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August 23, 2009


"he is a corrupt and immoral man"


One who is trying to murder reform is also trying to murder those who will die from lack of health insurance. Deaths from lack of coverage are as certain as deaths from a drunk driver speeding down a crowded street.

why say this?

He's sprucing up the shrine of Kent Conrad. Is it OK to say 'pissant'?

The Senate is composed of 100 over-weening egos attached to human form. Conrad would really really like to have his name enshrined as "the man who created health-care co-ops."

I have always thought that Conrad says what Baucus thinks.

I had a friend from ND who told me that the most important thing for a pol from ND or SD is his hair. Also that the old ladies there would be able to say [imagine ND accent], 'Oh, he's a nice boy'. Think about it - Dorgan, Thune, Johnson, Conrad...

I think the basic problem here is that there are a lot of people in the United States who simply don't want publicly provided health care or health insurance.

They'll accept Medicare because it's already there and there aren't the same alternatives for older folks that there are for people who are still of working age.

But bottom line, I think the "public option" in any of its various forms is going to meet strong and consistent resistance, from legislators and the public alike, because they just don't like it and they don't want it.

I don't know much about Conrad (although from the picture I feel comfortable saying that, in fact, his hair *is* great), but his resistance to public offerings may be in good faith. By which I mean, he might simply be agin 'em.

It's weird to me, personally, that in a nation where the public sector either directly runs or else closely manages a very, very broad range of services, that a public health insurance offering should freak people out to such a high degree.

But it does.

Anyone interested in international relations (and negotiation in general) should consider playing a game or two of Diplomacy.

Its main distinctions from most board wargames are its negotiation phases (players spend much of their time forming and betraying alliances with other players)[2] and the complete absence of luck. Set in Europe just before the beginning of World War I, Diplomacy is played by seven players, each controlling the armed forces of a major European Power. Each player aims to move his or her few starting units—and defeat those of others—to win possession of a majority of strategic cities and provinces marked as "supply centers" on the map; these supply centers allow players who control them to produce more units.

Pretty simple. But it's awfully hard to suss out what the other players are up to when the only information one has is what the other players say before they move their pieces, the moves themselves, and what they say afterward. Good players become adept at divining the interests of other players while disguising their own. Good players are generally highly skilled persuaders, as well.

Another game, Republic of Rome, offers outsiders a fairly close-up look at the workings of a Legislative body.

Diplomacy, alliances, persuasions, prosecutions, murders and even conspiracies are the tools of the trade by which the players compete to become the most powerful faction in the senate. Power is gained by commanding battles, holding offices, sponsoring gladiator games, sponsoring land bills, owning concessions and in many other ways.

What separates Republic of Rome from many other games is the extent to which the players have to cooperate in order to win. If a player is too selfish or too obviously becomes powerful, he will be put down by the others. If there is not enough cooperation between all players, the game wins and all players lose.

That last bit is key, and it's on display here. Senators must separate themselves from the pack in order to gain influence, but many of those distance-gainers threaten the health of the rest of the group (the Democratic majority in particular, the entire Republic if the direst predictions about healthcare inaction come true).

I've played RoR three times now. My strategy for the first was straight sociopath; I didn't care if Rome fell, as long as it fell with me leading the Senate. My strategy for the second was pure altruism. For the third I sought some balance; look for opportunities to grab laurels and reap rewards that also benefited Rome.

In all three efforts, the game won and Rome collapsed. I wish our Senators good luck.

you are so over the top

in a nation where the public sector either directly runs or else closely manages a very, very broad range of services,

A conservative might say that in, say, the Dakotas, where a huge portion of salaries and livelihoods are contingent on the Fed. Gov., that people who deal with the government a lot don't like it, therefore they're against the public option (or other Federal programs).

But I don't think that's it at all. I think it's as much shame as anything else. Very many of those 'rugged individualists' out in the west would not have states to live in without the Feds, and couldn't survive without them.

Russell's surmise might be correct, but I doubt that it's been thought out as well as he suggests (Medicare, etc.). And I think it most likely has more to do with what Blue Cross wants than with what ND people want.

BTW, my (ex) ND friend is an O'Reilly watching, homophobic, female-phobic, government-hating reactionary; guess who he works for, and gets good health insurance from, and a good pension, and job security?

You get only one guess.

A hint: my ex-friend works for the same organization his brother does. And his father did. And the three friends of his I met.

the Senate is an ass.

Russell's surmise might be correct, but I doubt that it's been thought out as well as he suggests (Medicare, etc.)

Yeah, I think there's a lot of "Medicare's OK because I'm on it". How much more thinking is required?

I'm actually not married to the public option. Whatever is going to make medical care available to as close to everyone as is possible, works for me.

I just find the animus toward public efforts bizarre.

And for the record, in 2005 ND got $1.68 for every dollar of federal taxes they paid.

Maybe they're trying to starve the beast.

@ russell
What do you make of this SUSA poll showing 77% of respondents viewing a public option as either extremely important or quite important? (http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=5ba17aa2-f1b9-4445-a6b8-62b9d1ba8693)

I suppose what I am getting at, and not in a snarky way, is that sure there are a group of people who hate the public option. But these are the same people who hate government full stop. They do not comprise anything close to a majority. Their voices are simply amplified by the rightwing noise machine and their willing abettors in the Beltway media.

Kent Conrad has long been a debt hawk. He was railing against Dubya's increase of the national debt all through the last 8 years; he is fighting against increasing the national debt now. Whatever other motivations he might have, he is at least consistent on the debt.

Now, I worry about the national debt, too. It's frightening: close to $40K for every man, woman, and child in America. Even more frightening is the flexibility of most politicians: unlike Conrad, they worry about the debt only when a President of the opposite party is in office. Most frightening of all, this attitude seems to be shared by many voters.

I have long held that the sensible thing to do, in this ideologically polarized nation, is to privatize the national debt. Split the check. Assign each American his fair share of the national debt to service or pay down as he sees fit. Let each individual American experience (his share of) the national debt as just another credit-card balance, with a monthly statement and minimum payment due, and we would soon find out how fiscally conservative (or not) the American people actually are.

In particular, we would find out whether a people which is accustomed to buying houses and cars and even groceries on credit is really all that frightened about taking on a bit of extra debt in exchange for real health insurance. Then we would be able to tell the Kent Conrads (and Pete Petersons, and David walkers) of the world to chill out about the national debt. Or not. I could live with either outcome.


The problem with that idea is that the rich will simply shrug it off while the financial industry will use it as an opportunity to screw over the poor even more.
All that apart of course from the guaranteed unwillingness of the countries and other entities holding those debts to allow the whole maneuver.
If the idea was possible to execute it would have to be distributed with a certain weighing (e.g. proportional to wealth).


The holders of our national debt are probably clear on the concept that it's already the American people who must pay it off or service it. The US government gets its money from American taxpayers. I suppose the US government could service our national debt by simply printing money, but I doubt that any of the bondholders would prefer that.

What the bondholders would oppose, if they're smart, is a strict per-capita allocation of the "national" debt. To have any hope of actually collecting their interest, the bondholders would demand a progressive allocation.

Alas, much of the national debt is held by rich Republican Americans as well as by Chinese central bankers. To the former, progressivity of any sort is anathema.

With respect to your first paragraph, I should be clear that it's the IRS, not Chase or BofA, who would be in charge of keeping track of the individual balances, sending out statements, collecting payments, and so forth. We individual Americans would actually have more choice than we have now, when our only "choice" is to make interest-only payments to the tune of 8% of our federal taxes. We would have the choice to pay down our individual share of the debt, if we chose to send in more than the bare minimum interest-only payment.

Still, everything depends on how progressively we do the original splitting of the check. As you rightly point out, if it was a strictly per-capita allocation, Bill Gates could pay off his $40K share of the "privatized national debt" with his lunch money.


I am no Kent Conrad fan, but for some reason, the headline on this post bothers me.

But the mere fact that an individual (non-rich) would have 40K$ added to personal debts would make that individual vulnerable to financial vultures.

Wow, publius, you've made Conrad seem reasonable with your absurd murder/reckless homicide analysis. Way to go! Bad writing, bad comparison, bad policy substance. A trifecta!

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