The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Failure is Their Only Option

Steve Benen asks a question about the Republican health care reform plan — or lack thereof
— that I’m certain I’ve seen answered already.

The House Republican leadership "guaranteed" that they would offer an alternative health care reform bill. If my count is right, that was 134 days ago.

Asked about when Americans can expect to see the GOP plan, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it’s "pretty difficult" for Republicans to come up with a "solid plan," because the minority caucus is "not quite sure how the majority intends to proceed."

I’m not sure what that’s even supposed to mean. Republicans started putting together their health care reform proposal in June. They’ve had plenty of time to meet behind closed doors and craft the superior plan that will prove the seriousness with which the GOP takes this issue. What’s the holdup?

Boehner wants to know first how Democrats intend to proceed? Well, here’s a tip for the Minority Leader: Democrats will probably hold a vote on the reform bill they’ve spent the last year putting together. The question is, how does he intend to proceed?

The answer is that they don’t intend to proceed. Because they can’t proceed.

A solution is necessary only if there’s a problem to be solved, and conservative politicial philosophy kind of prohibits them from perceiving a problem. Thus the don’t have a solution because they can’t come up with one that: (a) actually solves the problem in question by guaranteeing everyone access to quality, affordable health care and (b) rigidly adheres to the tenets of the political philosophy.

But I knew I’d seen it answered better than this somewhere. Then I realized that Benen answered it himself, a couple of days earlier.

I suspect part of the problem is that Republicans have noticed that health care reform is … what’s the word … tricky. Can GOP lawmakers come up with a proposal that covers the insured, offers consumer protections insurers don’t like, doesn’t raise taxes, lowers the deficit, and ensures exactly zero government intervention in the free market? It seems unlikely.

And yet, way back on June 17, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the point man on the alternative GOP plan, publicly proclaimed, "I guarantee you we will provide you with a bill."

It’s a "guarantee" Republicans are struggling to follow through on.

To be sure, I don’t necessarily blame Republicans for refusing to unveil an alternative health care plan. Producing a GOP reform proposal would not only give Democrats a target, it would offer people a chance to compare the two approaches. In a side-by-side match-up, it’s hardly a stretch to think the Dems’ plan would be better. Much better.

I even took a shot at it myself.

Whether or not it’s a crisis that millions of Americans are uninsured or underinsured, that thousands lose their health insurance every day, or that tens of thousands die every year because they lack health insurance is a matter of perspective. The same goes for the economic crisis, the foreclosure crisis, or any other crisis.

Depending on your perspective, there’s nothing wrong with hundreds of thousands, or even millions losing their homes to foreclosure. (Even if deregulating the finance sector made it easier to sell them time bombs, in the form of mortgages, that went off long after the people who really matter made an easy buck and moved on.) There’s nothing wrong with millions of people having no health insurance, and thus no access to affordable, quality care. There’s nothing wrong, because it’s all right, and there’s no need to do anything about it.

That’s why I have to disagree with the following assertion, from Simon Johnson and James Kwak.

No one is against expanding health coverage on principle. As we come down to crunch time, the health-reform debate is all about money.

We can’t assume that "no one is against expanding health coverage on principle," because it’s flat wrong. Just like there were plenty of people who were against mortgage modification on principle, and just like there were plenty of people who were against the economic stimulus on principle, there are plenty of people who disagree with expanding healthcare coverage. And they disagree with the very principle that everyone should be covered.

…Drop dead. That’s the overall message of conservatives who (a) see nothing wrong with the status quo in our health care system, because they (b) see nothing wrong with millions of people having no insurance and no access to care.

Seen from that perspective, it’s clear that the people who confronted GOP lawmakers in townhalls were talking about their wants not their needs. As such, they got put in their "place," for whining about privileges they clearly haven’t earned because they can’t afford them — like the woman Tom Coburn schooled (to thunderous applause) for wanting help for her husband’s medical problems.

They haven’t presented a health care reform plan because they’ve already told us their plan.

The answer is the same as when McCain was asked by Republicans never tried to reform health care when they held both the White House and Congress: because reform is only necessary if something’s wrong. And they didn’t see anything wrong with the status quo in this case.

In truth the GOP really doesn’t need to present a plan, because we already know what it is: failure — either for health care reform or the plan they’d present if they had one — is their only option.

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