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1) The OK Cupid blog might be the best blog on the Internet.

2) Ross Douthat's case for incrementalism makes a lot more sense if you don't think about the magnitude of the problems or the consequences of inaction.

3) Why is there so little money in U.S. politics?

4) Will the base abandon hope?

5) Incremental health-care reform doesn't work.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 21, 2010; 6:27 PM ET
 
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Comments

After taking a little time to chill out and become a little less angry at the Democrats...I'm starting to wonder if this isn't a blessing in disguise. Not a sour grapes blessing, a legitimate benefit.

The best possible legislative strategy for Democrats was to pass a bill through normal order, leaving a foundation that is not subject to the limits of reconciliation, then pass a reconciliation bill that garners support for all the provisions that couldn't get 60 votes.

The obvious problem with such a strategy, is that any of those 10 votes that wouldn't support the reconciliation provisions would be disinclined to pass the normal order bill.

So they were stuck with the prospect of a betrayal. Pass through normal order, don't mention reconciliation. Then use it once you've got the votes you need to subvert the demands of the 10 "moderates" (Lieberman).

Now the Progressivesgood ones) have a plausible defense. They didn't want to use reconciliation, this disastrous election forced their hand.

Still, I worry that the Dems in the house might try to overreach. Something is much better than nothing. But they might as well cut Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman out of the negotiations. Those little dictators earned it.

Posted by: zosima | January 21, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

The base has lost hope.

The general public, with their short memories, has now seen the Dems revealed as pathetic, spineless cowards that stand for nothing.

Nov. will be ugly beyond belief.

Posted by: AZProgressive | January 21, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

In arguing against incrementalism, Tumulty makes the same mistake Krugman does: they assume that the problems a partial implementation would develop occur instantaneously. They don't. Obviously there is some window of time such that if you pass the no-disqualificaitons and community-rating rules, and the other stuff later, the whole system won't come crashing down in the interim. Eg, 5 days. Neither Gruber no anyone else has made the case that the 40% price escalation will happen in a year or even five or ten -- just that it will happen eventually. Krugman, like all economists, leaps to the equilibrium solution as well. But this is a dynamic process: there is surely some time, and probably lots, that we can wait between passing the first reforms, and the later ones -- even if we agree that the later reforms will, eventually, be necessary.

Posted by: Ulium | January 21, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

@AZProgressive: I have a hard time accepting that November will be ugly beyond belief for the Democrats. I expect Republicans will win many races, but that actually might be a good thing for both sides--it will clear out spineless Democrats who run bad campaigns (seriously, do the Democrats need another Coakley-type in the Senate? That's the best they could come up with to replace Ted Kennedy?) for the progressives, and it might clear out some of the Democrats (ahem, Barney Frank, but probably not) that conservatives see as the architects of the sub-prime mortgage mess and many of our other economic woes, and who we also believe are currently doing everything the can to make such situations worse, rather than better.

Which may end up leaving a core of stronger Democrats and potentially weak freshmen Republicans who might be prime targets for replacement by strong Democrats come the next election cycle.

Whatever the failures of incrementalism, it has one benefit: in the current political climate in this country, incremental steps are much more likely to pass and get signed into law. I give you the recent expansion of SCHIP. Medicare Part D. Etc.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

"paul krugman:close to giving up on mr. obama."

well, for whatever it is worth, anyone who feels there is anything left to fight for, should feel like giving up on paul krugman.
that was an unconstructive,smug and arrogant statement to make.
paul krugman has been against this president from day one. he has had years to learn to be an economist, and barack obama has had just about a year to learn how to be president.
this is a time when people like paul krugman should be doing what they can to help president obama, and not tear him apart with humiliating and smug comments.
criticism is one thing, but that kind of arrogance is a disgrace.
i trust barack obama's intentions far more than i trust paul krugman's intentions.
whether or not you feel that barack obama has done a good job in his first year of office, or not....i believe he has tried his hardest. i believe he has tried to do what he thought was best.
this is not a job for which anything can really prepare you.
many of us still hold out hope for his presidency.
i certainly do.


this is a time for unity. for helping. for pulling together. not for smug and arrogant comments, for abandoning the ship like a pack of rats, for disguised personal jealousies and arrogance.
paul krugman is helping nothing with comments like that.
he ought to look in the mirror, before he starts casting smug aspersions on president obama.
between krugman's comment, and watching john edwards seeking personal redemption in haiti, while a spokesperson delivers his statement after he has been lying for months, and watching senators running away with their hands up in the air....it has been quite a day.
it is time to pull together. we have to.
president obama has not even given his state of the union address yet.
do not write him off. it has been a year of horrific obstacles and challenges. this is not the time for all of us to abandon the ship. where will we go? into the sea?
stay and fight. we cannot be divided.
this is not a time for all of us to run away with her hands up in the air, or to give up on barack obama after hardly a year.
fight, help, do what you can.
and that means you, mr. krugman.




Posted by: jkaren | January 21, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

The late Jesse Helms, "Senator No", must be smiling from wherever he's at in the next life. It looks like the future of Congressional politics is in lies and obstruction, funded by corporations.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 21, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Also, I think a big part of what the Democrats are suffering is that the voting public can't grapple with the reality that there isn't a big magic "Fix Everything" button, or a can of Instant Utopia in the Oval Office.

While there are arguments to be made against the Democrats in congress and the Obama administration, the idea that healthcare should be done--with single-payer--and that Cap and Trade should be done, and immigration reform should be done, and because it's not they all suck and need to be kicked out . . . well, it does not seem realistic to me. I think the expectations of folks on both sides are becoming increasingly difficult to meet, and the time frame the voters are allowing for the people that they voted for to achieve their goals unrealistically narrow.

There is an opposition party. In truth, both parties are (in my opinion) better at opposing the other party's agenda than advancing their own.

But it seems to me that much of the excitement of the folks who elected Obama--I literally saw the cop directing traffic outside my daughter's school dancing the day after the election--began to fade almost immediately. Yes, the Democrats have a large majority in both houses and the presidency, but I wonder if the expectations of the general public are entirely reasonable. Legislation doesn't become law just because a particular president really, really wants it to. It's a messy and often extended process, with defeats, compromises, and sometimes even surrenders.

I dunno. I just wonder if the base of either party is ever going to be happy again. They send their guys to Washington, and when magic and rainbows don't happen right away, they get irritated and pouty and just want to take their ball and go home.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to feel too bad over the ruin of this over-compromised health plan. Ideally I'd prefer the expansion of public programs Ezra discussed in an earlier post, but I would settle for the slimmed down plan floating around Congress (from Friday's NYT):

¶Insurers could not deny coverage to children under the age of 19 on account of pre-existing medical conditions.

¶Insurers would have to offer policyholders an opportunity to continue coverage for children through age 25 or 26.

¶The federal government would offer financial incentives to states to expand Medicaid to cover childless adults and parents.

¶The federal government would offer grants to states to establish regulated markets known as insurance exchanges, where consumers and small businesses could buy coverage.

¶The federal government would offer tax credits to small businesses to help them defray the cost of providing health benefits to workers.

¶If a health plan provided care through a network of doctors and hospitals, it could not charge patients more for going outside the network in an emergency.

Posted by: bmull | January 21, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

We need to save Medicare as it stands. That can be done incrementally. Our biggest mistake is to think of health care as right, and force that principle drive the solution. We instead need to focus on the sources of the problem- high prices which result from the inability of the insured consumer to control how her money is spent.

In short, much of the stuff that Republicans opposed this time, the stuff they are usually for, is the stuff we need now.

Tax all employer provided health benefits- even the bloody unions and the executive plans that covers massages and fertility treatments. We need the money to pay for what we've already signed up for. The more money we spend on interest on our debt, the less we have to spend on our health.

Allow the creation of catastrophic health plans with health savings accounts that give incentives for people to choose the emerging low cost providers of care and ensure that everyone can afford a plan.

Add a sharper ramp for means testing on Medicare, so that we aren't paying so much of our money to rich old people.

Bring back the death panels.

At some point this becomes generational warfare, but they have stolen enough from us without paying for it, and it's time to take it back.

Posted by: staticvars | January 21, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

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