Monday, August 17, 2009

The Public Option: Nothing But a Shell Game

Probably most everyone has seen the shell game being played, maybe at a summer state fair: the eager, naive mark is sure he can beat the huckster, whirling the shells in front of his eyes; he's so sure which shell hides the pea, but the huckster beats the poor dumb mark, every time. The game is portrayed as a gambling game, but in reality, when money is on the line, it is a confidence trick used to perpetrate fraud. This trick is referred to as a short-con, because it's quick and easy to pull off.

ObamaTeam must have thought they had a shell game going with "health reform," and particularly with the piece of the bill that has come to be known as the public option. The public is stupid, ObamaTeam obviously believes. The public doesn't really pay attention to this stuff. Pass the public option, and maybe not right away, but eventually, everyone would be dropped from their private insurance and forced onto the government plan. The public option, once passed, would naturally lead to a single-payer option, straight up. And of course single-payer is where they really want to take us, since it's not really about health care reform, but instead it's about a government power grab the likes of which this country has never seen.

But on the way to passing his health care bill, ObamaTeam ran into a snag: in the hot month of August, when they should have been playing at the beach, the citizens started paying attention. Unlike members of Congress, some of them even read the bill. And what they found, they didn't like, particularly that piece of it known as the public option. People attending town hall meetings let their Senators and Representatives know that in this health care bill, they smelled a rat.

Then over this past weekend, it began to seem as though Washington was listening to the voices of the angry town hall citizen "mobs." CNN reported that Senator Kent Conrad (D, North Dakota), a key member of the Senate Finance Committee which is working to put out a health care bill, said that Obama should drop his push for the public option because the Senate will never pass it. He said it was futile to continue to "chase that rabbit" because the Senate doesn't have the 60 votes needed on the issue to overcome a filibuster.

Then the artless Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary, told CNN that a government-run public option is "not an essential part" of health insurance reform.

Also, ham-faced Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary, appeared on Face the Nation and said that fostering competition and choice were non-negotiable, but the specific mechanism to do so was up for discussion.

These comments seemed to indicate a softening of the ObamaTeam position on the public option, that they would be willing to drop the public option from the bill in order to get some sort of health reform bill passed. Well, not so fast.

This morning, The Atlantic, which ought to just be retitled The Atlantic White House Mouthpiece, published a report providing "clarity" about the intentions of the President. An "anonymous White House source" reports that Kathleen Sebelius "misspoke." The source said the White House did not intend to change its messaging, that President Obama believes the public option is the best way to reduce costs and promote competition, he has not backed away from that belief, and he continues to want to see a public option in the final bill.

Opponents of ObamaCare should be wary of any talk of "compromise" on the public option coming from Washington. ObamaTeam has shown itself to be a huckster, looking for the easy mark. We can't afford to play their shell game, because if we play, just like the easy mark, we will lose. The huckster always beats anyone dumb enough to play his game.

As a reminder, here is YouTube Obama, speaking in his own words about the public option scheme.

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