The Democrats’ Republican plan

THE DEMOCRATS’ REPUBLICAN PLAN…. I’d strongly recommend readers check out this fascinating table published today by Kaiser Health News. It compares three approaches to health care reform: (1) the approach presented by President Obama earlier this week; (2) the proposal unveiled by Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) in 1993, and (3) the bill championed by House Republicans four months ago.

It’s hard not to notice that Chafee, an accomplished moderate senator before his death in 1999, crafted a reform plan that’s very similar to what Democrats have in mind 17 years later. In some ways, they’re nearly identical.

And then, of course, there’s the plan pushed by Boehner & Co. late last year, which was a rather pathetic joke.

Ezra did a nice job capturing the larger context.

Boehner’s bill, by contrast, is far, far more conservative (and useless) than what moderate Republicans developed in 1993. Conversely, the Senate [Democratic] bill doesn’t look anything like the Clinton plan itself, much less like the more liberal efforts to expand Medicare to all Americans.

We’ve got a situation in which Democrats are essentially pushing moderate Republican ideas while Republicans push extremely conservative ideas, but because neither the press nor the voters know very much about health-care policy, the fact that Republicans refuse to admit that Democrats have massively compromised their vision is enough to convince people that Democrats aren’t compromising.

I should note, of course, that John Chafee was a Republican when sane, progressive-minded Republicans still existed. He not only wanted to see health care reform, Chafee also supported gay rights and gun control, while opposing school prayer and the death penalty.

Had he survived long enough to see what’s become of his party, and just how far to the extreme right it’s gone, today’s Republicans would have proudly driven John Chafee from the GOP with glee and satisfaction.

Regardless, Ezra’s point is an important one. For all the hysterical whining from today’s Republican Party and its right-wing allies, the Democratic plan couldn’t be any less radical. Not only is it practically identical to what moderate Republicans wanted nearly 20 years ago, but its basic structure is the same as the plan Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and Tom Daschle were touting last year.

The fact that Americans have been led to believe the Democratic plan is an example of wild-eyed liberalism — a notion largely embraced by much of the major media — speaks poorly of our discourse and capacity to have a meaningful policy debate. It is, however, a reminder of just how effective the right-wing noise machine can be.