Thursday, April 8, 2010

Suitable Unintended Consequences

So we now have health care reform legislation that provides for many good things in the effort to make health care accessible and a right for every American. The corporate sock puppets of the Republican Party continue to rail against it and have made destroying the reform an article of faith. Because blind, lock-step opposition to any program proposed by Democrats, especially President Obama, is the litmus test that every Republican must pass, those Republicans bent on keeping their positions (vide David Frum and the American Enterprise Institute) or advancing scramble to find ways to ingratiate themselves with the looniest, neo-fascist mob members (e.g. The Tea Party Movement) while simultaneously supplicating themselves to their corporate oligarch masters.

In my home state of Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna wants to be governor some day. He is a Republican who has rather good moderate, centrist credentials. Those are exactly the kind of credentials that will keep him from ever winning a Republican primary while Fox News is marshalling the Tea Party zombies. So McKenna has joined a gaggle of Republican Attorneys General who are suing to declare a key provision of the health care reform bill unconstitutional. The Provision they have chosen to attack is the mandate that individuals must buy private medical insurance.

First off, let me state that I think that McKenna is not just positioning himself to be acceptable to the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the Republican Party. I think he's positioning himself as one of the adults in the case and trying to form a plausible legal argument while the neo-fascists from other states blather about nonsense on which even Antonin Scalia and his ventriloquist's dummy, Clarence Thomas, will be unable to hang a favorable decision.

After listening to a rather detailed interview with McKenna I suspect that he may be able to fashion a winning argument, one, at least, that will get a 5 to 4 decision striking down the mandate to purchase private medical insurance. In the time that it will take to get this suit to a Supreme Court decision many things will happen not least of which may be a new Justice on the bench. Some of the events intervening include the multiple provisions of the law that directly affect the lives of a majority of citizens, provisions such as students remaining on their parents' health insurance plans, a halt to recensions of health insurance coverage for the ill and a prohibition on denials of medical insurance for preexisting conditions, first for children. As those provisions take effect more and more people will come to like and depend on the reform law. Therefore, when and if the Attorneys General and Sonny Purdue's special hit man get a decision in their favor, the reform bill unravels and health care unravels.

Yet the reform will then have a constituency, a big constituency. Despite the false claims that the neo-fascists are not attacking the positive provisions of the bill, they will have done it in...not. Rob McKenna and the whole neo-fascist crew he's courting have gambled their entire future on destroying health care reform. They learned nothing whatever from running headlong into an epic defeat in Congress. Worse, even if they had the capacity to learn, their constituents, both the oligarchs and the mindless rabble, will not let them act on that learning.

The economy is improving. Better yet, the perception that the economy is improving grows stronger daily. As the economy improves President Obama and the Democrats gain strength because they gain the argument that the Republicans destroyed the economy and the Democrats saved it. If that perception continues into November and the Republicans keep goose-stepping rightward, the Democrats may retain their legislative majorities or even increase them.

So we get to the 112th Congress in January, 2011. The Democrats retain majorities in both houses of Congress perhaps even sending Scott Brown back to his pickup truck in Massachusetts and the health care reforms now have a clear majority of Americans pleased with the outcome. McKenna and the other ultra-rightist Attorneys General remove the only provision that guarantees insurance coverage to all Americans. The result might very well be the longed for and much more sensible "single-payer option" probably achieved through a universalization and broad expansion of Medicare. Thus McKenna and the loony ultra-right may achieve for us of the left what we could not achieve without their mindless opposition.

Should my preferred outcome manifest itself, look for Rob McKenna to claim credit. We already know that Republicans are more craven than your average politician in leaping, as if they were playing jump-rope, from one side of an issue to the other. I expect that Rob McKenna will try to salvage his political career in Washington by claiming that he knew it all along, that he guided the law suit specifically so that the courts would force Congress to enact the single-payer option.

A lot of speculative events would have to combine to bring about the result I've outlined but in the interim we have already had the insurance companies working hard to make our arguments for us. You see, one of the primary arguments for a government run, single-payer health plan was that it created competition for the insurance companies and forced better behavior on those insurers. Of course, the neo-fascist defenders of "free market" economics suddenly argued that in this one case competition would destroy rather than improve the market. Right-wing fanatics have never had a problem with being on both sides of an issue at once. Still, the brazenness of the insurance companies hasn't been on more transparent display than when, less than a week following signing of the health care reform legislation, they decided that they had found a semantic, quasi-legal way to circumvent the provision that they must cover children - in case you did not catch that: CHILDREN - with pre-existing medical conditions. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sibelius, quickly issued a directive that the evasion that the insurers proposed using was not only incorrect but would result in vigorous opposition from DHHS. Yet the insurers in this announcement clarified the impression that they will not accept reform quietly and are working overtime to find ways to circumvent the reforms. So much for the arguments from the American Enterprise Institute and insurance trade groups that they need no oversight or competition to enforce their providing high quality medical insurance coverage.

So cautiously I look forward to insurance executives' greed, right-wing fanaticism, and mindless opposition to any Democratic proposals creating the atmosphere in which government run health care with not only be inevitable but popular and enacted into law.