Politics may be the art of compromise; but, as we saw in the history of the United States leading up to the Civil War, compromise is often a matter of sweeping problems under the rug until the pile of problems is bigger than the rug itself. This could well be the case with the compromises emerging in an attempt to enact health form legislation. As a result, 57 Democrats in the House of Representatives have decided to bare their progressive teeth with a letter sent to their supposed leaders indicating their intention to oppose any compromise that will ultimately undermine the course of reform.
As usual, this is the sort of news that the mainstream media likes to ignore, being more concerned with rationalizing the strategies of the "Blue Dog" Democrats. Fortunately, those of us who recognize the difference between real reform and the facade of a Potemkin village can still turn to The Nation; and last night John Nichols used his The Beat blog to put out the word about the House progressives. Here is his summary:
A deal between House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Henry Waxman and several members of the conservative "Blue Dog" caucus has been portrayed as "progress" toward reform by some top Democrats and much of the media. But without the votes of the 57 progressives who have signed a letter condemning the compromise, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is unlikely to be able to cobble together enough support to gain approval of the plan in House where Republicans continue to act as the party of "no."
The progressives are not joining the obstructionists.
Rather, they argue, the compromise between Waxman and the Blue Dogs is itself an obstruction to real reform.
The progressives say "the agreement is not a step forward toward a good health care bill, but a large step backwards." That's because it would, according to their savvy analysis, "reduce subsidies to low-and middle-income families, requiring them to pay a larger portion of their income for insurance premiums, and would impose an unfunded mandate on the states to pay for what were to have been Federal costs."
"In short," declares the letter that was circulated by Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Lynn Woolsey, D-California, and Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, and a number of CPC members and allies, "this agreement will result in the public, both as insurance purchasers and as taxpayers, paying ever higher rates to insurance companies."
Nichols' post includes the full text of the letter and a list of all of its signatories. In the interest of getting our eyes back on the prize of real health care reform, I think it is important to acknowledge the act of all of those signatories with the Chutzpah of the Week award. Here are their names:
Sheila Jackson Lee
William Lacy Clay
Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Fortney "Pete" Stark
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Among those signatories, Dennis Kucinich is no stranger to the Chutzpah of the Week award; and, reviewing his past awards, it is clear that they have always been granted for his consistency in putting "the people's business" ahead of the business of politics. It is good to see that, in this particular case, he has 56 colleagues who feel as strongly about this matter as he does.