Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Massachusetts election

Well, can't say I didn't see it coming. A weak candidate running a weak campaign, added to a party unwilling or incapable of disciplining its members and beaten down by decades of red-baiting. A president who's smart but who seems to be afraid to take real political risks and who dealt away a lot of his political capital in backroom deals with Big Pharma and Wall Street.

And yet, in spite of all the hoopla in the press about Scott Brown's Senate victory, a poll taken in Massachusetts after the election shows that Obama voters who voted for Brown still support the things that Obama and the Democrats promised, but didn't deliver on. And that includes health care with the public option. They have not become Republicans.

Obama and the Democrats still can recapture public support, but they have to become more populist and take more risks. Unfortunately, Obama is already making noises about passing a "scaled down" healthcare bill with bipartisan support. With bipartisan support? What planet is he living on? The Republicans smell blood and the last thing they are going to do is give him any sort of victory when they think they have him pinned. Puleeez!

I think the way to go is to draft a compact, tight bill and pass it by reconciliation. The leadership must put the screws on the party and squeeze out majorities in both houses. This means bargaining for committee chairmanships and members pet legislation -- the way the Other Party does it. The bill should provide regulation ("pre-existing condition" protection, limits on profits etc.) and a healthcare exchange. I am not a lawyer, but I suspect that this can be done within the rules of reconciliation bills: i.e. expressed in terms of budgets. Since this has been floated before, I assume that it is possible.

What I would really like to see is a change in Obama's economic people: replace Geitner, maybe by Sheila Bair (a nominal Republican even); replace Larry Summers by Paul Krugman; bring back Robert Reich (Clinton's Secretary of Labor) and find a place for Bob Kuttner. Obama needs to hear some more progressive voices. Eventually, replace Bernanke by one of them.

I can dream, can't I?

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