The most infuriating part of Congressional Democrats and the Obama administrations stubborn refusal to embrace smart progressive policy, beside making regular people to unnecessarily suffer, is the fact that going with progressive policy would have almost always also been the better political choice.
Ezra Klein has a good take on the trouble Obama has created for himself with health care reform as a result of not making the progressive goal of immediately helping regular people his top goal.
Will this quiet the furor over the waivers? Of course not. That’s not how these things work. But it is a case study of how seemingly sound political choices can backfire. At each point in the process — keeping the 10-year price tag beneath $1 trillion, creating early benefits, minimizing disruptions in advance of the real reforms — the administration thought they were protecting themselves from attack. But ultimately, the waivers required for the disruption created by the early benefits that were needed because the law doesn’t start until 2014 have become perhaps the most effective ongoing assault against health-care reform.
The one glaring problem with Klein analysis here is that there was nothing seemingly sound about these political choices.
The Democrats somehow managed to delude themselves into think voters cared more about CBO scores than actually getting help in the middle of a massive recession, they don’t. Does anyone thinking Democrats would have lost one more seat in 2010 if it was $1.15 trillion instead of $900 billion?
The party also manged to convinced themselves a law would become popular even if it did basically nothing to help anyone for years, it can’t.
If instead the party had been less concern with the CBO score and more focused on the progressive goal of actually helping people, by for example immediately expanding Medicaid, 2010 probably wouldn’t have been as big a bloodbath.