By Joe Campbell
October 29th, 2009
Lieberman’s argument against the public option is simply false. “I think a lot of people may think that the public option is free,” he says. “It’s not. It’s going to cost the taxpayers and people who have health insurance now, and if it doesn’t it’s going to add terribly to the national debt.” Soon enough, he’ll be looking at Congressional Budget Office numbers saying the exact opposite. The public option costs taxpayers nothing, adds nothing to the debt and saves everyone money. Lieberman won’t be able to hang onto this argument for very long, and then what? [my emphasis]
That seems to be almost willful naivete – as if facts get in the way of insisting something is true! Lieberman can – and probably will – continue to insist that the public option will cost tons of money and add to the deficit no matter what any “independent” body says – and if anyone in the media confronts him on it, they’ll let him off easy as he blows smoke in their face and talks about how, “Nothing is for free.”
The conversation will go like this:
Media guy: Independent estimates show that the public option will save money. The CBO – which you have often cited as a quality source – has said it will cut health care costs by $____ billion dollars. Yet you oppose the public option because you claim it will cost money. How can you do this?
Lieberman: Nothing is free, [name of media guy.] And a report came out just last week that showed how the public option would add $___ million trillion to the deficit. [Neglecting to mention that it was funded by some from for the health insurance industry.] With the public option, health care costs will skyrocket! Nothing is for free. And the public option will lead to rationing of care.
Media guy: Well enough on that, let’s move on to Iran.
Or perhaps Ezra just assumes Lieberman is a good guy who has genuine concerns that are based on policy, but just hasn’t taken the time to take an even cursory look into the main item of controversy in the major policy issue for the past three or so months.
I don’t think that is that likely. Which is why I think Jonathan Chait’s read on Lieberma’s motives is more accurate than Ezra’s:
[Lieberman is] furious with the party, resentful of President Obama (who beat his friend in 2008) and would relish a Democratic catastrophe…My guess is that ultimately he’ll vote for reform, but he’ll do so because the Democrats will scale back their plan and win over Olympia Snowe, making Lieberman’s opposition academic. Lieberman won’t join a futile filibuster, but if he has the chance to stick in the knife and kill health care reform, I think he’d probably jump at the chance.
[Image adapted from a photo by TalkRadioNews licensed under Creative Commons.]