The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Back In The US(S)A

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 22, 2009 @ 10:33

Death panels? Sounds like something you get from IKEA...

Because British politics is boring me again – I’ll believe the leaders debate when I see it – it’s time to look at what’s going on in the States…

Recent developments have resulted in the Senate’s leadership managing to give just enough bribes and throw enough of the progressive parts of the legislation into the fire to assure themselves of passage. Having greased the wheels with pork fat, the Democrats now have the 60 votes necessary to break the endless Republican filibuster.

This is good news. While the legislation is an utter dog’s breakfast, it is a step in the right direction. The legislative sausage-making process usually highlights the extreme division between incrementalists and revolutionists. I generally count myself in the latter camp – incremental change is invariably used as an excuse to never reach the goal – but as far as the USA is concerned, there is no such thing as revolution in legislative terms.

The main reason being, of course, the nature of the US Constitution. A constitution I’m a big fan of, except for the obvious bits us lefties hate. Damn you, Second Amendment!

The whole point of the American system is to slow change to an utterly glacial level. Some argue the most radical reforms have come as a result of judicial decisions, and that would be fair comment. And in recent years, the pace has slowed even further due to the extreme lengths Republicans in the minority in the Senate are using the power of the filibuster. The filibuster, which is of debatable constitutionality, and is now the normal order of business, even though that was never its intended purpose.

So getting anything through Congress, in the face of Republican opposition which has sullied the level of the debate to new lows: socialism, death panels, enormous deficits (despite them being created by Bush), is a major achievement. A Republican opposition which chose from the outset to do its best to destroy the healthcare reform agenda rather than engage in a debate the country desperately needs to have.

The worry to liberals like me, however, is that this is probably as good as it’s going to get. And this is why Obama should have engaged harder in this process. He has to appreciate that this is very likely to be his high water mark in terms of the support he’s going to get from Congress. It’s all downhill from here, and by the end of his second term (let’s stay hopeful) he’ll very likely be dealing with a Republican Congress, more right-wing than ever.

What next, then? Well, the hope of progressives has always been that the Senate and the House would come to a compromise between their bills, one very centrist, the other a bit more radical, though still very mild. That isn’t going to happen. The Senate will not accept more than a minor tinker to their version. And the Progressive caucus in the House will give up their pretend opposition to more gifts to the insurance industry, as they always do.

So America will get some healthcare reform. This is very good progress. But there will be no appetite for reopening the issue any time soon.

And meanwhile, other issues will return. Climate change. More stimulus. Immigration reform. More opportunities for the Senate to delay and destroy the only chance America has for genuine reform in the next decade.

Methinks Obama really missed the boat here…

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