One of the things I've learned from my many years in journalism (and yes, even my short stint as a political staffer) is that when legislation is firs
July 23, 2009

One of the things I've learned from my many years in journalism (and yes, even my short stint as a political staffer) is that when legislation is first proposed, people throw a bunch of crap on the wall and duke it out over the details. You know why they say it's like watching sausage being made? Because it's stomach-churning.


Several bloggers linked to this. They're taking the article in good faith and assume it's accurate in its conclusions (that the public option has been gutted and the idea of "reform" amounts to a bait and switch), and I just don't believe that.

The author doesn't even seem to understand how legislation is made. It's kind of like judging the way a finished room will look by painting a stripe on the wall: It's not the whole picture.

The bills are usually weakened at this point in the process - but they're fixed later in committee. One of the reasons it still works like this is so politicians can say, "I voted against that!" if part of a bill becomes controversial in his or her district. (Remember the thing with Kerry, where he said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I was against it"? He's right. All politicians do it.) Some of the same politicians who are screaming on the teevee against this will be a lot more reasonable once the cameras aren't running. The final committee work is what counts.

So really, the sky isn't falling. I would tell you if I thought it was. I mean, I'm not exactly known as Obama's biggest booster, am I?

I'd rather ward off the attacks from the insurance companies and the Blue Dogs instead. It's no secret that I think single payer is the best solution - but I'm not going to try to poison this compromise bill to prove a point.

The next best thing to single payer is structural change that really makes people understand and support the concept that health care can and should be accessible to everyone. This bill will do that, and we can improve from there.

I'm actually shocked to find the more I look at the long-term strategy here, the more I like it. The fact is, it will be a lot more politically difficult for members of Congress to vote against those future incremental improvements than to vote against the entire plan now. Once it's in place, and constituents start calling their elected officials with complaints about flaws in the bill, they're going to have to fix those problems - or at the very least, not get in the way of the solution.

Remember: Social Security only covered about half of the people when it first passed. It took almost 10 years to get there, but you couldn't take it away now. The voters would be furious.

We won't get there overnight, but this bill will at least be a decent start.

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