Sunday, February 7, 2010

Reasons why I refuse to call myself a liberal or progressive

Usually, I find myself aligning more with Democratic/left positions, and consider myself extremely socially liberal. However, I do not call myself a progressive or liberal, because these labels apparently come with a set of positions I find annoying and even reprehensible. Here is a list of these positions, in no particular order:

1. “Bring the troops home/War is not the answer”: This is a nice slogan, but not a policy. For better or for worse, the US is involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Obama administration [WH] is drawing down the troop levels in Iraq, this will take some time. As for Afghanistan, I agree with WH that Al-Qaeda/the Taliban need to be destroyed, and this theater includes Pakistan (where WH sends drones.) Pakistan at the very least has a functioning central government (not to mention a strong Army); Karzai's administration is still weak. Withdrawing US troops in a knee-jerk fashion now will only lead to more instability in the region, possibly allowing the Taliban/Al-Qaeda to return to their pre-9/11 ascendancy.

2. Single-payer healthcare/Medicare-for-All/public option: First, eliminating private insurance companies – effectively nationalizing the insurance industry – is just not going to happen. While the existing system has many deficiencies, a majority of Americans are generally happy with their healthcare. Nationalization of an integral part of people's lives is too radical a change that will not go down well especially for a Democratic WH. But second, and more importantly, Medicare-for-All will not contain costs – Atul Gawande's famous New Yorker article compares healthcare costs through the Medicare prism, and finds that existing Medicare can pay twice as much for care that is not much better, if not actually worse. Current healthcare reform legislation tries to correct many of the deficiencies of private sector insurance – caps, recissions, no denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions – in addition to (AFAIK) delivery system reforms which really bend the cost curve. It would help if the Cornhusker kickback and other sweetheart deals (including that for unions*, see later) were removed from the legislation, but overall, just because the legislation does not achieve single-payer healthcare or include a public option is no reason to kill the bill.
(* I believe the union exemption is not yet part of the Senate bill, but a proposed fix in conference - not sure about its status in reconciliation fixes.)

3. “Unions are the greatest and can do no wrong!” - Unions provide a lot of important protections for their members, and collective bargaining gets better deals for workers. But unions also institute a hierarchy where pay rises with seniority, protect incompetent teachers/workers (Classrooms of Death), and have looked to better benefits in lieu of higher pay. Now that healthcare benefits may be taxed and at a flat rate rather than at the progressive income tax scales, these union-negotiated pay structures are looking really bad. This has apparently resulted in a sweetheart deal where union workers are exempted from the fee on healthcare benefits for a longer period than non-union workers, which makes everybody else angry. Remember, unions are a minority of households these days (just 12% of voters reported being part of a union as per the 2008 presidential election exit polls).

4. Finally, some liberals/progressives demand exactly the same purity tests as teabagging Republicans - “Alan Grayson for President, 2012!” These folks forget George McGovern's 1972 performance. Extremists – rather, public/outed extremists – rarely, if ever, win Presidential elections. And if you would rather lose a Presidency than compromise on ideology, just remember – SCOTUS appointments and other important priorities, like environmental protection, hang in the balance.

That's it for now. Your mileage will vary, for sure, and your comments are welcome – so long as they are civil and relevant to the content of this post. My moderation policy errs on the side of free speech.


Anonymous said...

Has this stuff changed now that the ACA passed?

Yeah, I'm reading things like this now.

Anonymous said...

Has any of this changed, specifically with regards to the ACA healthcare stuff?

RS said...

No... ACA is pretty close to what I thought should happen.
Sorry for the late comment approval, rarely check Blogspot these days.