year's Democratic primary and gone on to become president, and then this year's town hall meeting had turned into insane gatherings of lunatics yelling about death panels, every single pundit in Washington — Every. Single. One. — would be blaming it on her.  Their unanimous take would be: Democrats knew that she was a divisive figure and chose to put her in the White House anyway.  It's hardly any wonder that conservatives have gone nuts, is it?

That narrative, as we now know, would have been 100% wrong.  But that would have been the narrative anyway.  Caveat lector.

Off to Pittsburgh

| Thu Aug. 13, 2009 1:36 AM EDT

I'll be at Netroots Nation this weekend, so blogging will be either light or very light for the next few days.  To make up for it, though, you might be able to watch me on TV.  I'll be moderating the lunch keynote panel on Saturday with Dean Baker, Jon Corzine, and Anna Burger, and the NN website suggests this will be carried live on either C-SPAN or C-SPAN2.  I don't know for sure if this will actually happen, but tune in at noon Eastern time and find out!

George Bush, Appeaser?

| Wed Aug. 12, 2009 11:58 PM EDT

Barton Gellman reports that Dick Cheney is getting ready to say what he really thinks about George Bush.  Namely that Bush went soft on him:

The two men maintain respectful ties, speaking on the telephone now and then, though aides to both said they were never quite friends. But there is a sting in Cheney's critique, because he views concessions to public sentiment as moral weakness. After years of praising Bush as a man of resolve, Cheney now intimates that the former president turned out to be more like an ordinary politician in the end.

....The former vice president remains convinced of mortal dangers that few other leaders, in his view, face squarely. That fixed belief does much to explain the conduct that so many critics find baffling. He gives no weight, close associates said, to his low approval ratings, to the tradition of statesmanlike White House exits or to the grumbling of Republicans about his effect on the party brand.

John Hannah, Cheney's former national security advisor, says Cheney is still obsessed with the idea of terrorists getting hold of a nuke, but:

What is new, Hannah said, is Cheney's readiness to acknowledge "doubts about the main channels of American policy during the last few years," a period encompassing most of Bush's second term. "These are not small issues," Hannah said. "They cut to the very core of who Cheney is," and "he really feels he has an obligation" to save the country from danger.

I don't especially blame Cheney for being worried about terrorists getting their hands on a nuke, but it's too bad he was never willing to seriously think about what kind of foreign policy might make that least likely.  Judging from Gellman's piece, he never will.

A Chilling Effect

| Wed Aug. 12, 2009 7:24 PM EDT

Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton deserves a raise.