Lieberman’s onto reason #7

LIEBERMAN’S ON TO REASON #7…. Regular readers may have noticed that I’ve been keeping track of Joe Lieberman’s evolving rationales for opposing a public option. The Connecticut senator is so opposed to letting some consumers choose between competing public and private plans that he’s willing to kill the entire bill over this one issue, but his reasoning keeps changing.

Believe it or not, we’re up to seven arguments over seven months, none of which makes sense.

In June, Lieberman said, “I don’t favor a public option because I think there’s plenty of competition in the private insurance market.” That didn’t make sense, and it was quickly dropped from his talking points.

In July, Lieberman said he opposes a public option because “the public is going to end up paying for it.” No one could figure out exactly what that meant, and the senator moved on to other arguments.

In August, he said we’d have to wait “until the economy’s out of recession,” which is incoherent, since a public option, even if passed this year, still wouldn’t kick in for quite a while.

In September, Lieberman said he opposes a public option because “the public doesn’t support it.” A wide variety of credible polling proved otherwise.

In October, Lieberman said the public option would mean “trouble … for the national debt,” by creating “a whole new government entitlement program.” Soon after, Jon Chait explained that this “literally makes no sense whatsoever.”

In November, Lieberman said creating a public plan along the lines of Medicare is antithetical to “the way we’ve responded to the market in America in the past.” This, too, was quickly debunked.

And here we are in December, and the independent senator has a new explanation, which he explained to the Wall Street Journal:

Why is he adamant? Mr. Lieberman says that while he is not “a conspiratorial person,” he believes the public option is intended as a way for the government to take over health care. “I’ve been working for health-care reform in different ways since I arrived here,” he says. “It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can’t afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies . . . So where did this public option come from?” It was barely a blip, he says, in last year’s presidential campaign.

“I started to ask some of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus, privately, and two of them said ‘some in our caucus, and some outside in interest groups, after the president won such a great victory and there were more Democrats in the Senate and the House, said this is the moment to go for single payer.'” So, I joke, the senator is, in fact, as big a “conspiracy theorist” as me. He laughingly rejoins: “But I have evidence!”

This really is incoherent. First, independent analyses, including reports from the CBO, have found that public and private plans can compete and co-exist without driving the other out of business. Lieberman may claim to have imaginary “evidence,” but there is no conspiracy.

Second, this wasn’t sprung on lawmakers after the election; it was part of all of the major Democratic candidates’ plans as far back as mid-2007.

And third, if progressive lawmakers decided this is “the moment to go for single payer,” they would have proposed single payer. As it stands, they’re pushing for a watered-down public option with a state opt-out.

Lieberman’s “conspiracy theory,” in other words, is bunk.