Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bullshit on stilts

said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana. “I just believe in the disinfectant of the sunshine. The more we have got questions on both sides, gradually the American people are going to see more and more and more that we really do need health care reform.”
Complete robotic balderdash. I could be a Democratic Senator, it's easy. Just keep repeating nonsense like this over and over: "both sides" "American people" "bipartisanship" "moderation", "good ideas" blah blah blah. And for that matter, I could get a job as a political analyst with the New York Times without changing my tune. Take a listen:
"Mr. Obama will face adversaries who are well prepared to joust with him on the finer points of health policy before a large audience that will be judging both sides and looking for signs of bipartisanship."
"One way Mr. Obama could throw Republicans off stride would be to make a bold opening offer to embrace one of their health care priorities, like limiting medical malpractice lawsuits — an idea one Democrat close to the White House said had been under consideration."
Let's see what we have here. The NY Times is telling everyone that they're looking "for signs of bipartisanship". Are they? Do we have any basis whatever for this claim? If that's true, then why did so many people vote for Democrats in 2008 if they were first and foremost concerned about this nebulous idea of "reaching across the aisle"? If we don't have any determinate idea about what should be done and which party should do it, why do we even have elections?

What else is the NY Times pontificating about? Well, they've got a brilliant strategy that would enable Obama to "throw the Republicans off stride". Evidently what he should do is start off the negotiation by offering to embrace "tort reform". What a brilliant idea, indeed, one that has worked wonders for Obama throughout his presidency so far. In effect the advice is to focus on "bipartisanship" in itself, rather than the ostensible goal of whatever policy is in question.

Why doesn't he just ask the Republicans nicely and then claim that they're "mean" if they say no?

Suppose you're buying a car. In a capitalist society, buyers and sellers are pitted against one another in an agnostic relationship in which their interests fundamentally diverge. Buyers want to purchase low and sellers want to sell high.

Now, you don't walk up to the salesperson and begin by offering them some piece of "what they want" and expect them to then to reciprocate. Market transactions are not reciprocal (and this, in my view, is a knock against the market itself). What the salesperson will do in this case is simply continue their strategy of trying to get the highest price they can. That is their goal, not trying to arrive at some compromise because that has some intrinsic worth.

If you start off with a tepid demand, the effect of more compromise is an even more watered-down and tepid demand.

Health care isn't a "debate", it isn't a "compromise" and it isn't a "conversation". It is a power struggle. Whatever ends up in the final bill will be the result of the relative balance of power (broadly construed). And we forget this at our own peril.

The ideological fantasies pedalled by the NY Times under the guise of "analysis" obscures the basic facts about how politics functions in a society like ours. The Republicans (even less than the Democrats) don't care about health care reform: their goal is to derail it and forestall and serious change. Does anyone really doubt that this is true?

The Democrats realize something has to change, but their goal is to "change" it in such a way that nothing important really changes. This is, admittedly, less obvious to many people, but no less true. Of course, is the paper of record actually stuck to gathering the appropriate facts and scrutinizing the statements of politicians.... perhaps it would be more obvious than it is at present.

No comments: