Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why the "Kill the Bill" people have no sense

OK--This is my last post of the year (besides a Christmas video I just set on auto-post) So I'm gonna rant about something that has been making me absolutely crazy: Reading all of these lefty bloggers like Jane Hamsher trying to say that instead of passing the bill without a public option, they should just kill it and start over. This is quite possibly the stupidest thing I have heard since, well, shoot, I just remembered this, so I guess it's been the past two weeks or so.

In evaluating whether to pass any policy, there are three questions to ask:

  1. What are the benefits of the proposed policy compared to the status quo?
  2. what are the costs of the proposed policy compared to the status quo?
  3. Do the benefits of number 1 outweigh the costs of number 2?

Any other question is irrelevant and should not be considered. The questions to not be considered include the question "could the policy be better?"* That may be a good question when it is time to craft or amend legislation, but is totally irrelevant when asking whether the policy should be passed or not. Advocating that a bill be defeated because it is not as good as the best option, even though it's better than the status quo is not progressive or idealistic--it's petulant and naive.

For those of you who would argue that it is the "progressives'" way of trying to make the senate accede to their demands as they do with conservative democrats, I have news for you--these sorts of threats only work if they're rational. Conservative democrats have leverage on this issue because based on their interests, their objections are rational. No amount of wailing about the lack of a public option would give you leverage because at the end of the day, if you are rational, everyone knows you'll vote for the bill. What's more, If you're the kind of progressive who would cut off his nose to spite his face, the conservative faction won't hesitate to give you a knife.

While no one would argue that this is an ideal bill, the bill goes a long way to fixing what is wrong with out insurance system. That's pretty amazing. Now is the time to celebrate and encourage the conferees to make the final bill as good as it can be, rather than throwing rocks at the Democratic leadership because they didn't make a perfect bill.

* There is one important exception to this--if passing the policy now would make it harder for a better policy to pass in the future than it would be if we didn't pass the policy, that is a valid consideration in determining the costs and benefits of the policy. Since this is a bill that comes once in a generation and progressive reforms tend to lead to more progressive reforms being passed, this argument does not apply to the health care debate.

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