Thursday, January 14, 2010

Splinter Group!

Way down below, in this post, I started a discussion of whether the current FDL attacks on individuals, such a Professor Gruber, were a good idea. In comments this quickly devolved into the usual confusion between facts and opinion, and means and ends. Gruber's name comes up again and again as proof of the Obama campaigns evil intent, and also as part of the plot. These are not, of course, the same thing at all but they are used interchangeably. In my post, however, the attacks on Gruber stand for something quite important: the total loss of humanity and a sense of proportion on the part of the anti-bill crowd.

The attacks on Professor Gruber, as repeated in the bloggosphere, boil down to this: The Obama administration, through proxies, purchased the good name and opinion of an economist in support of their nefarious Health Care Bill. He was bought for an unconscionable amount of money, and he disguised this fact by failing to report it to the proper authorities, thus letting op ed pieces go out to an unsuspecting public as though they were purely disinterested, when in fact his opinion had been purchased for mere gold. Apparently, if he hadn't received this money he would have remained silent, or even opposed the bill. Absent money, presumably, he would have been "on our side." That's basically the argument: there are only two sides--the corporatist/insurance company/Obama/Rahm side and the well intentioned FDL/single payer side. Well, maybe three sides? The Republicans, the Corporatist/Pharma/Dem alliance and the good people who want single payer now? Or who want to kill the bill and start over?

I strongly disagree. There are way more than three sides in this debate and this kind of simplistic reduction of every participant into "with us or against us" is becoming both frustrating and annoying and dangerous. Not because I think FDL is all that powerful but because the writers and bloggers who are basing their work on this manichean view of the political system are following the usual scorched earth policies associated with religious hysteria.

Now that I've typed that I see that there is another almost natural religious trope lurking in the wings: the truly manichean perspective posits a good god, and an evil god, warring for control of us. I acquit most Obama voters of having been truly in love with Obama--I know I wasn't--or having any illusions at all about him. But the rage that has been directed at him and at Rahm (his mini satanic alter ego) smacks of the rage of the disappointed lover and the apostate. Its not just authoritarian Americans who love the idea of the attentive, harsh, dominating daddy--I think the longing for this all powerful fantasy figure underlies a lot of leftist rage at Obama as much as it underlies a Maureen Dowd column. Its not that I think people are making the transition all the way from "O-Bot" to Anti-Democrat but I think people had a lot of unexamined illusions about the way things might go once we got "one of ours" finally into the White House. Well, things haven't gone as hoped and planned--and someone and something has to take the fall for disappointing the kiddies when the bicycle isn't under the tree.

I'm not a child and I don't need a fall guy or a personalized explanation for why a top heavy, heavily monetized, highly divided and corporatist political system with a Senatorial bottleneck and a supermajoritiarian filibuster might have a hard time totally rebuilding a decayed health care system from the ground up in a matter of months. Its not even a question. It just can't be done right now, using stone knives, bearskins and sheer logic. What we are getting is probably the best we can get under the circs. Could it have been better if I'd been in charge--definitely! I'm way smarter than Obama and I have powers of persuasion (you should check out my mad Sarcasm and Bathos skilz) that far surpass his.

But that doesn't mean that every person involved in this complex negotiation, from top to bottom, wanted it to fail. It just doesn't. First of all, it can only be considered a "failure" from some points of view. Lots of people have argued that the bill is, in fact, pretty good. No, strike that, lots of pretty good people...people whose work we have followed for a long time, or who we have supported politically for a long time think that its as good as its going to get, for a long time, can be amended, and will lead to some really good things for the poor and middle class in this country.

But the FDL people are spiraling down into the accusation that no sane or moral or unbiased person could believe that. They are making the jump to arguing that every supporter of it is doing so because of its flaws rather than despite them (the Rahm is a Corporatist argument) or because they have been bribed (which is the Gruber accusation). This is a massive jump across a moral chasm. FDL is going from arguing strategy and tactics to accusing all of our elected Democratic officials and many public servants or professional commentators of being actively engaged in a willfully destructive act of political suicide and corporate shilling. [Edited to add: they are even accusing the Unions, now, of being enemies of themselves!]

I'm not saying that, in individual cases, this isn't accurate. Lieberman, of course, would happily drive the knife into the Democratic party and although he would do it for free I'm sure he's also paid to do so. Nelson is so stupid he doesn't seem to know that as a Democrat what's done in the party's name is done in his name and he might as well stand with us for good reform. Lincoln, Landrieu, Bayh and the others, of course, ditto ditto ditto. But others: Kennedy/Kirk, Sanders, and a host of others seem to think the Bill will be better than nothing, and maybe substantially better than nothing. The thin end of the wedge. The beginning of the end for for profit insurance. Etc...etc...etc... If we argue, as FDL does, that all these people are either delusional, or corrupted, we aren't on a slippery slope to hell we are right at the bottom of the pit. There's no one left to work with since all your former friends turn out to have always been your enemy and their protestations that they are doing the best they can, or have good intentions, have already been dismissed as so many lies.

**I apologize for not linking more. I've just switched to a MacAir and I am having a really hard time moving between pages, copying and pasting, and linking easily. I hope to figure it out and include more links as the day goes on.

Far, far below I put it this way:

This is just silly--if you actually think the Democrats are trying to "back us into universal coverage" (which I do) then we are just arguing about timing and structure of this movement. Its a policy dispute--not one which should lead us to throw the baby out with the bathwater and attack each and every member of the coalition and the lower level apparatchik's as though they were personally trying to kill every uninsured mother in this country. The level of vitriol addressed to Gruber over a perfectly ordinary form of government work is simply inappropriate. The guy isn't actually a corporate shill masquerading as a leftist. He's an academic with an area of expertise whose work product was bought by one branch of the government, and whose expertise was used by another. He's not John Yoo, he's not being brought in to authorize torture. He did disclose the connection but since the connection was not "improper" you are throwing a fit over a mere fact of life which is that experts frequently consult on areas of their expertise, sometimes for lots of different people, and they often have contracts with different groups because their expertise is needed.

If you think, which you apparently don't, that Obama and the Democrats are absolutely trying to merely siphon money from the taxpayers to the insurance companies and enslave us all to the insurance companies why on earth do you think that your approval, or disapproval, is going to affect anything? If corporatist malfeasance has reached so high, and gone so wide, we're fucked. Kill the bill, don't kill the bill, there's no chance in hell we will ever get anything from this or any other government we elect or don't elect. I'd go farther and say that they don't even need the figleaf of Gruber's all important imprimatur. They could and would have simply bought someone else's testimony. Or not bothered to offer any rationale. If everyone is in on this corrupt scheme but a few progressive dems--and according to FDL even they have gone over to the enemy--then there's no one to protest to and no one to really raise a stink. So you might as well stay in bed as stay up late typing "Rahm sucks and gruber is a nazi stooge" into the browser.

I'm way way way to the left of whether Obama ever dreamed of being. And I'm perfectly well aware that the oligarchs own a lot of our government. But under those circumstances I consider this bill to be a major achievement towards putting hte insurance companies on the footing of a highly regulated public utility. And there's good reason to think that this is how its going to work if it can get passed. Why do I think that? because in MA we already have a version of this bill in place. As a state we simply couldn't afford to create a one time jump to a state wide single payer model. We put into place an insurance based model with an exchange and with subsidies. And now even Scott Brown, the republican candidate, is refusing to badmouth it or to say he would prefer that MA's version of health care reform be repealled. He knows its working and that its working for the poor and the working class and that they vote to protect their interests.

The same thing could happen nation wide with this bill. There's lots of evidence that this is, in fact, what the pro-bill side thinks will happen. They are not all captured by corporate interests. They don't all believe it for mere lucre (which is, at base, the accusation against Gruber. Not that he was illegally or immorally paid by the government, but that those payments taint his professional and personal opinions and were made to make him change those opinions to suit his employer.) But if people of good will believe that this bill will do, on balance, more good than harm what becomes of the continued shrieking from the FDL crowd that more and more of them are not merely mistaken but actively corrupt? That's my point. People of good will and pretty good information can and should disagree on tactics and strategy. But we are, in fact, all agreed on the goal. FDL is insisting that a large portion of the democratic coalition doesn't even agree on the goal and should be torn down, insulted, attacked and personally smeared as fake democrats and all round jack the ripper types. This is incredibly insulting and politically dangerous. ITs also pointless. If yesterday's friend and supporter is today's betrayer you might as well crawl back into bed and hide. There's no one left to work with.

Today, 9:44:47 AM EST

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