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Monday, December 14, 2009

This Morning, I Hate Joe Lieberman

I will have to repent of such feelings at some later date, I know. But for now, I am allowing myself to overflow with annoyance, displeasure, and contempt.

Senator Joe Lieberman has quite possibly just killed one of the few remaining options Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, had left to them to forge a compromise capable of garnering 60 votes under the astonishingly undemocratic and baroque rules of our Senate, thereby making the possibility of any national reform in how medical costs are covered and distributed amongst America's poorest, youngest, and sickest citizens--the populations most likely to be uninsured and unable to get insurance, and thus the treatment of whom contributes mightily to skyrocketing health care costs--that much more less likely.

He won't stand for a compromise built around an expansion of Medicare--perhaps the most successful of all of our nation's meager social insurance programs, and the very program which Lieberman supported expanding back when he ran for vice president on Al Gore's ticket in 2000. But of course, that was a decade ago, and Joe has grown wiser more self-important since then.

Ezra Klein adds some probably uncharitable, but to my frame of mind this morning utterly appropriate, details:

Lieberman was invited to participate in the process that led to the Medicare buy-in. His opposition would have killed it before liberals invested in the idea. Instead, he skipped the meetings and is forcing liberals to give up yet another compromise. Each time he does that, he increases the chances of the bill's failure that much more. And if there's a policy rationale here, it's not apparent to me, or to others who've interviewed him. At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.

Allow me to shout some completely partisan curses into the cold void of this Kansas morning. Hey, it's Monday; I'm allowed to be a grouch.

Update, 12:16pm, CST: Jonathan Chait tells people like me to calm down:

[L]iberals are somewhat overreacting to Lieberman's turn against health care reform. It's true that Lieberman refused to take part in negotiations with Reid over the compromise, suggested he could support the bill presuming a positive CBO score, and then decided to stick in the knife. However, I don't think that health care reform is in peril. If Harry Reid decided to submit to Lieberman's demands, the health care bill would basically revert to what the Senate Finance Committee produced. That's still a major piece of legislation. Expectations among liberals have risen since then, so the come-down is understandable. But this isn't the end of reform. Now, the counter-argument is that Lieberman may well come up with a reason to back away from that bill as well. Given his obvious bad-faith negotiation, that's certainly a danger. But Olympia Snowe is not negotiating in bad faith, and she, unlike Lieberman, actually seems to care about health care reform. So even if you revert to something like the Senate Finance bill and Lieberman tries to stab you in the back, you can still pick up Snowe. (A fact that itself reduces the chance that Lieberman will attempt a second act of sabotage -- why try to knife health care reform if you can't kill it?)


Nate said...

Umm Russell, America's poorest citizens are already covered by Medicaid. As for Ezra Klien, yes he is uncharitable to the point of silliness. There are perfectly respectable reasons to oppose Ried's proposal.

Come on, you are better than this Daily Kos style rant.

Russell Arben Fox said...


Yes, "America's poorest citizens" do indeed have Medicaid to help them cover medical costs. But do come on. You know, as well as any other well-read individual, that the limitations of Medicaid assistance (both in obtaining it and applying it) have huge ramifications on what sort of citizens, in whichever sort of economic situation, are able to afford the sort of treatment which will enable them to avoid the costly and inconsistent, bottom-line treatment which takes up a huge portion of Medicaid's budget: repaying hospitals for emergency room treatment of indigent, insurance-less patients that have nowhere else to go. Almost any kind of reform in how medical costs are covered for young people, self-employed people, sick people, and people-without-insurance-but-whom-are-not-quite-poor-enough-for-Medicaid, will improve our ridiculous health care system which, whatever its--admittedly many--pluses, still essentially comes down to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

As for the "perfectly respectable reasons to oppose Reid's proposal," I note that you aren't suggesting that Lieberman is actually invoking any of those reasons, as opposed to simply, as far as I can tell, obstructing the process because he knows he can. Which is good, because I believe that's exactly what's happening.

Anonymous said...

Nate, there are perfectly respectable reasons, but the point Klein and others are making is that Lieberman doesn't appear to subscribe to any of them. All his policy-oriented statements--recent and of extremely long vintage--seem to support the exact policies in question, but then he votes against them. How would you explain that kind of behavior?

Lieberman has ceased caring about anyone or anything other than stroking his own massive ego. Unfortunately, that seems to be a common tendency in the Senate.

--sister blah 2

Paul said...

you see the 60 minute segment a few weeks back on "the costs of dying"--the tip of the iceberg. your repeated complaint regarding E.R. visits isn't even a drop in the bucket. and folks want to expand medicare coverage.

y81 said...

But, as I understand, Medicaid will still be the primary coverage for poor people, and will be slightly expanded. Indeed, as I understand, pretty much the entire expansion of actual coverage results from the expansion of Medicaid eligility. Also, as I understand, the bill will result in a net transfer of money away from American's youngest citizens to those in the 55-plus age bracket, though this effect will be muted if Medicare is not expanded. So the invocation of America's poorest and youngest citizens seems quite disingenuous.

Nonetheless, being free of Mr. Fox's particular sickness of soul, I don't "hate" people who disagree with me on these issues, even if I find them disingenuous. Remember, all flesh is grass, but the soul that has been marred by hating its fellow humans just because they disagree on political issues will never be mended.