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If you compromise and no one admits it, does it make a sound?

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Tim Noah pulls together some quotes from Mitt Romney, who passed health-care reform into law in Massachusetts, and Barack Obama, who's trying to pass a very similar health-care reform bill into law nationally. But because Tim Noah is an evil man, he doesn't tell you who said which quote, at least not until the end. See if you can guess.

But beyond the fun game of it, it's again proof that a lot of the policy differences in this debate are feigned to allow people to pursue their political interests. Obama's heath-care bill looks like one of the Republican alternatives from 1993 and the legislation Romney passed in Massachusetts. Substantively, it is an enormous compromise, relying entirely on private health insurers, individual responsibility (Republicans hated the employer mandate in Clinton's bill), and the construction of a more competitive insurance market that hopes to hold costs down through market forces rather than government price-setting. But politically, it's no compromise at all, as Democrats will benefit if this bill passes and Republicans will benefit if it fails.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 4, 2010; 8:02 AM ET
 
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Comments

"But beyond the fun game of it, it's again proof that a lot of the policy differences in this debate are feigned to allow people to pursue their political interests"

No, really? Say it's not so.

"Substantively, it is an enormous compromise"

And it seems to be a compromise of the lose/lose variety. Unless the Republicans can defeat it, then they win politically.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 4, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Face it....if your supposed compromise does not satify the person you are supposedly trying to compromise with, its not a compromise.

If someone wants a hamburger, and you are trying to feed them a cat turd, its not a compromise to put it in a bun with kethcup and a pickle!

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 4, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

The bill costs $2.3 Trillion Dollars and DOES NOTHING TO REDUCE THE SPIRALING COST OF HEALTHCARE!

Providing access to healthcare to the por will not be helpful if it is an unsustainable model. Everyone's healthcare will get worse when we run out of money. And the middle class healthcare will get much worse on DAY 1!


Stop Obama & Pelosi from going NUCLEAR!!!! Call your congressmen!!!

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 4, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Who said that the goal is to satisfy the Republican Senators, FastEddie? They're a bunch of recalcitrant, destructive toddlers in the midst of throwing a temper tantrum. While some may consider this behavior an admirable sign of "resolve," particularly if they are desperately in search of a father figure, others realize they are just mindlessly playing politics, but that in the interests of "good policy," it makes sense to incorporate some ideas that may be useful. And since they don't like it, since the president is a Democrat, well they'll just have to learn to suck on it and try to repeal it next time around, which they won't.

Posted by: constans | March 4, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

""Stop Obama & Pelosi from going NUCLEAR!!!! ""

Stop Eddie from going off his meds and mindlessly regurgitating the Republican talking points he's had shoved down his throat!

""Unless the Republicans can defeat it, then they win politically.""

You were the one who looked forward to the prospect of having Sarah Palin as vice president, so I suspect that your political and policy judgment is a bit damaged. You have a consistent pattern of being unable to think rationally outside of your slavish worship of Republicans. Your identity seems to be caught up a lot in the success of Republicans, but you don't have any policy beliefs or interests to back it up: instead, your vested interests seems to be in making sure that other people suffer in order to satisfy your need to elect Republicans particularly of the destructive, dishonest variety as we see in people like John Boehner and Orrin Hatch. The fact that you don't find the whole Republicans freakout starting from torture to the stimulus on through health care reform morally offensive gives me the impression that you're really not person whose thoughts on this issue are particularly trustworthy.

Posted by: constans | March 4, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Fast Eddie, Many things you say simply aren't factual. It does not help anyone consider you a reliable source or add substantively to our discussion. Please try sticking to things which exist in reality. The proposed use of reconciliation is not the "nuclear option" as anyone has understood it.

As to whether the bill is a compromise, of course it is, as is nearly all legislation. The more liberal members of Congress had to compromise with conservative Dems to get their caucus on board, and they worked for months to reach compromises with Republicans. Then the President suggested incorporating more Republican ideas into the legislation after the summit.

That one party is completely unwilling to negotiate in good faith is not evidence that there have not been significant compromises during the process. The fact that this legislation is very similar to legislation proposed by Republicans the last time the issue was debated is a pretty good sign that it is a "compromise" piece of legislation.

Posted by: MosBen | March 4, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704548604575097602436388116.html

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 4, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Eddie -- obviously we don't agree on much, but you're a welcome member of this community. That said, I'm going to ask you to stay on topic, and let go of the caps lock, in these threads. Your first comment here is perfectly fine: totally responsive to the meat of the post, even if you're disagreeing. The second is just talking points and caps lock.

You're an enthusiastic participant and I'm glad to have you here, but please try and think of the comment threads as a conversation where people are talking to each other rather than a town hall meeting where people are just making isolated statements.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | March 4, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

MosBen - You are right about one thing!:

One party is completely unwilling to negotiate in good faith!

They are going to make the American people eat the cat turd even if it kills them!

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 4, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I will try Ezra. I get excited from time to time. This appears the moment of truth.

Its time for everyone to re-read Paul Ryan's statements at the summit last week.

No more caps.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 4, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I dont' know if I'd throw Massachusett's experience out there as a advertisement for Obamacare. The Massachusett's government is going broke trying to pay for their universal healthcare system and insurance premiumns are going through the roof. Imagine doing that on a national scale where on the whole the country is much poorer than in wealthy Massachusetts and already going broke trying to pay for all the other federal entitlement programs.

Posted by: RobT1 | March 4, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

@constans: "You were the one who looked forward to the prospect of having Sarah Palin as vice president, so I suspect that your political and policy judgment is a bit damaged."

Doesn't it kind of go without saying that people who endorse policy we disagree with have damaged policy judgement? If they had good policy judgement then, naturally, they would agree with us.

"You have a consistent pattern of being unable to think rationally outside of your slavish worship of Republicans."

Um. Okay. Sure.

"The fact that you don't find the whole Republicans freakout starting from torture to the stimulus on through health care reform morally offensive gives me the impression that you're really not person whose thoughts on this issue are particularly trustworthy."

Okay, then feel free to ignore me. As I think I've said before, my opinions on these matters are worth exactly what you paid for them. But, based on what you said, I think you're ignoring what I've actually said already.


Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 4, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

@constans: "You were the one who looked forward to the prospect of having Sarah Palin as vice president, so I suspect that your political and policy judgment is a bit damaged."

Doesn't it kind of go without saying that people who endorse policy we disagree with have damaged policy judgement? If they had good policy judgement then, naturally, they would agree with us.

"You have a consistent pattern of being unable to think rationally outside of your slavish worship of Republicans."

Um. Okay. Sure.

"The fact that you don't find the whole Republicans freakout starting from torture to the stimulus on through health care reform morally offensive gives me the impression that you're really not person whose thoughts on this issue are particularly trustworthy."

Okay, then feel free to ignore me. As I think I've said before, my opinions on these matters are worth exactly what you paid for them. But, based on what you said, I think you're ignoring what I've actually said already.


Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 4, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Did I just double post? Seriously? I didn't think the system was supposed to let me do that. I don't know how I did it, and I apologize for that. I hate double-posting.

@mosben: "The proposed use of reconciliation is not the "nuclear option" as anyone has understood it."

This is exactly right. It's reconciliation. Any variation on how reconciliation has been used before is certainly no more severe than how the Republicans have been using the filibuster (vs how it has been used in the past), for example.

And the nuclear option referred to *changing the senate rules*, and everyone understood that "nuclear option" in this context meant "changing senate rules" not "using budget reconciliation to pass a bill Republicans don't like".

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 4, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Good point Kevin...theres a good Op-Ed on how Obama will never bring up the failing Romney-Care when trying to sell his own federal version of Mitt's bankrupt-everyone bill:

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/op_ed/view.bg?articleid=1237112&format=text

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 4, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Woops...I was responding to RobT1---not Kevin. Sorry.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 4, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

PS: By the way, the notion of States passing reform legislation like this is never in any way an argument for the federaliztion of healthcare---but rather the contrary argument.

Let states innovate---that is indeed their perogative. But keep the federal government's nose out of it. The federal government doesn't run our education system. Just because many municipalities run a successful education system is no argument for federalizing what they are doing.

(I really really had to restrain myself from caps that time).

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 4, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse


Of all the mistakes made in healthcare reform, Mitt Romney's sin of omission might've been the biggest.

Instead of rejecting the totality of healthcare reform, Republicans could've carved out a competing conservative version of healthcare reform with Mitt Romney leading the charge. This bill is A CONSERVATIVE version of health care reform. Mitt Romney not only would've been victorious, but he would've been in a position to take credit for all successes, and blame the administration on all failures. AND he would've helped rescue the Republican party from its reputation of intellectual sloppiness; instead the tea partiers have put the nails in the coffin built by W. I'd even maybe go so far as to say that Mitt might've missed the opportunity to save the entire Republican party.

Posted by: ThomasEN | March 4, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

You can't compromise with someone who, every time you try to meet them halfway moves an equal distance in the opposite direction.

Posted by: durangodave | March 4, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I would say that most people who are looking to contain costs, which in my view is the only way we are going to successfully extend health care to more people long term, view the Massachusetts plan as a failure. It is a very short term fix for getting people covered, but it's easy to give out candy to people that don't pay taxes, it's hard to put them on diet.

That said, the current bill's subsidies are way out of line with anything that a rational person would have devised. The cost of the health plans is astronomical and is going to make it unaffordable for any employer to offer these to low wage employees. See this analysis if you are interested in the numbers http://www.john-goodman-blog.com/obamacare-with-lipstick/

I guess that's a good thing if you just hate insurance companies and don't like thinking about how much things cost, but for the people in the future that actually have to figure out pay for this thing, it is quite a frightening proposition.

Posted by: staticvars | March 4, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

staticvars is exactly right. I'm interested to see what the panel in MA is actually going to do to address costs. THey came out with their findings last summer I believe and then the below linked report in October but nothing substantial that I can find yet. I'm wondering if many legislatures are just waiting for Congress to do whatever they're going to do and then adjust from there.

http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=hqcchomepage&L=1&L0=Home&sid=Ihqcc

http://www.mass.gov/Ihqcc/docs/roadmap_to_cost_containment_nov-2009.pdf

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 4, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

It is very frustrating when this legislation is framed as Democrats vs. Republicans.....as if it is the Repubs fault if it fails. The facts are that the Dems control Pelosi's playground; and, until Brown's election, they had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. So, don't blame the Repubs for this bad legislation....if it was truly partisan, it would have been passed long ago! The Dems had the power to push any thing!

visit: http://eclecticramblings.wordpress.com

Posted by: my4653 | March 4, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

"So, don't blame the Repubs for this bad legislation....if it was truly partisan, it would have been passed long ago!"

I think you are missing the meaning of Ezra's comment.

The Republicans have lined up completely against the bill. 0 votes for the Senate bill, and 1 lonely Republican vote for the House bill. Sen. DeMint has described the potential failure of HCR as Obama's Waterloo, etc.

So the Republicans have firmly planted their political flag on the defeat of HCR, and they have set the table for the all-or-nothing partisan equation that Ezra lays out: "Democrats will benefit if this bill passes and Republicans will benefit if it fails."

We all know that it will take some Democratic "no" votes to bring down HCR, but that does not change the fact that it is the Republican party that will benefit (in the short term, anyway) if HCR fails.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 4, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Listen to what DeMint says about “points of order.”

“points of order against what they’re trying to do which require 60 votes to overcome”

If this is the case, then reconciliation “fix” bill won’t get anywhere in the Senate.

Pelosi is telling House Dems to pass Senate bill which will be “fixed” via reconciliation, but DeMint is saying that won’t happen.


http://blessedistruth.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/the-way-young-lovers-do/#comment-1919

Posted by: SisterRosetta | March 4, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

So here's a common argument on this thread: "We can't pass the conservative, Massachusetts-style healthcare bill, because in Massachusetts it didn't control costs."

I agree. Massachusetts has been great at coverage, and terrible at costs. Conversely, you can stick to the current system, which is terrible at coverage AND costs.

But here's what drives me crazy. There are options out there that have been CBO scored to improve coverage and costs, but they are all a hell of a lot more liberal than the option on the table.

So for all the conservatives who say the Massachusetts health care bill is bad at cost control: Ok. I get it. But it was your bill in the first place, you haven't exactly indicated a bit of fecking willingness to try any more liberal plans, the current system doesn't work, and you seem to be completely out of alternative ideas.

Just what is your plan?

Posted by: strawman | March 4, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I read the Obama-Romney quotes, guessed who said what, and half of my answers were right. Is that good?

But then that's not better than chance, is it?

Posted by: jshafham | March 4, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

"Listen to what DeMint says about “points of order.”

“points of order against what they’re trying to do which require 60 votes to overcome”

If this is the case, then reconciliation “fix” bill won’t get anywhere in the Senate."

SisterRosetta,

You are a "Sister" that needs her knuckles rapped by the ruler for not completing your homework before speaking in class. Here is how a reconciliation "point of order" under the "Byrd Rule" works.

If a member calls a point of order (on the grounds that a provision does not meet the criteria for budget reconciliation), the presiding officer (Joe Biden) consults with the Parliamentarian, and then he (Joe Biden) rules on the point of order. If the ruling is favorable, there is no vote, the provision is approved.

If the ruling is unfavorable, the provision will be stricken, unless 60 Senators vote to allow a waiver.

So the 60 vote threshold does not matter, unless Joe Biden rules that a particular provision is not within the bounds of reconciliation. And obviously the bill will be written by experts to ensure that all of the language will withstand challenges under the Byrd rule. Lastly, even in the unlikely event that a few provisions are stricken, the rest of the bill survives.

Bless you, Sister.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 4, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein makes an excellent point. We're probably going to hear from Mitch McConnell and the rest that the President's inclusion of a couple more ideas from the GOP after the summit is nothing more than adding a few (choose) 'sprinkles' 'bacon bits' or 'bread crumbs' on a casserole totally cooked up by (choose) 'liberals' 'the left wing' 'socialists' 'elite intellectuals' 'Dems favoring a massive government take-over of one sixth of the economy' 'all of the above.'

But in fact, over the year-long work on this bill, a great number of ideas held in common or put forward by GOP legislators in committees were incorporated in the bills. This was made clear during the President's 'summit' though media commentators have not paid much attention to that aspect of the event.

The reform bill that eventually will be voted up or down is full of compromises and concessions to the GOP. So much so that many out there in 'opinion poll land' who say they don't like the reform bill, oppose it as too watered down by 'the right.'

What a shame that GOP 'party discipline' makes it near impossible for any of their party to break the lockstep and vote for this legislation, even if they feel it is an important, though not perfect, approach to solving a major problem our nation faces.

This refusal to break ranks gives impression that indeed, they are hardened into inflexibility, lacking in ideas beyond the few they all repeat so often, do not think as individuals but speak on script, and are obstructing mainly in hopes of gaining power in the next election.

Posted by: PeggyB1 | March 5, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

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