Claws and Fangs and Health Care Reform

House Democrats: you’ve got the claws and fangs. Get the Bunny!

It’s one thing to say that you won’t vote for something good on policy grounds because it would be politically harmful.  But to refuse to vote for something that would be good even when it would be politically helpful is… well, a sign that you are a Democratic member of the House of Representatives.

How can we explain this?  Maybe a note from Hollywood will do the trick.  Thus:

The Democrats are sitting there with claws and fangs; they could pass health care reform now.  But they are too busy staring at their claws and fangs, worrying about how it’s going to look to someone, and the bunny will get away.  And then the Republicans will take the claws and fangs away from them.

Listen to the great political savant, Vince Vaughn: you don’t want to be like the guy in the PG-13 movie whom everyone is rooting so hard for.  You want to be like the guy in R rated movie whom everyone is a little scared of.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

6 thoughts on “Claws and Fangs and Health Care Reform”

  1. "But to refuse to vote for something that would be good even when it would be politically helpful is…"

    Evidence that somebody named Jonathan Zasloff is a lot less competent at determining what's politically helpful than professional politicians, and probably has reading comprehension problems when it comes to polls.

  2. I'm still trying to get my head around which house Democrats don't want to pass a bill, and for what reason.

    If anything, the bill will be more conservative, and thus even more tenable to blue dogs than what they already passed. And so is it the liberal members then, who are miffed because they can't get the bill they voted for? They can't seriously be worried that a vote for a more conservative bill will hurt them in elections? To a particular brand of arrogant liberal (this was me once: I voted for Nader in 2000), that might fly. But c'mon…

  3. Jonathan ZasloffIt

    "It’s one thing to say that you won’t vote for something good on policy grounds because it would be politically harmful. But to refuse to vote for something that would be good even when it would be politically helpful is… well, a sign that you are a Democratic member of the House of Representatives."

    (Note to Jonathan – I've called my rep, Pelosi, and my senators.)

    Jonathan, this is call leadership. Obama has failed miserably, assuming that his enemies were merely opponents and not strong opponents at that. Reid has failed to keep people in line (a lesser failure, because Obama is clearly not backing him up – or anybody else, for that matter).

    The House Democrats, at this point, are realizing the the President is without a clue, a spine or a brain, and that the senate is dominated by a pack of back-stabbing traitors, with the eager acquiescence of most Democratic senators.

    Don't be surprised if the House wing of the Democratic Army isn't going to somehow heroically make up for the failre of the other two wings.

  4. Eli says:

    "I’m still trying to get my head around which house Democrats don’t want to pass a bill, and for what reason.

    If anything, the bill will be more conservative, and thus even more tenable to blue dogs than what they already passed."

    When looking at congress people (Reps and Senate scum) it's important to remember that 'right-wing Democrat' usually means somebody who's much more comfortable with the GOP, but has some reason for official membership in the Democratic Party. So a bunch of the right-wing reps would just oppose because it's a Democratic bill. Some would do it to lynch an uppity n*gger Restore Legislative Balance (ignore their kneeling before King Bush II).

    Others would go with the side that can write large campaign fund checks, and large post-retirement 'consulting' paychecks; that would be the right.

    " And so is it the liberal members then, who are miffed because they can’t get the bill they voted for? They can’t seriously be worried that a vote for a more conservative bill will hurt them in elections? To a particular brand of arrogant liberal (this was me once: I voted for Nader in 2000), that might fly. But c’mon…"

    What the House liberals have seen is that Obama left them hanging; the Senate Dems consists of one faction which should be called 'Republican' and another faction which should be called "f*cking *sshole mother f*ckers who will stand by and let back-stabbing 'centrist democratic' senators f*ck things up, and not do sh*t about it, due their fear of looking like they have a set of balls".

    I've been using a military metaphor here; the center group (Obama) has provben to be ineffectual; the right-wing (the Senate) is full of f*cking flat-out traitors, and those who will never lift a hand against those traitors. This leaves the left wing of the army hanging by itself. One wouldn't be suprised if the wing left hanging by itself has morale trampled into the mud/blood/horsesh*t mixture that everybody's standing in.

  5. Jonathan: "Listen to the great political savant, Vince Vaughn: you don’t want to be like the guy in the PG-13 movie whom everyone is rooting so hard for. You want to be like the guy in R rated movie whom everyone is a little scared of."

    Can you think of a better description of Obama in '09? He was that guy in the PG-13 movie.

  6. When you start with assuming that your two premises are beyond reproach — i.e., that the Senate bill is "good" policy and that its passage is "good" politically, well then, you would be right.

    But most people (including many of the Village progressives like you) acknowledge that the Senate Bill is not "good" policy — only that it is "better than nothing" and/or "all we can get," and that we will somehow fix it "later." Moreover, a lot of progressives (i.e., those currently being demonized by the Village progressives) believe that the Senate bill is bad policy because (a) it mandates that everyone buy overpriced, high deductible and high co-pay health insurance from an industry with nothing to control its anti-consumer behavior, (b) many of those forced to buy overpriced, high deductible and high co-pay insurance (even with subsidies) will get decent health care because they cannot afford the co-pays and deductibles, (c) extending health care insurance (but not necessarily actual health care) to some of the poor on the backs of the middle class with so-called Cadillac plans will simply push more of the middle class into the category of people with health care insurance who cannot afford health care due to out-of-pocket co-pays and deductibles, (d) limits on rescission and benefit caps are illusory at best, and (e) state enforcement of what rules are left int he Senate bill is a joke (see credit card regulation.

    The same is true for the politics of the Senate bill. Many progressives (and independents) believe that the Senate bill is little more than a giveaway to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry, it does nothing to hold down costs or rein in profiteering. More to the point, it strengthens immeasurably the fold the for-profit health care industry has on consumers and the politicians they buy. If this is the best the people of this country can get after two landslide victories (2006 and 2008), control of the presidency, and huge majorities in both houses of Congress, then there appears to be little reason to vote for Democrats or progressive or even to vote at all. The only way to win what you want, is to fight for what you want. If your always willing to take the crumbs (as progressives like you always seem to be), then crumbs are all you'll ever get. If the Senate bill passes now, be prepared to be relegated to lifting off the crumbs for some time to come (and don't expect unions, young voters, independents, and others that wanted real change to believe you next time you ask for support for real change).

    And one final word — don't tell me that the Senate bill "will save lives," because I'm not convinced it will (and have never seen anyone back up that claim). I suspect the truth is to the contrary — passing the Senate bill will — short term and long term — do more harm than good. Specifically, I believe it will relegate most working people to a lifetime of serfdom to the health care insurance and pharmaceutical industries, a serfdom and impoverishment enforced by government mandate

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