Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

10 September 2009

Message for the Gang of Six and the Blue Dogs


Now you’ve seen what leadership looks like. You know how much it differs from the nationwide bar brawl that came before.

Last night, the President put a sensible comprehensive proposal for health-insurance reform on the table. It’s got pieces Republicans like, including John McCain’s low-cost insurance for catastrophic care and a serious bipartisan effort at tort reform. Best of all, it’s got a promise—made before the entire nation—not to expand the deficit.

Hold the President to that promise, but get the damn bill passed.

And keep it short. How many pages does it take to say, for example: “No health insurance in force in the United States shall depend on the insured’s condition at or before the time the insurance entered into force, and anything to the contrary in any contract or policy of insurance policy shall be null, void and unenforceable.”

You Gang of Six have had your fifteen minutes of fame. Your home states have tiny populations. Collectively, you represent 3% of Americans and 2.52% of the nation’s GDP. Few outside your states knew your names before this debate. Now most voters who care about health insurance do.

If you think what you’ve done so far has enhanced your national reputations, think again. Most of us believe you’ve fretted and strutted like neurotic little roosters, ignoring the will of a clear national majority, which wants a public option and wants real reform by even greater margins. We think you’ve procrastinated, temporized, accepted demagoguery as the people’s will and generally done a piss poor job. Your belated flurry of activity during the last week hasn’t changed our opinion.

Our Great Compromise favors empty land over people. Our Senate’s rules favor seniority over wisdom, giving static districts like yours power over those of us who think and change. These things gave you your disproportionate power. Don’t abuse it.

In the presidential election, people in states representing 36% of the nation’s GDP preferred the President by a margin of 20% or more. Those in states representing 72% of GDP voted for him.

Do think all those productive people fear a public option? Do you think they believe for a nanosecond that it will destroy (or even harm) the health-insurance industry? Do you think they credit the notion of “death panels,” which the President so accurately characterized as a lie? Do you really believe that Rush and Sarah confused them?

Don’t you confuse our media’s pathological focus on outliers and crazies with what the folks who make this country work think.

For you Blue Dogs I have a very simple message. We Democrats are watching you. So act like Democrats. Be blue and not dogs.

If you won’t support the most vital Democratic initiative in forty years—and the one most critical to our popular President’s future effectiveness—why should the rest of us Democrats support you? Most of us think of you exactly as portrayed in the Danziger cartoon of September 5.

And don’t try to hide behind obscure procedural votes. We in the bigger states read the newspapers, know how to use the Internet, know how Congress works, and will be watching your every move. We’re sick and tired of having people suffer and die because of insurance companies’ profitable games. And we fear what an epidemic will do in our cities with one in six of us uninsured.

I can’t speak for all Democrats, but I know what I will do. If every one of you Blue Dogs (and Democrats in the Gang of Six) doesn’t follow your President’s lead and vote for his plan—including the public option—the next check I write to the Democratic Party will have the following language in the space for the payee: “DCCC (not for Blue Dogs or the Democrats in the Gang of Six).”

Don’t expect help from your party if you don’t support it when the chips are down. The chips are down now.

Yesterday the President appealed to the better angels of your nature. He spoke of Ted Kennedy’s lifelong crusade for reform. He outlined sincere efforts by politicians of all persuasions for over a century. He mentioned Ted, Teddy Roosevelt, John Dingell’s father, Orrin Hatch, and John McCain. And he wondered what happened to the spirit of helping each other and getting the job done that used to characterize America.

While he spoke, the Republican demagogues and obstructionists squirmed in their seats, looking like errant school children. Don’t you be among them. Small minds from small states and mostly rural districts can’t thwart the will of Americans forever. Don’t pander to your constituents’ ignorance; educate them, as the President did last night. Act like leaders for a change.

But if you won’t implement the President’s plan well and quickly because it’s the right thing to do, know this. We from the vast majority in population and productivity will remember, and there will be consequences.

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