The New York Times published a paean to Max Baucus as the great advocate and negotiator on health care reform today. It talks about how he likes to bring evryone to the table and work with both sides and seek bipartisan compromise, blah,blah,blah. And then it slips this in two thirds of the way through:
He conceded that it was a mistake to rule out a fully government-run health system, or a “single-payer plan,” not because he supports it but because doing so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left Mr. Obama’s proposal of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most liberal position.
And then it just picks right up and talks about what a terrific legislator he is:
In more than a year of preparation, Mr. Baucus largely developed a new model for writing complex legislation, bringing in an array of interest groups, lobbyists and other experts to lay out issues and options for senators and aides.
In fairness, Baucus wasn't alone in taking single payer off the table. The presidential candidates all did that and without running on it or at least having it as an option there was very little chance it would be taken seriously as the liberal starting point anyway. It's quite clear that the Democratic establishment decided a long time ago that we could not be completely rational about health care in this country, many of them because they are slaves to the insurance industry (Baucus among them) and many others because they fear anything that will rile up the Republicans.
But please, spare us the encomiums to the brilliant tactician who took single payer off the table and dealt himself a weakened hand. Clearly, we'll be lucky at this point if we don't end with a system that forces us to pay more and receive less. They're that good.