There have been no shortage of people arguing that the public option is now so “weak” that it’s no longer worth fighting for, and that we should instead try to “kill the bill.”
As the Senate begins debate today (currently airing on CSPAN2 and being liveblogged by Jon), the fact is they are going to be debating between two choices: a bill (A) without a public option or a bill (B) with a public option. Not one single member of the Senate Democratic caucus has said they want to (C) “kill the bill,” so at this point it’s likely to fall short of the 60 votes needed and not a realistic proposition.
If the bill gets through the Senate without a public option, members of the House have said they will kill it and (C) becomes realistic. But they’re not going to “kill the bill” they just passed, which is what advocates of (C) are calling for, as evidenced by the fact that they just voted for it.
So. Let’s talk reality. Goldman Sachs says that if a bill passes (A) without a public option, they expect insurance company stocks to rise 47%. If it passes (B) with a public option, they expect stock prices to fall by 36%. And if nothing happens (C), they expect them to rise by 59%.
Of course, all of this completely sidesteps the greater argument for a continued fight. The public option battle has become a proxy war over who controls government, whether Congress has the slightest responsibility to reflect the will of the public, whether Democrats from Obama on down can just casually abandon their campaign promises in the wake of unrelenting influence peddling and whether progressives are going to take a stand for something and refuse to back down.
But even if we’re only considering the narrow points of the above argument, those advocating that everyone should stop working to pass (B), a bill with a public option, need to take responsibility for the fact that if that happens, the default at the moment is (A) a bill without a public option. It is not (C), nothing. It would be helpful to know why they think (A) is better than (B), because we’re not dealing in fantasy here, and that is the inevitable outcome in the scenario they are advancing.