Third Party & Independents Archives

Better Off Dead

If there are two things the Kennedys were renowned for, they are rousing oratory and unfortunate martyrdom. Edward M. Kennedy is the only man of his brothers and children to die of natural causes, but the timing of his death may prove to have just as profound an impact. Despite using every political tool at his disposal for 40 years in office to advance this legislation, it may only be now that Ted Kennedy has saved health care reform.

Unless the Democrats mess this up too.

I really can't stress how much I hate writing this. I respected Sen. Kennedy more than most. I may not have always agreed with him, or thought him the greatest man, but he was a great statesman and one of the few left.

Throughout his career and with new vigor in his final months of life, Kennedy has pursued the issue of health care reform. In memoriam, the Boston Globe wrote that:

“Despite his illness, Senator Kennedy made a forceful appearance at the Democratic convention in Denver, exhorting his party to victory and declaring that the fight for universal health insurance had been 'the cause of my life.”
Health care reform has been mentioned in nearly all of the articles surrounding his death -- and although little has yet been articulated about the broader political impact of his passing, there is no doubt that this will be the cause defined by his death.

The only question now is whether good taste and political sense will prevail. The Democrats have completely failed this issue to present. This is due partly to their inability to stay on message and partly because the Democratic majority is too splintered to move and no one has corralled them into one camp. Now, the party has been given a standard under which to unite, and given Teddy's bold (if infrequent) attempts at bipartisanship, there may even be a few stragglers in from across the aisle.

The only thing that the Democratic Party needs to do is rehearse the following line: “For forty years Ted Kennedy has crusaded for health care reform. There can be no better tribute to his memory than to see his dream become realized.” Shame has always been a powerful force in governance, but what is most incredible about this line is its legitimacy. This is a rare instance where the party can capitalize on tragedy without seeming to exploit it because, well, it's already as spun as it can be.

Republicans, meanwhile, are in a tricky position. There are few points to be gained by deriding the dead, even those as bombastic and partisan as Ted Kennedy--though some pundits have surely been practicing saying Chappaquiddick (much needed practice; try saying it yourself, three times fast). The best they can hope for is to refocus the discussion on policy, not the sensationalism surrounding the last Kennedy brother's final wish. Good luck.

By all rights, the Democrats should have it now. It takes little imagination to foresee what is now the inevitable rebranding of the plan to become the Edward M. Kennedy Health Service Reform Act (or something to that effect). Even if the bill does not change in title, certainly the spirit of the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts will saturate it. Hate or adore the senator what his career, persona and surname have meant to the District of Columbia and this country has been substantial and that should be enough to resonate with our country's representatives, if not the entire populace.

However, if the democrats can't further a political agenda with two branches of government and a sixty-seat majority, what chance does divine intervention really have?

ABC disagrees, but proves my point.
Wall Street Journal's Story
NY Times on Ted's desire to "Make a good ending:"

Posted by Max Clark at August 28, 2009 9:40 AM
Comment #287007

Max, interesting perspective. And I wish it were all going to be that simple. But, politics is never simple, and it is one of the most creative processes ever invented. Opponents of reform will innovate and create ever new ways to torpedo reform for their own political interests. And proponents will innovate and create ever new ways to sell the reform, as your article points out.

In the end, one would hope that good sense (and cents) will rule the day. But, on the health care issue, that has not proven to be the case for the last 30 years.

It has been the third rail of politics for monumental political reasons. That fact has not been changed by the courageous and bold efforts of Ted Kennedy and Pres. Obama to grab the rail with both hands and attempt to move its direction toward greater economic sustainability going forward as well as greater humanity in proffering universal health care insurance. It is still a third rail whose juice running through it, is as hot as ever.

One fact remains on Democrat’s side on this issue. Doing nothing to reform health care costs, crater’s America’s future. There is no getting around that fact as more and more Americans become educated to it. Will it and Kennedy’s legacy be sufficient? The odds are incalculable as far as I can see.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2009 10:25 AM
Comment #287008

Max, I am thinking his passing may further erode the Democrat’s coalition on healthcare. Also, unless Mass. can rewrite some law to get an appointed replacement on board fast the Democrats will have lost a filibuster proof majority. In 2004 Mass changed the law to prevent Mitt Romney from selecting Kerry’s successor while Kerry ran for President. In lieu of the current situation they will need to change the law again in order to retain two Senate votes in Mass. Seems unlikely, if not unethical. And, Byrd is frail and Lieberman is on the fence as to how he will vote. Tossed salad might be a gppd analogy for the healthcare debate.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 28, 2009 12:12 PM
Comment #287010


Not everybody loved Kennedy as much as it now seems. His passing will truly inspire those who ALREADY were on board.

The problem with health care lies in the details. Most people who currently are well insured (and that is most people) will get a less good deal under most of the scenarios. The payback is that the new insurance will cover more people and make it easier to change plans. These are important benefits. But they are abstract, while the losses are tangible.

Reform in theory is popular. Reform in particular is genuinely unpopular with a majority of people. This is the paradox that wrecked Social Security reform and I believe will wreck health care reform.

Posted by: Christine at August 28, 2009 12:21 PM
Comment #287011

Christine said: “Most people who currently are well insured (and that is most people) will get a less good deal under most of the scenarios.”

ERRR!!!! FALSE!!!!!!

Most people who currently are well insured will see improvement by virtue of the reform 1) Preventing their insurer from canceling their policy for going over limits 2) or, for preexisting conditions, which later testing may prove by virtue of genetically caused illnesses.

Many of the insured out there don’t realize just how precarious their insurance is. But, they are learning as the hundreds of stories are now coming to light about persons who lost their insurance because their costs were too high or who were discovered to have preexisting conditions as determined by their insurance company’s interpretation of their doctor’s diagnosis.

In addition, current insureds will see at least some of their costs go down, or premiums not rise as fast if the reform bill is passed, due to the reform’s investment in Medical care Information Technology that will reduce errors, duplicative procedures, tort costs, and that Right Wing most feared outcome, actual competitive pressure on private insurers to lower their administrative and profit expenses now in their insured’s premiums.

Most insureds in America will MOST DEFINITELY benefit from health care reform, contrary to the misinformation campaign carried by Christine and others opposed to health care reform, for whatever political or, other reasons.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2009 12:37 PM
Comment #287014

“Better Off Dead” and “I respected Sen. Kennedy more than most” are contradictory statments. The title of your thread is patently offensive.

Posted by: ohrealy at August 28, 2009 1:19 PM
Comment #287015


I too, was offended by the title, but not the gist of it. I agree with David that this hardly seals the deal, however.

I like David’s line:

But, politics is never simple, and it is one of the most creative processes ever invented.

I think politics falls somewhere between cooking and voodoo. Sometimes the things that taste best are the worst for you, and there are lots of zombies out there.

Posted by: gergle at August 28, 2009 1:38 PM
Comment #287021

I just hope they don’t disrespect Senator Kennedy by putting his name on a fake health care reform bill.

Most of the health care debate has been focused on what the liberals are proposing and what they will eventually settle for.

I would like to see some debate on what the health care insurers want from reform. Perhaps that would help clarify the issue.

I have heard that the insurers want mandatory health insurance purchased through them.

I have heard that they want a 65-35 split, with premiums paying 65 percent, and their customers liable for the other 35 percent of their health care costs.

I have heard that the insurers want government approval and protections for reducing end of life care and the costs associated with it.

Posted by: jlw at August 28, 2009 2:47 PM
Comment #287022


I think people have figured out that you cannot get more for less and add more people, while not addressing tort reform and not rationing care.

Some proponents of the reform like to save it is a “myth” that people will get less, just like those who wanted to reform SS said it was a “myth” that anyone would get less with their reform.

Unfortunately for the reformers of both SS and Health care, Americans are not as weak in math skills as we have been led to believe.

I repeat again that I support the Scandinavian style heath care, which my family and I actually experienced. Those systems cover everyone and they produce good results. However, I know from my own experience that the Blue Cross Standard Option gives a recipient more choice and a generally higher level of care.

I understand that my employer is paying most of my premium and I believe this is not sustainable for our country, which is why I support the change, but I also know that as an individual from the strictly personal point of view, I am better off w/o change.

Not everybody is as open minded about giving up some of what they have so others can get more.

Posted by: Christine at August 28, 2009 3:31 PM
Comment #287027

Christine said: “I think people have figured out that you cannot get more for less and add more people, while not addressing tort reform and not rationing care.”

Then those people and you would be patently wrong in that assessment. Private business gets more production for less cost and labor, every year. Getting more for less is one of the many things America is renowned for with its history of creativity and innovation.

Adding more people while eliminating ER Costs for non-emergency visits, is one way many more can be added at the same cost. The medical IT infrastructure proposed by the health care reform in the House, will automatically reduce tort costs, by eliminating mistakes and unnecessary procedures and duplicative procedures, accounting for a majority of the law suits.

Rationing care is already in place. Insurance companies ration care on a daily basis with policy limits, and conditions. So, that’s a wash. An public option will also ration care. But, not the way right wingnuts depict. Eventually, the public option will have to delineate necessary and unnecessary treatments for life and health maintenance.

And, in addition, it eventually have to cap catastrophic long term care, relegating such coverage beyond a certain point, to private insurance markets, at substantial premiums, I might add. But, that is already the case, anyway.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2009 4:27 PM
Comment #287028

Christine said: “I understand that my employer is paying most of my premium and I believe this is not sustainable for our country,”

We agree on this entirely. With our foreign competitors advantage of not having to add health care to their product pricing, we are absolutely shooting American business in the head by perpetuating this employer based health care system as the primary health care system. A choice is mandatory for American business’ vying in the global market place for market share.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2009 4:30 PM
Comment #287038


I might be wrong. But that is indeed what I believe. I don’t think anyone can say how much health care reform will cost. The CBO said it would add big costs. The Democrats have done a very poor job making their case, if they have one. Attacking opponents is not a strategy.

I support health care reform and I supported SS reform. Both were doomed by their bad designs when it came to details and idiots trying to sell them to the public, proving that stupidity is a bipartisan characteristic.

I will predict it now. Health care reform will fail. Actually, it will be called success. Maybe they will fittingly name it after Teddy Kennedy. It will be watered down to pay off the special interests already lined up to line their pockets, but there will be no tort reform, no universal coverage and the cost curve will bend up, not down. Real reform will wait for a stronger president and a more competent congress.

Posted by: Christine at August 28, 2009 6:01 PM
Comment #287040


I think it could be a big mistake to name this bill after Ted Kennedy. Did was divisive. He is a hero on the left and far less on the right.

Politically what naming the bill would do would be to make the left work harder. Even though there is little conservative support right now for the health care bills in being considered right now there would be less if it were names after Kennedy.

Should health care in it’s present form pass (which I think unlikely), you can always name some additional buildings after the Senator.

Kennedy’s death should inspire and encourage the left.

Did you notice that Obama’s approval has dropped to 50% in the Gallup poll? By the time health care is being considered, Obama will be one of the least popular presidents in history at this stage of his presidency, since approval ratings were recorded.

I think it’s a tough fight going forward for the left.

Posted by: Craig Holmes at August 28, 2009 6:22 PM
Comment #287043

Christine said: “Real reform will wait for a stronger president and a more competent congress. “

Then real reform will wait long past the demise of our nation’s economy and collapsed government fiscal state. If it doesn’t happen with this president and Congress, it won’t happen. That is the real choice before Americans today, like it or not.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2009 6:38 PM
Comment #287049


I am afraid real reform of both SS and health care WILL wait until it is a bigger crisis. Winston Churchill said something like “Americans always do the right thing… after they have tried everything else.”

The health care proposals and the leadership needed to make a viable system is just lacking. Obama doesn’t have the courage to push a system acceptable to a majority of Americans and the Pelosi infected congress doesn’t have the insight or the desire.

I am not saying this as something I advocate. It is just something I believe will happen. I saw the same thing happen with SS reform. The script is almost identical. It is eerie.

Posted by: Christine at August 28, 2009 11:37 PM
Comment #287055


SS reform? When exactly was that?

If you don’t see a big crisis now, then you just aren’t paying attention.

The time has come and I suspect it will pass, Republicans are simply making themselves more and more irrelevant, though there will be further reforms needed down the road.

Posted by: gergle at August 29, 2009 1:12 AM
Comment #287063


SS was part of the larger entitlement crisis, which is certainly upon us. Health care is almost a subset of this.

I think we will see what happens soon enough.

Health care and SS are both slow motion crisis. That is why we don’t feel the pressure to solve them.

Reforms are needed. But none of the proposed forms of reform are not acceptable to most Americans. We will need to wait for a stronger president and a more competent congress.

Posted by: Christine at August 29, 2009 9:44 AM
Comment #287068

Christine, spoken like a true Republican of the last 8 years. Never tackle today what can be put off to the next generation, and which will hinder the next quarter’s supporter profits.

Republicans are the most short sighted people I have ever known. Put it off till our people are in power. Your people were just in power a couple years ago, and Medicare/Medicaid and Health care reforms were the last thing they wanted to deal with. In fact, Republicans quite nearly abandoned domestic policy entirely, defunding a plethora of domestic programs and refusing to go anywhere near any third rail issues.

No waiting is not an option. Obama and Democrats are the brave and courageous party to accept the political risks of addressing the nation’s most dangerous economic issue, health care, where Republicans were and continue to be the Party of cowards unwilling to take ANY responsibility for reforms.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 29, 2009 11:31 AM
Comment #287070

Social Security and health care are going to be a problem whether they are reformed or not. They are going to be victims of a much larger and far more dangerous problem that we are facing and that is JOBS!

I have very mixed feelings about Ted Kennedy because he, Tip O’neal and other Democrats dealt with Ron Reagan. They traded a few environmental laws for Reaganoimics.

The main premis behind Reaganomics was that if we slashed tax rates for corporations and the wealthy, capital would be freed up, the economic boom would be reignited and millions upon millions of jobs would be created. It turned out to be a big LIE!

Next, under Clinton, the Democrats joined forces with Republicans to pass two other major Republican initives, NAFTA and The Chinese/India free trade agreement. Before the nation, Clinton swore that legislation was in place to protect American jobs. Another big LIE!

Rather than creating jobs, the corporations, with the necessary legislation in place, began the process of exporting many millions of jobs and bringing in 20 to 30 million illegals to drive down wages. Under the guise of making America more competitive, the destruction of the blue- collar middle class was initiated.

Many if not most liberal and conservative white-collar workers have bought into the Make America More Competitive campaign. I imagine immigration laws protecting white-collar jobs has helped to sweeten the deal for them.

Well, the free ride is about to end.

The process has begun and over the next few years, the corporations are expecting to export between 30 and 40 million white-collar jobs.

The corporations say this is absolutely necessary to make us more competitive.

Posted by: jlw at August 29, 2009 12:02 PM
Comment #287101


I am not saying it a good thing to put off reform. I thought we should have reformed Social Security in 2005 – and before. I think we should reform health care and ALL entitlements now. I just don’t think we are going to succeed in doing it. I have to repeat for a third time that reform will have to wait for a stronger president and a competent congress.

Maybe Obama will get stronger as he gets experience in the job. The congress may improve if it changes leadership. We will see. But we do not currently have the right people in place to do the job.

Obama and the Democrats in congress have all they need to pass reform, but the will flinch from real reform. Biden even admitted it, saying tort reform is not in the plan because Democrats didn’t want to cross the lawyer lobby. All the special interests are on-board. But the people don’t want it.

Obama and the democrats in congress will shirk their duty. Their only challenge is to figure out how to blame Republicans. They are good at that, so that plan will be in place by September. Then they will retreat on major issues, pay off the special interests and spin like dervishes.

Posted by: Christine at August 29, 2009 7:52 PM
Comment #287107

Christine said: “Then they will retreat on major issues, pay off the special interests and spin like dervishes. “

Yes, they will act just like Republicans did when they were in power. Which is why I write for the Third Party and Independent column, and not in the Red or Blue. If even a handful of Republicans would work with the President, this reform could have occurred with both sides getting a lot of what they want. Democrats gave Republicans 160 Amendments in the House version of the Bill. But, Republicans will have none of this notion of Democrats tackling and succeeding at the issue Republicans refused to touch.

If health care reform doesn’t pass, it will be Republicans and Insurance industry that defeated it. There simply is no getting around this fact. Democrats want the reform. It has been an agenda item of theirs for over a decade. Republicans wouldn’t touch it. And still won’t have any role in passing it. And the nation and the American people will suffer as a result, as will American businesses. Republicans know this, all too well, and yet, it makes no difference in their obstructionist political position to oppose Democrats for political reasons. It really is a prescription for national failure.

Your argument is clever, but not very subtle. You are argue that if Republicans dig in their heels and prevent this reform from passing, that equates to the President and Congress not being strong enough or experienced enough to pass it. That is the same as arguing the female rape victim didn’t have the will power to prevent the rape, and therefore was complicit in it occurring.

It is a typical Southern conservative argument played in court rooms for decades, that the victim of an aggressor is at fault for the aggression having occurred in the first place. Democrats are trying, and with just a little help from a handful of Republicans, health care reform that meets stated objectives would be possible. But, the aggressive and offensive posture of the Right now leads you to spin the failure of reform as Democrat’s responsibility. It would be laughable if not for the dire price Americans will pay for failing to reform our deficit and debt trajectory which Republicans insist continue.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 29, 2009 11:20 PM
Comment #287135


The insurance industry is mostly on board. Obama co-opted that establishment. Republicans don’t have the power to block reform if the Democrats want it.

The Democrats hold all the cards. They command a great majority is both houses and they hold the presidency.

If you are truly a third party man, call it. The Democrats are no more force for what you call reform than Republicans.

IMO - it might be a problem of MEANS. Almost everybody wants good health care available to all at low prices. It is like being in favor of sunshine and flowers. Almost everybody agrees that the current entitlement crisis is urgent and that current trends are unsustainable.

I believe that the reason that neither of the two parties can make headway against these problems is because what people say they want CANNOT be done with the political and bureaucratic tools they have at their disposal.

If you just changed some of the regulations and allowed health care plans to be sold over state lines and reformed torts, health care would be cheaper and more available. Politically this won’t fly. Special interests got this locked up.

If you just recognized that many health care outcomes will be bad,since everybody eventually dies, it would take some of the hatred out of the debate. Politics requires this to remain.

What the public really wants is care similar to what a well insured American gets today, cheaper or free and available universally. They also want to expand coverage as technology improves, also with no additional costs and minimal delays. Beyond all that, they want all health care innovations to work and be 100% effective.

Politicians promise this. Nobody anywhere in the world has been able to offer this. Health care is a limitless need. It is analogous to the old saying about light bulbs. As you you expand the circle of light, you also expand the amount of darkness you are touching.

You seem like a great guy. We agree on almost all the goals of a good society. But I think many are great goals are unachievable. I also believe that we fallible humans are not wise enough to know what to do. Finally, I believe that the best way for us fallible humans to come to good (not perfect) results is to allow as many people as possible the freedom to use their own intelligence and imagination to solve their own problems.

Posted by: Christine at August 30, 2009 5:50 PM
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