Let’s check out the news on the healthcare front today. In the New York Times, we have David Brooks suggesting that Obama throw out all the work of the past six months and start completely from scratch on a wonky curve-bending plan that would have approximately zero support in any known galaxy. Sounds great. In the Washington Post, we have GOP Senator Bob Corker telling us that if Democrats would just get rid of that mean old public option, Republicans will flock to support healthcare reform. You betcha. And in the LA Times, we’re told that a public option might be politically acceptable after all as long as it goes into effect only after something “triggers” it. What that something might be is still unclear, but basically insurance companies would have to reduce costs somehow, and if they don’t do it then the public option would be triggered and they’d all have to start competing with the feds.
In other words, things are all over the map. The trigger idea is sort of interesting, though. Not because it’s new and innovative, but because it’s the kind of thing that seems to pop up as a compromise proposal pretty frequently and to no avail. Alan Greenspan and Paul O’Neill tried to sell the idea of a trigger for the 2001 tax cuts, but nobody bought it. The Baker Commission basically proposed triggers for withdrawing from Iraq, but that turned out to be DOA. And here in California, when higher car registration fees got automatically triggered by a growing budget deficit, it caused such hysteria that we ended up tossing out our governor and electing an action star in his place. Didn’t work out so well.
So triggers don’t have a really illustrious history. But maybe it’ll work this time. Anybody know of any examples of successful triggers? That is, triggers that actually produced a successful compromise at the time of legislation and didn’t cause all hell to break loose when they took effect? We need some data, people.