As reported yesterday, Sen. Joe Lieberman is threatening to veto the current Senate proposal because it contains a public option. So far he is the only Senator making the threat – others are whining but holding back. His reasoning is that it will cost taxpayers money or increase the deficit. When asked to comment on the CBO report which suggests it would actually save the government potentially in excess of a hundred billion dollars, he dismissed it casually repeated archaic rhetoric about how all government programs cost money.
Lieberman has been largely silent in the debate up until now. I suspect that Reid had been trying to protect him from actually having to take a stand on the matter, but decided that intransigence with the introduction of the opt-out compromise just wasn’t worth his time. When asked about Lieberman’s threat yesterday, Reid responded, “Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid’s problems.” The pressure is obviously getting to Reid as he’s channeling Bob Dole with the third party reference to himself, but he doesn’t appear to be ready to back down for prima donnas.
But it’s obvious that Lieberman hasn’t even read the CBO report, nor followed the discussion closely. In an article today he repeats the rote “free market” talking points premised on the largely misunderstood economic principles of government run programs. The irony is that Senator Olympia Snowe, who has been intricately involved in the debates opposes the public option not because it will be inefficient, but because it will be too good. She is afraid that it will actually outcompete private industry, though she’s short on explanations as to why that’s bad for the consumer. She’s afraid precisely because she believes the public option will evolve into a de facto single payer system due to consumer choice. Basically, she and the other Republicans and conservative Democrats who receive the bulk of insurance campaign donations, are afraid of the free market.
This is 21st century politics folks. It’s not about free markets. It’s specifically about private markets.