Obama Is Definitely Not Playing Ten-Dimensional Chess on Healthcare: Why Didn’t He Use the Ag Bill as Leverage?

For a bunch of guys who are supposed to be politically smart, Obama’s team sure is stupid. You’re probably wondering what the hell the agricultural bill (the bill that gives farmers lots of subsidies) has to do with healthcare. Once upon a time, people always used to joke that Senator Bob Dole could be rolled if you were willing to screw with the ag bill.

Which brings us to healthcare.

One of the obstacles to meaningful healthcare reform in North Dakota senator Kent Conrad who is an ideological deficit hawk. Most of the time (boldface mine):

While Conrad hasn’t given up his deficit hawkishness, not all spending has been equal. Conrad quickly spiked Obama’s plan to trim nearly $10 billion from the federal budget by cutting farm subsidies. The subsidies are given to wealthy farmers regardless of market conditions and help prop up the North Dakota economy.

The stance on farm subsidies neatly illustrates the paradox that is the conservative Democrat. Typified by House Blue Dogs, the faction claims the mantle of principled, fiscal responsibility. But, in practice, the position is often defined by fealty to the business interests that fund their campaigns or dominate their states.

In Conrad’s case, it’s difficult not to see how North Dakota affects his approach to health care. Thanks largely to farm subsidies, the state has one of the nation’s lowest rates of unemployment and few uninsured people — under 70,000, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Conrad also bases his support for health insurance co-ops in his state’s experience, calling it a a good example of an efficient and workable system.

And yet, in North Dakota, one insurance provider has near monopolistic dominance, and although it is technically a co-op — a nonprofit owned by its members — it hardly serves as an example of best practices. Indeed, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota raised its insurance premiums 74 percent from 2000 to 2007 and its incoming president commands a salary of somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000.

So if Obama is so damn smart, why didn’t he keep the ag bill is his back pocket? To be plain, he should have threatened to fuck over North Dakota if he doesn’t cooperate. In light of the spiraling increases in Massachusetts’ Romneycare (although North Dakota doesn’t seem to be doing so well either), I could give a rat’s ass if a bunch of preening, pious, pretentious ‘we’re real Americans from the heartland’ welfare queens are penniless and unemployed. They typically don’t vote for my interests in any meaningful way. It’s not a Democratic stronghold (with Dems like Conrad, who needs Republicans…). And, Mr. President, they didn’t vote for you. So if you have to screw someone, screw them, not your supporters.

Obama should have threatened to tank the ag bill, unless Conrad signed on to real health insurance reform.

Not so smart after all.

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4 Responses to Obama Is Definitely Not Playing Ten-Dimensional Chess on Healthcare: Why Didn’t He Use the Ag Bill as Leverage?

  1. NewEnglandBob says:

    Too much vitriol for me to finish reading here.

  2. RFM says:

    In order to get legislation passed sticking your finger in a Congressman’s eye is probably the least productive thing to do. Lest we forget, as the Senator from Tennessee put it so aptly, the aim is not health care, the aim is to break Obama’s popularity.
    There was a blog on Google news that appeared for only an hour before it got pulled that said it precisely. The screaming and ranting is about the resentment that a black man is president of the United States.

  3. Risk says:

    One of the reasons health care expenditure is so expensive in the US is that the private health insurance companies need a huge volume of transactions to boost the absolute value of their revenue, which leaves in its wake a sea of high-cost, low efficiency procedures while primary care doctors are driven out of the picture.
    Healthcare cost is already at near 20% of US GDP. Who is going to pay for debt from people who are bankrupt from medical procedures their insurance companies refuse to pay? What is going to happen to all the CAT scans and prescription drugs that nobody is going to be able to afford? I seriously wonder, are health insurance companies the next bubble? Will they become “too big to fail,” or are they already “too big to fail” now?
    In a way, I think we have been bailing out the health insurance companies for years with taxpayer money. If it weren’t for Medicare, the uninsured seniors would have ripped the insurance companies to shreds for rejecting them because they’re high risk. Or they would have died, devastating one of the most conservative voting blocs in the US. I don’t know.

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