Sunday, March 21, 2010

Healthcare vote news - Part 2

It passed the House with 219 for, 212 against. They clearly needed Stupak's vote, and I find myself wondering what they really gave him to get it, since the executive order BS is so weak, and he had so much leverage.

But I think what disturbs me most is the scorched-earth brand of politics used to bring this through. The American people were clearly against it by a not-too-small margin (significant, given the scope of the legislation). And the Democrats decided they didn't care. If this doesn't disturb you, I recommend thinking about it a bit more:

Regardless of what you think about health care, tomorrow we wake up in a different political world. . . .

Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn’t want this bill. And that mattered basically not at all. If you don’t find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances. Farewell, social security! Au revoir, Medicare! The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected. If they didn’t–if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission–then the legislative lock-in you’re counting on wouldn’t exist. . . . If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don’t complain that it’s not fair. Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard. . . .

We're not a parliamentary democracy, and we don't have the mechanisms, like votes of no confidence, that parliamentary democracies use to provide a check on their politicians. The check that we have is that politicians care what the voters think. If that slips away, America's already quite toxic politics will become poisonous.

We may have just killed the social norm that it's not okay to blatantly defy the wishes of your constituents - leaving me with the fear that the political class may decide that the "best" way to serve constituents is to ignore them. And there's not a damn thing we voters can do about it until they come up for reelection.


At 3/21/2010 9:02 PM, Blogger Daniel Jarratt said...

I suppose I'll leave this comment on Facebook too, when it grabs your RSS feed. The polls are almost impossible to interpret because Pollster (and perhaps none of the aggregator sites) won't give you the actual questions asked the pollees so we can judge fairly. I found the following articles illuminating; they lend further credence to the fact that we're all just confused.

At 3/22/2010 3:53 AM, Blogger Randomscrub said...

Um... Just scroll most of the way down the Pollster page. To the section entitled "Question Text."

At 3/22/2010 8:56 AM, Blogger Randomscrub said...

In response to your latter point (that everyone is confused about what the bill includes): that is not a good reason to ignore the wishes of one's constituents. It's a reason to delay the vote and do a better job communicating, or rewrite the bill such that the bill is less confusing.

I'd also point out that nowhere in the favorables/unfavorables that 538 illustrates do we see any questions related to the fact that a lot of people (myself included) believe that the CBO scoring process was so thoroughly gamed as to be meaningless.

I'd assume with this bill that the "cost" is probably going to be at least 30% larger than the CBO projection. And the fact that a lot of the politically unpopular funding mechanisms will be stripped out before they ever take effect (e.g. cadillac plan tax, future medicare cuts, etc).

Nobody polls the "do you trust the cost estimate" question, that I can find. I'd love to see a "The CBO says it will cost XXX dollars, how much do you expect it to really cost?" question, illustrated by a histogram of responses.

I suspect for many it's a question of liking the regulations, but not being anywhere near willing to pay what it will cost for them (all the favorables move these people from "Hell No!" to "slightly-less-vehemently no").

But, as always, this sort of thing is an empirical question upon which I can offer at best tenuously-founded speculation.

At 3/22/2010 3:40 PM, Blogger Daniel Jarratt said...

The issue of cost I'll leave alone, since I have a hard time comprehending that much money and what it means in context. More reading for another day.

On the other hand, there are many reasons people may be opposed to the bill:

and even if all of those 59% of Americans were opposed to the bill because it was "too liberal," that's still not sufficient grounds for Congress to vote it down. Since this is a representative democracy instead of a pure one, we elect Congresspeople for their ethics, minds, hearts, and work since the public cannot run everything on a referendum basis.

At 3/22/2010 5:13 PM, Blogger Randomscrub said...

I'm actually hashing out that issue with Ben over on facebook, so you may want to join the conversation there.

I'd simply add that anyone who believes there congresscritters possess "ethics, minds, [and] hearts" is far less cynical than I.


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