No, David Broder, Barry Bosworth does NOT repeat NOT Think the Obama Fiscal Stimulus Might Well Turn Out to Be a Flop
The Birther Movement of 1377...

Why Orrin Hatch Lies a Lot (and Pete Domenici, Bob Dole, and Chuck Grassley too)

Harold Pollack calls out Orrin Hatch:

Can You Get Your Facts Straight, Senator Hatch? : This morning I watched This Week, where Senators Hatch and Specter were debating health reform. Senator Hatch, desperate not to be pinned down defending or criticizing Governor Palin's "death panel" thing, launched into a stream of his own talking points about nameless, faceless bureaucrats and the public plan...

TAPPER: Senator Hatch, who's right, Governor Palin or Senator Murkowski?

HATCH: Well, Jake, I don't think I'm going to make that decision. You know, there are many different people who have many different opinions on what is meant by these programs. But what I do know is that the Democrats want a government plan, where the government will take over health care.... They want to move, according to the Lewin Group, up to 119 million people into Medicaid. If that happens, it would destroy the--the health insurance programs throughout the country. Eight of ten Americans really--really want their health insurance coverage. They don't want to lose it.

Jake Tapper hit back, noting that the Lewin Group is owned by UnitedHealth Group. The real problem isn't that the Lewin Group might be biased. Their report just doesn't say what Hatch said it does. On pages, um, 1 and 2, the authors clearly indicate that this analysis is based on quite different provisions from what is proposed in the various Senate and House bills.

To my knowledge, the Lewin Group has not analyzed the current legislation. Another nonpartisan entity, the Congressional Budget Office, actually has. Under the House bill, CBO estimates that "about 9 million or 10 million" people would enroll in the public plan. Rather than killing the private insurance market, the House bill would actually increase the number of Americans who hold private employer-based coverage by about 3 million. And by the way, the public plan is quite different from Medicaid.

"Horrendous" is one word that wound up in my news flow this morning. But it is important to recognize that it is not horrendous by accident, but by design. Call it the Domenici game: talk like a reasonable, sane, policy-oriented human being in private and in small think-tank conference rooms without cameras. Demagogue the hell out of issues when the cameras are rolling. And always, always vote the straight right wing line all the time.

Orrin Hatch is a master at it. And so are others--like Pete Domenici, like Bob Dole, like Chuck Grassley. In each case, the public-private dichotomy is "striking". This makes it a really important thing that Max Baucus has given his friend Grassley veto power over every substantive and procedural aspect of health reform.

A couple of years ago there was a debate I was sorry I did not see, between Alice Rivlin and Paul Krugman. Alice Rivlin thought that organizations like the Brookings Institution at which she worked had a role: you could design and argue for good policies, convince senators and influential House members of their value for the public interest, and then build a bipartisan coalition from the center out--either to the left or to the right, depending on which ideological extreme's price for coming on board to support sensible policies that worked was least obnoxious.

Paul Krugman said no: that that strategy worked only as long as the ideological lines of party cleavage were blurred, which would be the case only as long as there were (a) a larger number of relatively liberal northerners who voted Republican because Lincoln freed the slaves, and (b) a large number of relatively conservative southerners who voted Democratic because Lincoln freed the slaves. Once the parties realigned, zero-sum partisan loyalties would dominate: Republicans like Hatch would think hard whether it was more important to vote for a bill because it was good for America or vote against it because then you could paint the Democratic president as a failure and pick up seats in the next election, and make their decision. You had, Paul said (I think: I wasn't there) to pick your party and then work hard to make its policies the best policies possible because "bipartisanship" was no longer a viable legislative strategy.

We saw this in 1993, when Clinton's centrist bipartisan deficit-reducing budget--half tax increases, have spending cuts--attracted not a single Republican vote. We saw this in February, when Obama's centrist stimulus package--2/3 spending increases, 1/3 tax cuts (Clinton was Mr. 43%, Obama is Mr. 54%), and 2/3 the size that would have been appropriate--attracted zero Republican votes in the House and only three in the Senate. We are seeing this on cap-and-trade, where the number of Republicans willing to sign on to do something about global warming if they can then shape the bill in the direction of economic efficiency is close to zero, and now on health care too.