Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why Fight About Liz Fowler? Because We Need to Get Real

Progressives failed to prevail on important policy debates during health care reform, including on the public option. There is no doubt that this was a central victory for the insurance industry. The retreat into magical thinking holds that we can measure the how the industry got its way by measuring campaign contributions, and drawing totally unfounded conclusions about the role of indivduals like Liz Fowler and Max Baucus. The record does not support this simplistic though appealing analysis:

According to the Center for Responsive Politics (opensecrets.org), the largest health insurance PACs gave more money in 2008 to Henry Waxman than to Max Baucus (and it wasn't much, at that). Waxman voted yes on the public option; Baucus voted no.

They gave more to the House, which voted yes on the public option, than to the Senate, which voted no.

PACs:
Wellpoint Inc Contributions to Federal Candidates, 2008

House
Total to Democrats: $152,000
Total to Republicans: $260,100

Senate
Total to Democrats: $48,900
Total to Republicans: $98,500

UnitedHealth Group Contributions to Federal Candidates, 2008

House
Total to Democrats: $138,700
Total to Republicans: $100,500

Senate
Total to Democrats: $71,500
Total to Republicans: $58,300

Henry Waxman: $3,000 - yes on public option

Max Baucus: $1,500 - no on public option

What's my analysis? Over time we'll sort out who did what to whom. It's comforting and titillating to believe that there were a few culprits, and that we've found the main one in Liz. We could note alternatively many more profound truths about how disconnected much of the country is from advocacy at the national level, a pattern that persists, and which we can affect. Retreating into Fox News-style sensationalism is not a substitute for analysis.

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