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Friday, September 14, 2007

The stars may be aligning again but Starr is not

I am very unimpressed by his post here.

I comment

You contradict yourself repeatedly. You note that setting up the "task force" and "working groups" caused unnecessary controversy and delay, yet you deny that the health care plan "got bogged down and delivered too late." You present overwhelming evidence that the delay was politically disasterous and completely unnecessary as Bill Clinton had already made his basic decision and knew that the details would be negotiated in congress. You note that reform seemed inevitable on January 20 and very difficult when the plan was sent to congress. What could have been accomplished in the interim that was worth the delay ?

You note the costly consequences of compromising unilaterally.
The Clinton administration started with a plan designed to appeal to centrists and irritate progressives, then found that centrists like Breux and Kerrey were not interested in a compromise that they hadn't negotiated. Clinton decided to do their jobs for them. This is not the way to deal with Senators. Then you note that the Clintons had to tack left at a time when the right was attacking them. The lesson would seem to be that one should not waste time negotiating with oneself. This is, of course, exactly what Hillary Clinton is now doing with your enthusiastic support. She must know that anything she proposes will be considered dangerously left wing by swing state senators. It seems obvious that she must propose something then concede to their demands that it be watered down. This is more difficult if she proposes weak tea to begin with. Your analysis strongly supports the conclusion that Hillary Clinton is making the exact same mistake her husband made in 1992. Yet you forget the lessons you learned from the past when you discuss the present.

You neglect to mention any alternative proposal. In particular, you present the choice of an extremely regressive financing scheme as inevitable. The key conflict with the treasury was over financing with a poll tax (following the lead of the great progressive Margaret Thatcher) and firm wide cap and financing with a payroll tax. How about you try to convince Prospect readers that the treasury was wrong on that one. Oh and while your at it how about making firms buy annuities for their workers and eliminating this silly FICA tax where the amount firms and workers pay increases with workers' incomes (can't have that).

I have read the claim that large firms turned against the plan because human resources managers didn't like the idea that their efforts to provide lowest cost insurance were forbidden and they would have to turn their jobs over to the "alliances". I'd say that management consultant Magaziner was sticking to the usual strategy of telling people that he can do their job better than they can. Since he wasn't convincing the boss but rather a President who can do nothing without congress, we have all paid very much for his absurd arrogance.

Oh and by the way, can you find anyone anyone but Bill Clinton who is willing to defend Ira Magaziner. Maybe the widespread (to universal) view that he was an appallingly arrogant idiot way over his head is based on fact.

I don't know much of anything about health policy. I don't need to know anything to refute your conclusion, since your own arguments refute it in advance.

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