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The Public Option Is Popular Among People. But What About Among Land?

PH2009093000357.jpg

You know what the public option is? Popular. Always has been, still is. Much more popular than health-care reform generally. And yet it still might not pass. Democrats might strip one of the most popular portions out of a politically contentious bill. Kevin Drum comments:

If Democrats really do lose the House next year (about which more later), this will be why. If they don't pass a healthcare bill at all, they'll be viewed as terminally lame. If they pass a bill, but it doesn't contain popular features that people want — like the public option — they'll be viewed as terminally lame. At a wonk level, a bill without a public option can be perfectly good. But wonks aren't a large voting bloc, and among people who do vote, the public option is very popular. So, um, why not pass it?

Because the Senate is where dreams go to die. It's not a coincidence that the chamber representing the American people will pass a bill including the public option while the chamber representing American acreage is likely to delete it. The public option has majority support. But a lot of that popularity comes because a lot of people live in liberal centers like California and New York. It actually doesn't have a majority in Nebraska, where not very many people live, or, I'd guess, in North Dakota, where even fewer people live. In the American political system, it's not enough to be popular among the voters. You also have to be popular among wide swaths of land. Didn't you watch "Schoolhouse Rock"?

All that said, I'm not at all convinced the public option, at least as Schumer conceives of it, is off the table. I try not to be naive about the worth of policy arguments in political debates, but virtually no Democrats have actually offered an argument against the level-playing-field public option, and the policy actually answers most of the arguments that they have offered, such as Conrad's concerns about Medicare payment rates to rural hospitals. That's going to make for some interesting meetings, and it might give Schumer an opening.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 1, 2009; 2:29 PM ET
 
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Next: The Public Option Compromises: An Interview With Sen. Maria Cantwell

Comments

"Because the Senate is where dreams go to die."

Good Lord, that's one depressing sentence.

True, but depressing. I cannot for the life of me understand how our elected representatives, who benefit from Platinum-level socialized medicine can, in good conscience, deny it to the rest of us.

There are no good explanations for it other than that they, our Senators, are not-quite human--rather, they are Business-bots of sorts, machines that run quite smoothly on lobbyists' dollars but when they're fed an alternate fuel, i.e. the pleas and signatures of millions, come crashing to a halt and are incapable of functioning.

Posted by: litbrit | October 1, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness our founders had the foresight to set up a republic and not a pure democracy so that people in Nebraska and North Dakota wouldn’t have their lives so easily affected by an overzealous majority.

And if the public option is needed to “keep the insurance co’s honest” then why hasn’t Arianna Huffington or some of the other liberal saints put up the capital to start their own honest non-profit insurance company?

Posted by: frankstallone | October 1, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

"Thank goodness our founders had the foresight to set up a republic and not a pure democracy so that people in Nebraska and North Dakota wouldn’t have their lives so easily affected by an overzealous majority."

You know, it took me several minutes before I realized you were actually serious.

This setup is monstrous, indefensible and is slowly rotting us from within-- but you were taught its virtues in 8th grade civics, so I expect that no argument on Earth could persuade you otherwise.

Posted by: adamiani | October 1, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I think Carper's idea of local option/public option merits a really serious look, either state optio0n or even better, a regional option. We could have several "blue state options" which would be purchasing pools for, say, CA-OR-WA, and NY-New England, and the blue Midwest, and let the people in MT-ID and ND and all across the South have their cherished private insurance without a public option. It seems to me that we would get some feedback pretty fast to some of these gasbags from vast windy spaces, and the people with whom it is popular could get what they want.

Posted by: Mimikatz | October 1, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

And NV can decide whether it wants to be with CA-OR-WA or with ID-UT-WY-MT. And that way Harry Reid can straddle the fence, where he is so happy.

Posted by: Mimikatz | October 1, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Is it true that the White House (Rahn Emanuel)has not pushed a public option? Is this a case where the President says he's for a "public option" but has not put any juice behind it? If so, why? Has a WH deal been struck with the insurance industry?

Posted by: dtabb | October 1, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Is it true that the White House (Rahn Emanuel) has not pushed for a public option? Is this a case where the President says he's for a "public option" but has not put any juice behind it? If so, why? Has a WH deal been struck with the insurance industry?

Posted by: dtabb | October 1, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Why would I want to change my position? Should the minority only have rights when a majority grants it to them? Is the majority always right?

Were they right when they favored slavery, segregation, and prohibition? What about the drug war and same sex marraige?

Maybe you aren't giving simple 8th grade civics the credit it deserves.

Posted by: frankstallone | October 1, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Wyoming's Niobrara County has long had its very own state senator, despite having only some 2400 people. For some reason, it's never been possible to undo the county's over-represenation in the legislature.

I'm a former Wyoming and Delaware resident, so I kind of like small states, but the Senate apportionment situation is becoming a disaster for American democracy.

The Constitution makes it impossible to change the apportionment of Senate seats, so we're stuck with what the English once called "rotten boroughs".

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | October 1, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

You know what's even more popular than land? Remaining in power. Ben Nelson will be senator from Nebraska no matter how he votes on this bill. But will he still be in the majority? He should realize by now that makes a difference.

If not, he is terminally stupid.

Posted by: member5 | October 1, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Well, we should stop the horse trading over the AG bill. Maybe if we just stopped all farm welfare subsidy payments for a year or two some of those land senators might get the message.

Posted by: luko | October 1, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Not sure how this dude can get away with saying the "Public Option" is popular when there are 2 separate polls that contradict that position:

NBC: http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/08/18/2033674.aspx

Rasmussen: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/toplines/pt_survey_toplines/july_2009/toplines_health_care_july_14_15_2009

Posted by: octopi213 | October 1, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Your polls, octopi, are a month and a half and two and a half months old, respectively. As anyone who has learned anything about polling knows, the way questions are phrased can also lead to pretty different results, and of course different pollsters get different results. There are plenty of polls from that time period showing majority support. 65% support in this SEPTEMBER poll, including a plurality of Republicans: http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/poll_health_care_092409.pdf?tag=contentMain;contentBody
Majority of doctors in this September poll:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112818960

Posted by: Jenn2 | October 1, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

i'm sorry but how in God's name does some one as young as you know anything about Schoolhouse Rock.

Sometimes i think the majority party needs to watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dVo3nbLYC0

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 1, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Octopi-


65% favor a Public Option
New York Times/CBS News Poll - as of September 25, 2009

http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/25/a-primer-the-public-may-have-more-appetite-for-a-public-option-than-congress/

Posted by: perhapsnot1 | October 1, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

can we please stop it with all the polls. As someone commented earlier you can change the question slightly and it changes the results entirely one way or the other. Also how much weight goes towards the political leaning of the publication and its audience. I'm sure you'd get different PO results from the New York Times than the Wall Street Journal.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 1, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Vision is whining about polls.

Can we please stop it with the willful ignorance and bad faith when a sound and ethical poll isn't appealing?

Posted by: perhapsnot1 | October 1, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

As though the average voter has spent more than 5 seconds thinking about the public option.

I hear that 47% of voters are in favor of tax credits for grigaboos.

Posted by: ostap666 | October 1, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

actually perhapsnot1,

I am against ALL polls because they're beholden to whoever is making it from the left or right. you can be as obnoxious as you like (and you are!). I'm not cherry picking what works for me like you seem to be.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 1, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Vision.

Yes, statistics are tricky, like facts they are sometimes obnoxious.

One must preserve sanctity...dismiss All polls.

bwaaaaahhh

Posted by: perhapsnot1 | October 1, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

"Why would I want to change my position? Should the minority only have rights when a majority grants it to them? Is the majority always right?

Were they right when they favored slavery, segregation, and prohibition? What about the drug war and same sex marraige?"

The mistake you are making is in conflating our discriminatory system of representation with the protection of minority rights. It was this discriminatory system of representation where a Californian represents something like three-fifths of a man from Wyoming that enacted and preserved many of the injustices you cite.

Posted by: adamiani | October 1, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Ezra:

Is Schumer's level-playing field public option worth all the fuss? A Public Option tied to Medicare rates makes gobs of sense because it would save enrollees a lot of money and put real pressure on the insurance companies to compete. What are the expected savings from the more anemic sounding Schumer option? If the Schumer public option had to be sacrificed to the Senate "Centrists" in order to get increased subsidies for middle-class families, would that be such a terrible loss?

Posted by: MattMilholland | October 1, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

All I know is that mandates without a decent public option has the very strong potential to be the Democrats Schiavo moment. As the independent middle becomes stronger and stronger we are going to see more and more swings as each party in turn proves themselves craven and unconcerned with sound policy. When I talk to avowed Democrats they think the problems with health reform are obstructionist Republicans and care more about the politics than the policy. When I talk with independents all they say is stupid Democrats. The last election was all about incompetence the next one is shaping up the same way.

costs are going to go up under their (non p.o.) plan and the subsidies are gonna become more and more expensive as time goes on. what do they think happens when you create a permanent captive market.

Posted by: PindarPushkin | October 2, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

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