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Absence Of Evidence

Regular readers know that my speculative view was that President Obama never really cared about whether a public insurance program would be included in the vaunted exchanges. If they were in, he was ok with that. If they weren't, he was ok with that too. He mouthed a preference for the "public option," but never did anything to try and get it in (by contrast, he fought hard for a tax on so-called "Cadillac" health insurance plans.) I never paid much attention to the "Obama dealt the public option away" stories. Whether he did or didn't, by making clear he was not going to fight for it, he made its demise pretty likely.

That said, Jonathan Bernstein's questioning of the "Obama killed the public option" story bothers me -- not because he questions the story, but because his claims regarding what he accomplished are clearly overblown. The title of Bernstein's piece is "Obama never secretly killed the public option. Itís a myth." Bernstein has no way of knowing this. What he attempts to do, with some success, is undermine the story that it has been demonstrated that Obama in fact "killed the public option." I think he did a good job of debunking that claim. What he has not done is provide any evidence that "Obama did not kill the public option." I do not think "the President killed the public option." But I am positive Jonathan Bernstein has not disproven the claim.

Speaking for me only

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  • Display: Sort:
    What's Bernstein's point? If he's right (5.00 / 6) (#5)
    by Anne on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 03:46:28 PM EST
    that Obama didn't "secretly" kill the so-called public option, so what?  It's not like Obama was doing anything more than talking about it, using "public option" as rhetorical V@lium to calm the masses and try to get them behind his plan.

    There were, however, a lot of closed-door, backroom meetings with industry big-wigs - big-wigs who were not at all enamored of a public anything, only concerned with keeping or increasing profits.  So, does it count as "secretly killing" an element of reform if one doesn't specifically go after it, but actively supports and works to establish provisions that will generate the same result?


    I'm still skeptical (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 04:25:32 PM EST
    What I remember most vividly was the rapid movement fairly late in the game of a large and growing group of Dem. senators to put the PO back on the table that abruptly dematerialized practically overnight.

    There was a fair amount of reporting that they were gaining momentum and might be able to get 60 to sign on.  And then-- poof.  Nothing.  Gone.  And very lame and evasive explanations from the senators who had been most energetic about it just the week before.

    Something pulled the rug out from under them in a hurry, and I'm very skeptical that it was simply counting Senate votes, especially since the public was solidly behind the idea, including in some of the states with senators who had come out against it, if I recall right.

    We may never know what, but something happened here.

    Parent

    They no doubt raised a lot (none / 0) (#23)
    by MO Blue on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:58:23 AM EST
    of money using that little gambit.

    It was much like my sweet Claire signing on to all the letters to Obama requesting numerous Cat Food Commissions to cut the safety net programs and at the same time sending out letters to MO voters requesting contributions to help her save the programs.

    Parent

    When you are elected because ,,, (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by cymro on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 04:28:29 PM EST
    ... you promise to change things, and you claim to be in favor of a particular change, and you are the one who has the ultimate power to negotiate for that change, then failing to back up your talk with action is tantamount to killing that idea.

    The public option is not unique. There are plenty of other promises of Obabma's that he has killed either by his failure to act at all, or by providing only token political support, or by switching his support to the opposite of what he originally promised.

    And he still expects people to vote for four more years of such disappointments!

    Parent

    Dude (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Pacific John on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 04:59:27 PM EST
    He ran on killing the public option, one of the three legs in the clearly understood flowchart he ran against in the primary. This is simple: in politics, if you don't up the ante of your opponent's plan, you are broadcasting that you oppose it.

    You were asleep on some of the core D stuff a few years ago, but one does not run Harry and Louise ads if they support real reform, nor, once elected, do they copy the insurance industry proposal to signal opposition to corporate excess.

    BTW, the thread over there is a riot. (none / 0) (#11)
    by Pacific John on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 05:23:20 PM EST
    ...Some of the most entertaining comments in years, since we thought we might elect someone who respects the base.

    Parent
    If he wanted & fought for it he;d have had it (5.00 / 3) (#22)
    by BobTinKY on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:45:06 AM EST
    at the time.  If expended political capital in the same way idiot W did for his tax cuts, we'd have it now.

    He did not.  His inaction, indifference gaurantied we would not have a public option.  The only way we'd have ever gotten one would have been his tireless promoting of it, he failed; as usual he did not even try.

    That second paragraph (none / 0) (#1)
    by me only on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 03:01:23 PM EST
    is the most unwieldy paragraph you have written in the last 6 years.  I would prove that, but then you might feel the need to prove me wrong by writing a worse paragraph.  Or something like that.

    On a more serious note, if the Supreme Court overrules the mandate, is there any chance that a public option would have changed the mind of any of the justices?

    I reworked it (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 03:06:22 PM EST
    That's not fair (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by me only on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 03:14:49 PM EST
    I had you man.  Years of lying in wait and presto, it's gone.

    You could opine on the question, however.

    Parent

    On the question (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 03:24:20 PM EST
    No, it is not pertinent to the argument on the mandate, UNLESS it was an autoenrollment as opposed to a penalty.

    That would make it more like Medicare.

    I argued for this approach in 2009.

    Parent

    The 111th Senator (none / 0) (#9)
    by lilburro on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 05:10:17 PM EST
    theory of political action.

    In terms of the public option, I think part of the issue was that Obama's WH was preoccupied with cost control and delivery systems.  Suskind's book documented interest in that on Orszag and Obama's part.  Dividing cost and coverage is stupid, but that appeared to happen, with some influential WH voices more focused on cost than coverage.  Suskind's book also shows that Obama didn't really care much one way or another on the PO.  Pelosi seemed generally interested.

    Politically, the WH should have realized that the public option had become a hot-button subject.  Maybe they figured they'd get more mileage out of ignoring the PO folks, maybe they just didn't care.

    But I think it's become ever clearer that there is no 11th dimensional chess going on now, and there wasn't during the health bill debate either.  The PO debate became even more resonant because it became a debate over political philosophy and tactics.  Perhaps the people backing Obama to back Obama should've been more straightforward and said "I don't care about the public option.  A political win is more important."  Instead they inflated Obama's image and revised their political strategy afterwards to account for his inaction.  Compare 2009 and now, there is a lot less enthusiasm for Obama among self-described liberals.  There's a lot of reasons for that but the PO debate presages a lot of current conflicts.

    I realize (none / 0) (#10)
    by lilburro on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 05:22:13 PM EST
    plenty of people here (and elsewhere) did not buy into the 11th dimensional chess theory.  But the 111th Senator theory espoused by Bernstein in this instance and often by Ezra Klein expresses a pessimism about what the President can do that usually is not expressed when the outcome is in question.

    Parent
    All I can say is, in the sciences, (none / 0) (#12)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 05:38:03 PM EST
    absence of evidence doesn't mean evidence of absence. Admittedly this goes against the legal profession.

    It means we may not have the evidence yet, or the correct questions haven't been asked of the correct people, or...

    No (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 05:44:39 PM EST
    the legal profession agrees.

    It's a question of burden of proof.

    Those making the assrtion need to prove it.

    Parent

    Didn't know that. (none / 0) (#14)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 06:02:20 PM EST
    I've always heard "facts not in evidence." But I'm not a lawyer. Off topic, did I tell you I'd found a place to play online?

    Parent
    Do tell, jeff (none / 0) (#17)
    by Zorba on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 06:55:27 PM EST
    Where is this online place?

    Parent
    a place for games of skill (5.00 / 0) (#18)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 08:44:29 PM EST
    where one utilizes 52 cards, for money, lol!

    Parent
    Fraud, as usual (none / 0) (#15)
    by koshembos on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 06:13:23 PM EST
    Obama was dragged into the health care debate in the primaries almost kicking and screaming. Those of us who knew early on that he is a fraudulent imposter were not surprised.

    For Bernstein to absolve Obama is in line with his typical spongy views of the current presidential gang.

    If killed by neglect counts - (none / 0) (#16)
    by ruffian on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 06:51:24 PM EST
    he killed it.  It could not pass without very strong advocacy by him, and possibly a veto threat.

    Of course that might not have been enough, as ABG will hasten to remind me. Obama's advocacy was necessary, but not sufficient.

    We'll never know (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by NYShooter on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 09:56:54 PM EST
    but, as with every issue that required strong Leadership, he never even tried.

    Parent
    There was leadership, definitely... (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 11:15:56 PM EST
    ... unfortunately it was leadership by a not disinterested health insurance industry.

    Parent
    BTD (none / 0) (#21)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 12:49:13 AM EST
    Fair analysis.

    I won't weigh in on details but I need to recruit more people who dont think his action or inaction killed it.

    I'd be fighting a one man war.

    Ahem, a two person war. (none / 0) (#24)
    by christinep on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 02:19:07 PM EST