I wouldn’t pretend to completely understand the way Senate Democrats think and make decisions, but Howard Dean’s op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that the Senate version of health-care reform is not worth supporting, seems devastating. It’s not just that he isn’t on board with Senate version, but that he so vehemently insists this will make things worse.
The White House is offering the usual half-a-loaf arguments – this is the most significant reform in a generation, look at all the good it does, etc. – but Dean denounces it in ways that probably would leave Joe the Plumber nodding:
Few Americans will see any benefit until 2014, by which time premiums are likely to have doubled. In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG.
Dean hits the usual liberal points about needing to do more for the uninsured, but the giant-taxpayer-giveaway-to-big-corporations strikes a populist note that has a lot of credibility right now, after the Wall Street bailouts, the special tax break for Citibank, the rescue of the automakers, etc.
It’s hard to think of a figure who has greater street cred among liberal Democrats than Dean, now that Ted Kennedy is gone. Dean’s style was never “yeah, okay” – it was always more “YEAAARRGH” – but the fact that he can’t bring himself to call the bill an improvement over the status quo will trigger all of the anger points of the liberal grassroots – cries of betrayal, paranoia about special interests, distrust of their leaders, attribution of sinister occult powers to Joe Lieberman, etc.
Bernie Sanders of Vermont is already a “no.” I suspect he won’t be the only Senate Democrat.