December 25, 2009

Are there no prisons?

Paul Krugman wants us to know ("Tidings of Comfort", New York Times, Dec. 24) that the health insurance bailout bill just passed by the Senate is a great progressive act. He notes that if Tiny Tim can keep from getting sick until 2014, some yet-to-be-defined subsidies will help his family pay for some of his insurance, which they very likely will still not be able to afford (the company will be required to cover his preexisting condition by being allowed to charge more for it), for which crime they will be fined in true Scrooge-like fashion -- "to make America a much better country".

Krugman, who has written about the feasibility of both single-payer insurance (Medicare) and socialized medicine (Veterans Administration), now scolds "progressives" -- i.e., 70% of the American people in poll after poll who want a government-run single-payer system -- that "politics is the art of the possible". Krugman is an economist and knows that every other country in the world that has established universal health care has done so first by making it not for profit. The senate bill allows insurance companies to apply 20% (but no more!) of what they take in to "administrative" costs, mainly profits, bonuses, and dividends. In most universal-care countries, they are limited to 5%, and it is often less. Yet it is not possible that Americans should at least be able to choose an efficient public plan.

He thus gives up the fight (admonishing anybody who doesn't), happy to accept the Senate bill as law, to ignore or criticize what actually is possible. As Krugman points out: "There is a narrow [Congressional] majority in favor of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan." And there are likely 50 votes for it in the Senate. And, as already mentioned, there is a strong majority of the public in favor. Instead of crying about the rules of the Senate and fetishizing the need for 60 votes, and blaming the American people for not being impressed with the massive sell-out so far, Krugman should admonish both Harry Reid and Barack Obama for letting the assholes run the game.

The "possible" in Krugman's eyes is limited to what the lobbyists deem to be so. But Obama, at least, was elected in the hope that he would listen to the people first. Our bad! Shut up and be joyful! Paul Krugman brings you glad tidings that your betters have protected themselves royally so that someday they can help you a little bit maybe. More crumbs, please, sir.