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The Public Option is Popular, Moral and Inexpensive, Therefore it Must Die

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Attention politicians and traditional media people. Important announcement.

Is everyone with me? Chuck Todd: stop applying your beard rouge and pay attention. Bartiromo: leave the cork on the fork.

Okay, here we go.

The public health insurance option as defined in both the Senate HELP bill and the House bill (HR 3200) is not a far-left liberal proposal. A far-left liberal proposal would actually be a single-payer plan. The public option is actually a program supported by almost everyone, despite the misleading way it's currently being discussed by Republicans, town hall wingnuts, cable news "smackdown" panelists and other very serious members of the Washington establishment.

To wit, David Brooks' column the other day urged the president to reconnect with "the center" on issues like healthcare reform, and to also exercise more "fiscal restraint." Naturally, Brooks isn't prescribing this approach in a vacuum. It's all over Washington, including within certain corridors at the White House.

And it only takes a few minutes of cable news viewing to arrive at the assumption that the "centrist" position on healthcare reform, according to Brooks and other establishment people, is a bill without a public option. The health insurance lobby in collusion with both the corrupt and spineless Blue Dogs and the lying hacks who control the cartoonish Republican Party have successfully convinced large chunks of Washington that the public option is some sort of ultra-left concoction manufactured inside the secret underground Wellstone Memorial Lib-ratory located beneath Howard Dean's cavernous walk-in Birkenstock closet.

The reality, however, is that a healthcare reform bill with a robust public option is both extraordinarily popular and fiscally responsible, while, on the other hand, the kind of "centrist" bill that David Brooks wants is actually more expensive and generally more corrupt. In other words, a bill without the public option can hardly be called "centrist" by any definition of the term.

If Brooks wants "fiscal restraint," as he writes in his column, he'd endorse the public option. What I'm about to write is old news, but with the apparent prevalence of breaking news stories on cable news about bears wandering into suburban swimming pools, I suppose it's easy for people to forget. Nevertheless, here it is. You may recall that the CBO scored the Kennedy HELP bill as costing around $1 trillion over ten years. But that was an early version of the bill without a public option included. What did the bill cost with the public option inserted into the mix?

$400 billion less.

Less!

The public option reduced the price tag of the HELP bill by $400 billion. By Grabthar's Hammer, what a savings.

How is this not indicative of fiscal restraint and centrist politics, Mr. Brooks? The public option is the very definition of fiscal restraint and anyone who opposes the inclusion of the public option in a final healthcare reform bill is actually in favor of spending more money -- not less. To the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.

Additionally, I'm not aware of any centrist voters who are particularly in love with the idea of a healthcare reform bill that contains mandates but no public option escape hatch. As I wrote last week, this is without question a transparent, massive and compulsory government handout to corporate criminals.

Such a bill would require us to buy a policy from a private health insurer -- the same corporations that are currently denying coverage to paying customers and literally getting away with murder; the same type of corporation that randomly tripled my monthly premium, forcing me to either cancel my policy or go out of business. Every American citizen would be mandated by law to pump their cash into a system that's inherently corrupt and, from a production standpoint, wholly worthless. The public option, though, would provide an option of good conscience for those of us who find it morally repugnant to financially support the private insurers.

The convergence of government power and corporate greed is centrist? Really? Once again, the public option solves the problem.

And then there are the polls. Last week, the AARP published the results of a poll showing 79 percent of the American people support "a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase." Unless 79 percent of the American people are far-left liberals, this poll indicates that the public option enjoys support from practically everyone. 61 percent of Republicans support the public option. 80 percent of independents. Literally, the "centrists."

The latest SurveyUSA poll, meanwhile, showed that 77 percent of Americans think it's important "to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance." When the same question was asked by NBC News back in June, the poll showed 76 percent support. Virtually unchanged, even with all the coverage of the screeching tea party hooples last month.

There's no ambiguity here. The public option is resoundingly popular, fiscally conservative and morally sound. It's centrist, it's liberal, it's conservative. Unless you don't believe in, you know, numbers.

As for the president, his position on healthcare reform generally hasn't changed since the campaign. The public option, cost controls, insurance reform, revenue neutral, and so forth have all been part of his healthcare reform plan. The "centrists" who supported the president were well aware of what the president had in mind for healthcare. So the current policy shouldn't be a surprise.

Incidentally, Brooks also wrote about a reconciliation vote on healthcare alienating "the center." Believe me, no one other than junkies and wonks will care about the parameters of a reconciliation vote. In fact, I would wager that most Obama voters in "the center" don't even really know what reconciliation is. And if they're told, my hunch is their reaction will be, "A simple majority? What's wrong with that?"

I don't claim to know what David Brooks' actual motivation might be, but if I had to guess I would wager that it has much to do with a dishonest attempt to recalibrate the scales on healthcare reform. To redefine known reality in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. While the numbers show every reason for there to be almost unanimous support for the public option, the best way to diminish its support is to peg it as somehow fringe, scary, shrill and out of the mainstream, and to subsequently define the "center" as essentially what we've been hearing from the wingnut right. The ultimate goal achieved in this process is to give cover to Republicans and conservadems who have corporate mafia dons they're required to vigorously stroke.

I can only recall the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq when the establishment press and most of Washington got it so wrong. Deliberately or accidentally -- it doesn't matter. It's wrong and it's deceptive. And they're doing it all over again.

What we can conclude at this point is that the press and the far-right have managed to largely change the terms of the debate without regards to reality. Knowing this, we have a couple of months here to set the record straight and to achieve a robust, affordable, portable and reliable public health insurance plan. Considering the dishonesty and insanity of the opposition, it ought to be a winnable fight.

Alright Washington people, you're dismissed. Except for you, Bartiromo. You need to go here and learn about Medicare before you go on television and make an ass of yourself again.

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