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The costs of saying 'no'

David Frum on the cost of choosing ineffectual obstructionism rather than negotiations:

Two reports last night of what the GOP’s “No, no, no” policy has wrought:

1) Instead of a healthcare reform to slow cost increases, Democrats in the Senate seem to be converging upon an expansion of Medicare to include age 59-64 year-olds and an expansion in Medicaid up to some higher multiple of the poverty limit. You might wonder why they didn’t do this before: expanding existing programs is always easier than creating new ones. So now instead of a new system that attempts to control costs, we’re just going to have a bigger and more expensive version of the old system, with a few tinkers around the edges. Republicans could have been architects of improvement, instead we made ourselves impotent spectators as things get radically worse. Plus – the bad new Democratic proposal will likely be less unpopular with voters than their more promising earlier proposal. Nice work everybody.

2) House and Senate conferees last night rejected a proposal to deny EPA funds to enforce its new powers over greenhouse gasses. So instead of an economically rational approach to carbon abatement – a carbon tax or even a cap-and-trade system stripped of the abuses and boondoggles attached to it by House Democrats – we’re going to have the least rational approach: bureaucratic enforcement.

The furious rejectionist frenzy of the past 12 months is exacting a terrible price upon Republicans. We’re getting worse and less conservative results out of Washington than we could have negotiated, if we had negotiated.

To paraphrase Omar, if you come at the bill, you'd best not miss. It's one thing to actually kill the legislation. It's a whole other to unsuccessfully oppose it. The result there is a bill that you had no influence on, except to make it more liberal and politically cautious by scaring the majority away from making any hard decisions.

The upside to this strategy may be that you pick up some seats. or maybe you don't, at least as compared with a world in which you acted like a party of grown-ups. Either way, the other party's achievements remain, and you may even be left defending them. As Frum concludes, "even if we gain seats in 2010, the actions of this congressional session will not be reversed. Shrink Medicare after it has expanded? Hey -- we said we’d never do that."

By Ezra Klein  |  December 9, 2009; 5:39 PM ET
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So let me understand...

Quotes from "The Wire" are permissible on this blog, right?

Okay, then:

"It's Health Care Reform, gentlemen. The Gods will not save you."

Posted by: mpjohn10 | December 9, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

But remember, it's not about "results" or "governing" for these guys. It's about remaining as ideologically pure as possible to win the enthusiastic support of movement conservatives. "So what if it results in bad policy, we must remain true to our principles!" they say.

Posted by: daw3 | December 9, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

As long as Lieberman is included as a Republican, Frum is right.

Posted by: member5 | December 9, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

What's the deal with his "59-64" bracket?

I've heard a million things about the buy-in so far, but I've never heard that the age is getting pushed back from 55 to 59?


Posted by: rylock | December 9, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

"Plus – the bad new Democratic proposal will likely be less unpopular with voters than their more promising earlier proposal."

Am I the only one who can't make sense out of this sentence?

Posted by: JEinATL | December 9, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

So instead of a public option covering all ages now it only covers those 55-64? Seems like a big win. Instead of actual law its now EPA regulations that can be selectively "enforced" during the next Republican administration? Seems like a win to me. Frum is a joke for a reason.

Posted by: endaround | December 9, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

you know, dazzle with bs while they pass a bad bill.
all in the PR. who cares if it is reform or what, at least they can "sell", pass it off as "New and Improved" a horrible rich gift to the Corporations.

and you and I will pay for it. too

Now, aren't we pleased with the game?
Shiny, new and improved. oh!! my!!

Posted by: BernardEckholdt | December 9, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

It's actually pretty hard to "selectively enforce" EPA regulations. Once the rulemaking goes into effect it's a real pain to roll it back. And there are lots of other players in the Clean Air Act structure that would make it very hard for the next GOP administration to just walk the whole thing back.

Now sure, the next GOP admin could always slow down its investigations, seek fewer penalties, etc... but that will likely be the case with any carbon regulation. Any carbon regulation will delegate substantial discretion to administrative agencies, so if an administration is going to retard EPA's enforcement, it's likely to stop enforcement in other branches as well.

If anything at least EPA's current authority has a bunch of procedural provisions and citizen suits and things OUTSIDE the agency specifically designed to deal with industry capture. I doubt that a bill controlled by Joe Lieberman will be as safe from political interference -- really scary b/c a carbon market could potentially hold billions of dollars worth of wealth.

Posted by: NS12345 | December 10, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

"To paraphrase Omar, if you come at the bill, you'd best not miss."

Oh, in-deed.

Posted by: jeffwacker | December 10, 2009 12:47 AM | Report abuse

endaround, the public option may have covered a wider spread of ages, but it was still going to be limited to, what, 2-3 million people? Yeah, there's a chance that it could have been expanded over time. On the other hand, as Ezra has argued in the last few days, once people are allowed to buy into Medicare there's going to be pressure to allow younger and younger people to buy in, assuming it produces cheaper high quality plans for its customers. But there are lots of details left to be released.

The point is that liberals and conservatives had both elevated the public option to a status to an extreme height. A public option, like anything, lives and dies in the details, and the public option we were going to get wasn't going to be that great. The compromise probably isn't going to be great either, but it could still be a good trade and a good first step towards future reform.

And Frumm is right, there are tons of ways the Republicans could have influenced these bills if there was a credible chance that they would eventually vote for them. They've made a calculation that it's better politics to obstruct, but that may or may not be the case. What is certain is that their refusal to participate in the process is going to produce bills that conservatives consider to be worse policy.

Posted by: MosBen | December 10, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Interesting. David Frum seems to be advocating that because the Democrats decided to do this big goverment take over of healthcare that the Republicans should have just gone along with the idea and maybe tweaked it along the edges a little bit to make it a little less big governmenty, voted unanimously in favor of the final Democratic big government monstrostiy and then joined arm and arm with the Democrats to sind Kumbaya. And in this scenario, what exactly is the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. I sure didn't see the Democrats joining in the Republicans when the Republicans were proposing a reform of Social Security a couple of years ago. They fought and filibustered and fought some more and eventually defeated the proposal even as Social Security hurtles towards bankrupcy. I guess it's only Republicans that have to get with the program.

Posted by: RobT1 | December 10, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Exactly which amendments does Frum think the Republican Party could have offered up that would have improved this bill and be accepted by the Democratic majority at the same time? I can't think of a single one, can you David? Of course he can't which is why he offers no specifics in his piece. We just get more of the same "look how reasonable I am for bashing the Republican Party" schtick that he has run into the ground.

I don't want amendments offered, I want this bill sent to the dustbin where it belongs. There is no such thing as "better" government-run health care.

Posted by: Bob65 | December 10, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

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