Bill Moyers Journal: Taibbi and Kuttner on the Health Care Bill

Dateline: December 18, 2009 [print_link] THIS IS A VIDEO & TEXT POST  ||


Editor’s Alert:

We are happy to publish this piece featuring a recent interview on the Bill Moyers’ Journal with Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner. The reason we’re particularly interested in this event is not so much the topics, healthcare reform and financial regulation, supremely important, but, rather, the opportunity to demonstrate to our audience, for the Nth time, how slippery liberalism is, even when embodied by left liberals with the impressive IQ and credentials of a Robert Kuttner. The fact is, if you watch carefully, you’ll see why liberals cannot be trusted to fix anything broken in the capitalist system these days. On several occasions during this exchange, we see Taibbi and Moyers pursuing a straight and firm progressive line of inquiry, while Kuttner dissolves into pathetically contradictory apologetics (for Obama and the Democrats in this case). See our annotations below. A full transcript of the show is included.


<—Matt Taibbi pulled no punches while Kuttner equivocated.


WHEN PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA took office in January 2009, he had no shortage of challenges to address: an economy on the verge of complete meltdown, two wars, and a health care system so broken that 44,000 people a year die for lack of coverage in the wealthiest country in the world.

Accordingly, President Obama laid out an ambitious agenda, counting on the strong Democratic majority in Congress to help push it through.

But according to guests on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, the President was also courting the help of industry. Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner, two journalists who cover the intersection of money and power in the nation’s capital, explain how two powerful industriese for them, and how that may stand in the way of real reform.

Health Care Reform

Progressive reformers welcomed the passage of what they considered a strong health care bill in the House, but were hoping for strong backing from the Obama administration to keep the Senate from weakening the bill.

The strong backing did not materialize [hardly a surprise to anyone who understands Obama and the democrats], and the Senate announced a compromise bill in mid-December without a public option or an opportunity for people over 55 to buy into Medicare. The public option had been a primary goal for progressive groups, who believed that it was an effective way to force insurance companies to lower their prices.

All this leaves many progressives wondering who to blame. Robert Kuttner argues that the Senate bill is the result of President Obama’s approach to reform:

There are two ways, if you’re the president of the United States sizing up a situation like this, that you can try and create reform. One is to say, well, the interest groups are so powerful that the only thing I can do is I can work with them and move the ball a few yards, get some incremental reform, hope it turns into something better.

The other way you can do it is to try to rally the people against the special interests and play on the fact that the insurance industry, the drug industry are not going to win any popularity contests with the American people. And you, as the president be the champion of the people against the special interests. That’s the course that Obama’s chosen not to pursue.



The bill, as it now stands, has divided Democrats (Republicans had signaled earlier that they wouldn’t be supporting any version), with some urging to kill the bill and try again later, and some arguing that it is better than nothing, and Democrats might not have another opportunity for 20 years.

Financial Regulation

Mike Taibbi argues that something similar may be happening as Congress attempts to reform our financial system. Many economists have argued that left unchanged the system still poses the risk of another epic collapse in the future. The banks were quick to try to stymie reform. In “Obama’s Big Sellout,” Taibbi connects the dots between a host of administration officials and Robert Rubin, the Treasury secretary under Clinton and an alumni at Goldman Sachs.

Taibbi argues on the Wall Street JOURNAL that all these ties to Wall Street get back to campaign financing:

Most people that I’ve talked to have taken one of two positions on this. One is that Obama was naïve, that he doesn’t know a whole lot about the financial services industry, and he felt the need to rely upon people who’d been there before, people who’ve had these jobs before, and you know, who have this expertise.

And there’s another school of thought that look, he took more money from Wall Street than any other presidential candidate in history. Goldman Sachs was his number one private campaign contributor. And if you just look at the evidence, it’s just really business as usual. This is what the Democratic Party has done since the mid-’80s. They’ve relied heavily on the financial services industry to fund their campaigns. And it’s the quid pro quo. They gave a lot of money to help these guys run, and in return, they get the big jobs, you know, in the White House.

MOYERS TO KUTTNER: “But doesn’t that further the dysfunction and corruption of the system that you write so often about? I mean, you said a few weeks ago that our failed health care system won’t get fixed because it exists entirely within the confines of yet another failed system, the political entity known as the United States of America. You said we have a government that is not equipped to fix actual crisis. So if Bob votes for a bill that in his heart and in his mind he does not believe really helps the situation, isn’t he furthering a government that can’t solve the actual crisis?”

But, despite the immense power of Wall Street, Kuttner still believes that meaningful financial reform is possible, and that President Obama could change course, “I think there is a chance — I don’t think I would bet my life on it — but I think there’s a possibility that by the fall of 2010, looking down the barrel of a real election blowout, you could see him change course, if only for reasons of expediency, but hopefully for reasons of principle as well, if he feels that the public doesn’t have confidence that he is delivering the kind of recovery that the public needs. This is a guy who is a very smart, complicated man. And I think don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin. I don’t want to totally give up.”

Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of THE AMERICAN PROSPECT magazine, as well as a distinguished senior fellow at the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for BUSINESS WEEK, and continues to write columns in the BOSTON GLOBE. Kuttner has written seven books. His most recent, The SQUANDERING OF AMERICA, explores the political roots of America’s narrowing prosperity and the systemic risks facing the U.S. economy. The book was recently honored with the Sidney Hillman Journalism Award. Kuttner has just begun work on a new book on trade, equality, efficiency, and the challenge of regulating global capitalism.

Kuttner’s best-known earlier book is EVERYTHING FOR SALE: THE VIRTUES AND LIMITS OF MARKETS (1997). The book received a page one review in the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. Of it, the late economist Robert Heilbroner wrote, “I have never seen the market system better described, more intelligently appreciated, or more trenchantly criticized than in EVERYTHING FOR SALE.”

Kuttner’s other previous books on economics and politics include; THE END OF LAISSEZ-FAIRE (1991); THE LIFE OF THE PARTY (1987); THE ECONOMIC ILLUSION (1984); and REVOLT OF THE HAVES (1980).

Kuttner’s magazine writing has appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE and BOOK REVIEW, THE ATLANTIC, THE NEW REPUBLIC, THE NEW YORKER, DISSENT, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW, and HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW. He has contributed major articles to THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE as a national policy correspondent.

For four decades, Kuttner has considered it his intellectual and political project to revive the politics and economics of harnessing capitalism to serve a broad public interest. He has pursued this ideal as a writer, editor, teacher, lecturer, commentator and public official.

Matt Taibbi

ROLLING STONE contributing editor, Matt Taibbi, graduated from Bard College in New York in 1991 and finished his studies at Leningrad Polytechnichal University in Russia.

Over the years, Taibbi has had a varied career, working as a freelance reporter and professional baseball player in the Soviet Union and Uzbekistan, and later playing professional basketball in Mongolia. In between, he also worked as an investigator in a Boston-based private detective agency.

He eventually resettled in Moscow, where he founded, with writer Mark Ames, an English-language satire newspaper called the EXILE, which was known for a mixture of humorous stunts and hard-nosed reporting of corruption both in Russian government and the American aid community. The paper was the only publication to correctly predict the 1998 Russian financial crisis. In conjunction with the Russian paper STRINGER, for which Taibbi wrote in Russian, the EXILE also wiretapped the telephone of Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin in 2001.

In his time in Russia, Taibbi produced a great deal of participatory journalism, working in a variety of jobs to show readers the reality of Russian life. He worked at various times as a bricklayer in Siberia, a migrant farm laborer, a moonshine dealer, a professional clown, a keeper in an elephant cage, a security guard, and a construction worker in an Orthodox monastery.

Taibbi returned to the U.S. for good in 2002 and founded the Buffalo-based newspaper THE BEAST. He left that paper a year later to work as a columnist for the NEW YORK PRESS, and eventually as a contributing editor for ROLLING STONE.

Taibbi won the 2008 National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary for three columns he wrote in ROLLING STONE, “Worse Than Bush”; “My Favorite Nut Job”; and “Obama’s Moment.” His NEW YORK PRESS column on George Bush’s prewar press conference, “Cleaning the Pool,” was included in the BEST POLITICAL WRITING 2003 anthology, and a year later he was named one of the 35 most influential New Yorkers under 35 by the NEW YORK OBSERVER.

In his first original book, THE GREAT DERANGEMENT (2008), Taibbi dives into the heart of the American psyche in a madcap journey that brings into focus life in the American Empire, right here, right now.

He’s also the author of two essay collections, SPANKING THE DONKEY and SMELLS LIKE DEAD ELEPHANTS.




BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal.

Something’s not right here. One year after the great collapse of our financial system, Wall Street is back on top while our politicians dither. As for health care reform, you’re about to be forced to buy insurance from companies whose stock is soaring, and that’s just dandy with the White House.

Truth is, our capitol’s being looted, republicans are acting like the town rowdies, the sheriff is firing blanks, and powerful Democrats in Congress are in cahoots with the gang that’s pulling the heist. This is not capitalism at work. It’s capital. Raw money, mounds of it, buying politicians and policy as if they were futures on the hog market.

Here to talk about all this are two journalists who don’t pull their punches. Robert Kuttner is an economist who helped create and now co-edits the progressive magazine THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, and the author of the book OBAMA’S CHALLENGE, among others.

Also with me is Matt Taibbi, who covers politics for ROLLING STONE magazine where he is a contributing editor. He’s made a name for himself writing in a no-holds-barred, often profane, but always informative and stimulating style that gets under the skin of the powerful. His most recent article is “Obama’s Big Sellout,” about the President’s team of economic advisers and their Wall Street connections. It’s been burning up the blogosphere. Welcome to both of you.

BILL MOYERS: Let’s start with some news.  Some of the big insurance companies, Well Point, Cigna, United Health, all surged to a 52 week high in their share prices this week when it was clear there’d be no public option in the health care bill going through Congress right now. What does that tell you, Matt?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I think what most people should take away from this is that the massive subsidies for health insurance companies have been preserved while it’s also expanded their customer base because there’s an individual mandate in the bill that’s going to provide all these companies with the, you know, 25 or 30 million new people who are going to be paying for health insurance. So, it’s, obviously, a huge boon to that industry. And I think Wall Street correctly read what the health care effort is all about.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Rahm Emanuel, the President’s Chief of Staff, was Bill Clinton’s Political Director. And Rahm Emanuel’s take away from Bill Clinton’s failure to get health insurance passed was ‘don’t get on the wrong side of the insurance companies.’ So their strategy was cut a deal with the insurance companies, the drug industry going in. And the deal was, we’re not going to attack your customer base, we’re going to subsidize a new customer base. And that script was pre-cooked so it’s not surprising that this is what comes out the other side. [SO FAR SO GOOD.]

BILL MOYERS: So are you saying that this, what some call a sweetheart deal between the pharmaceutical industry and the White House, done many months ago before this fight really began, was because the drug company money in the Democratic Party?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, it’s two things. Part of it was we need to do whatever it takes to get a bill. Never mind whether it’s a really good bill, let’s get a bill passed so we can claim that we solved health insurance. Secondly, let’s get the drug industry and the insurance industry either supporting us or not actively opposing us. So that there was some skirmishing around the details, but the deal going in was that the administration, drug companies, insurance companies are on the same team. Now, that’s one way to get legislation, it’s not a way to transform the health system. Once the White House made this deal with the insurance companies, the public option was never going to be anything more than a fig leaf. And over the summer and the fall, it got whittled down, whittled down, whittled down to almost nothing and now it’s really nothing. [NO ARGUMENT HERE. HE’S SUMMING IT UP NICELY.]

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, and this was Howard Dean’s point this week that this individual mandate that’s going to force people to become customers of private health insurance companies, the Democrats are going to end up owning that policy and it’s going to be extremely unpopular and it’s going to be theirs for a generation. It’s going to be an albatross around the neck of this party.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Think about it, the difference between social insurance and an individual mandate is this. Social insurance everybody pays for it through their taxes, so you don’t think of Social Security as a compulsory individual mandate. You think of it as a benefit, as a protection that your government provides. But an individual mandate is an order to you to go out and buy some product from some private profit-making company, that in the case of a lot of moderate income people, you can’t afford to buy. And the shell game here is that the affordable policies are either very high deductibles and co-pays, so you can afford the monthly premiums but then when you get sick, you have to pay a small fortune out of pocket before the coverage kicks in. Or if the coverage is decent, the premiums are unaffordable. And so here’s the government doing the bidding of the private industry coercing people to buy profit-making products that maybe they can’t afford and they call it health reform. [KUTTNER’S 100% ON THE BALL. SO FAR. KEEP READING…]

BILL MOYERS: So explain this to the visitor from Mars. I mean, just this week, the Washington Post and ABC News had a poll showing that the American public supports the Medicare buy-in that-


BILL MOYERS: By a margin of some 30 points-


BILL MOYERS: And yet, it went down like a lead balloon.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Look, there are two ways, if you’re the President of the United States sizing up a situation like this that you can try and create reform. One is to say, well, the interest groups are so powerful that the only thing I can do is I can work with them and move the ball a few yards, get some incremental reform, hope it turns into something better. The other way you can do it is to try to rally the people against the special interests and play on the fact that the insurance industry, the drug industry, are not going to win any popularity contests with the American people. And you, as the president, be the champion of the people against the special interests. That’s the course that Obama’s chosen not to pursue. [KUTTNER STILL SPOT-ON.]

MATT TAIBBI: And I think, you know, a lot of what the Democrats are doing, they don’t make sense if you look at it from an objective point of view, but if you look at it as a business strategy- if you look at the Democratic Party as a business, and their job is basically to raise campaign funds and to stay in power, what they do makes a lot of sense. They have a consistent strategy which involves negotiating a fine line between sentiment on the left and the interests of the industries that they’re out there to protect. And they’ve always, kind of, taken that fork in the road and gone right down the middle of the line. And they’re doing that with this health care bill and that’s- it’s consistent.

BILL MOYERS: If you were Republican, wouldn’t you feel right now that it’s going your way? I mean, the Democrats control the White House, they control Congress and the only thing they’ve been able to make happen this year is escalate the war in Afghanistan.

MATT TAIBBI: The Democrats are in exactly the same position that the Republicans were in once the Iraq War turned bad. All the Republicans have to do now is sit back and watch the Democrats make a disaster out of this health care effort. And they’re going to gain political capital whether they’re in the right or not. And I think it’s a very- it’s a terrible thing for the party.

BILL MOYERS: Some of your progressive readers and colleagues are going to take issue with you, of course, because there are progressive figures like John Podesta, of the Center for American Progress, Kevin Drum, and others who say, look, this bill has its real problems. It’s got some real toxic qualities to it. But it’s not as bad as Kuttner and Taibbi think. This is the Senate bill, it covers 30 million-plus more people, has subsidies for low-income families, spreads the risk, lowers some premium costs, creates some exchanges where people can shop for better coverage and prices. You know, don’t be too hard on it.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, my co-editor, Paul Starr in the editorial in the current issue of “The Prospect” takes exactly that position. Don’t be too hard on Obama, he inherited a really difficult situation and we’re making incremental progress. If we could’ve done better we would’ve. Paul and I disagree about that. I mean, I think one of the challenges of a president is to transform the reality rather than just work within its parameters. I think the other problem, frankly, is that those of us who consider ourselves progressives invested so much in this remarkable figure, Barack Obama. And we read our own hopes into him. We saw him as a potentially great president. We saw this as a potentially transformative moment, I certainly did, where he could’ve chosen to be the kind of president Roosevelt was. And it turns out that’s not who [he] is characterologically and that’s not how he chose to play the moment. [KUTTNER’S BALL OF WAX BEGINS TO MELT. FIRST, HE ADMITS BEING ENTHUSED BY OBAMA, A BOURGEOIS POLITICIAN THAT ANY ELEMENTARY CLASS ANALYSIS/CAREER ANALYSIS WOULD HAVE IMMEDIATELY DISCREDITED.]

BILL MOYERS: Yes or no. If you were a senator, would you vote for this Senate health care bill?




BILL MOYERS: Why? You just said it’s designed to enhance the fortunes of the industry.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, it’s so far from what I think is necessary that I don’t think it’s a it’s a good bill. But I think if it goes down, just because of the optics of the situation and the way the Republicans have framed this as a make or break moment for President Obama, it will make it easier for the Republicans to take control of Congress in 2010. It will make Obama even more gun-shy about promoting reform. It will create even more political paralysis. It will embolden the republicans to block what this President is trying to do, some of which is good, at every turn. So I would hold my nose and vote for it. [SEVERAL WRONG ASSUMPTIONS: FIRST, KUTTNER IS CLEARLY CAUGHT IN THE “LESSER EVIL” TRAP. HE’S AFRAID OF OPENING THE DOOR TO THE GOP, AS IF THE DEMOCRATS WERE SUBSTANTIVELY DIFFERENT, A MOMENTARILY DAMAGED BUT VALUABLE ALLY OF THE PEOPLE… INSTEAD OF JUST THE OTHER FACE OF A SINGLE CORPORATE PARTY. SECOND, HE FRETS ABOUT OBAMA BECOMING “GUN SHY ABOUT FUTURE REFORMS…” WHICH IS PLAIN SILLY. HE CONTINUES TO BELIEVE OBAMA HAS THE INTENTION, CHARACTER AND GUTS TO PUSH FOR REAL REFORMS, WHICH IS TOTALLY DENIED BY HIS ACTIONS AND CAREER SO FAR.]

MATT TAIBBI: My feeling on it is just looking more concretely at the health care problem, this is a bill that to me doesn’t address the two biggest problems with the health care crisis. One is the inefficiency and the bureaucracy and the paperwork which it doesn’t address at all. It doesn’t standardize anything. The other is price, which has now fallen by the wayside because there’s not going to be no public option that’s going to drive down prices. So, if a health care bill that doesn’t address those two problems, to me, is- and additionally is a big give-away to the insurance companies because it provides, you know- it creates this new customer base, it’s something I personally couldn’t vote for. [GOOD FOR TAIBBI.]

BILL MOYERS: [IN DISBELIEF] Aren’t you saying that in order to save the Democratic President and the Democratic Party in 2010 and 2012 you have to have a really rotten health insurance bill?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, when you come down to one pivotal moment where a bill is before Congress and the administration has staked the entire presidency on this bill and you’re a progressive Democrat are you going to vote for it or not? Let me put it this way, if I were literally in the position that Joe Lieberman is in and it was up to me to determine whether this bill live or die, I would hold my nose and vote for it even though I have been a fierce critic of the path this administration has taken. [MORE SELF-APPLIED NAILS IN KUTTNER’S LIBERALOID COFFIN…. HE’S DIGGING HIMSELF DEEPER.]

BILL MOYERS: [STILL SHOCKED BY KUTTNER’S LOGICAL GYRATIONS] But doesn’t that further the dysfunction and corruption of the system that you write so often about? I mean, you said a few weeks ago that our failed health care system won’t get fixed because it exists entirely within the confines of yet another failed system, the political entity known as the United States of America. You said we have a government that is not equipped to fix actual crisis. So if Bob votes for a bill that in his heart and in his mind he does not believe really helps the situation, isn’t he furthering a government that can’t solve the actual crisis?

MATT TAIBBI: I think so. I understand his point of view. But I …my feeling is that if you vote for this bill and it passes, that’s your one shot at fixing a catastrophic and completely dysfunctional health care system for the next generation maybe. And I think it’s much better for the Democrats to lose on this issue and then have to regroup maybe eight years later, or six years later, and try again and do a better job the next time than to have it go through.

ROBERT KUTTNER: We’re going to have to do that anyway.  In other words, these fights never end. We’re going to have to go back and make a fight another day.  [KUTTNER IS MAKING HERE ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES, OR, RATHER, SPREADING ONE OF THE BIGGEST FALLACIES IN THIS ENTIRE BOODOGGLE, NAMELY THAT OBAMA AND THE DEMOCRATS REALLY WERE…ARE FIGHTING TO PASS A DECENT BILL…PURE NONSENSE CONSIDERING WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY ABOUT THIS SORDID AFFAIR. ] And hopefully, that won’t be 20 years from now. Hopefully, it will be six years from now. I think if this bill goes down it’s going to be even harder to get the kind of legislation we want because the Republicans are really going to be on the march. So, the Democrats are really between a rock and a hard place here, because if it loses, there’s one set of ways the Republicans gain. If it wins, there could be another set of ways that the Republicans gain. And this is all because of the deal that our friend, Rahm Emanuel struck back in the spring of passing a bill that’s a pro-industry bill that doesn’t really get at the structural problems. [KUTTNER BLAMES RAHM EMANUEL, ADMITTEDLY A ZIONIST WHEELER DEALER AND CONSUMMATE RIGHTWING OPPORTUNIST, BUT LEAVES OBAMA OFF THE HOOK. WHO PUT EMANUEL IN THAT POSITION? AT WHOSE PLEASURE DOES HE SERVE?]

MATT TAIBBI: But that’s the whole point. If the Democrats had used as a political strategy, we’re just going to do what the vast majority of our constituents want and pass a bill that was real, that had real teeth to it, that provided real benefits and actually fixed the problems then, you know, the political benefits that the Republicans could’ve had after the passage of the bill would’ve been very limited it seems to me. They could’ve only gone that one direction and criticized that you know, as a, you know, a socialist give-away. They couldn’t have criticized it as an industry give-away and ineffective.



ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean, I was making the same criticisms that you were at the time. But now we’re down to a moment of final passage. [SO? STILL WORTHLESS. MANURE IS MANURE.] And maybe my views are very ambivalent. But I would still vote for it because I think the defeat would be absolutely crushing in terms of the way the press played it, in terms of the way it would give encouragement to the far right in this country that we can block this guy if we just fight hard enough, if we just demagogue it. [PURE LIBERALOID MUMBO JUMBO]

MATT TAIBBI: But couldn’t that defeat turn into- that crushing defeat, couldn’t that be good for the Democrats? Couldn’t it teach them a lesson that, you know, maybe they have to pursue a different course in the future?


BILL MOYERS: Matt, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a very progressive member of Congress who’s been at this table wanted a public option. He says this health care bill appears to be the legislation that the president wanted in the first place.

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, I mean, I think that makes sense. Yeah, it’s quite obvious that at the outset of this process, the White House didn’t want, for instance, single payer even on the table, you know, when Max Baucus had his initial discussions in committee on this bill, he invited something like 43 people to give their ideas about, you know, how the bill might look in the future. And he didn’t invite a single person from- who was an advocate of single payer health care. So that was never on the table. And it’s quite clear that the public option was looked at more as a political obstacle for the White House as opposed to something that they really wanted. They kind of used it as something to scare the Republicans and the moderates with. And that’s really all it ended up turning out to be.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, if he had wanted a public option, if he’d wanted a Medicare buy-in, he could have tried to persuade the public and the Congress.



ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean, if you if you roll back the tape he could’ve played it so differently and he could’ve gotten a better bill. But we are where we are. [BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACCEPT IT.]

MATT TAIBBI: I mean, that’s what George Bush did when he wanted to get something unpopular passed or something that was iffy. I mean, he just took, you know, if there were any recalcitrant members, he just took him in the back room and beat him with a rubber hose until they changed their minds. I mean, he could’ve taken Joe Lieberman back there and said, look, if Connecticut ever wants a dime of highway money again, you’re going to have to play ball on this thing. That’s what the president does. I mean, the president has an enormous amount of power. The leaders, the majority leaders have an enormous amount of power. And if they want to pass something, they can do it. And especially when there’s a tremendous public mandate to get something like this passed. I just- the idea that they couldn’t do this was- is a fallacy.

BILL MOYERS: But members of Congress, they take the same contributions from the same insurance and real estate and drug industry. You look at the list of contributions to members of Congress- they are as saddled by obligations as the President, right? [MOYERS IS MISTAKEN HERE. MONEY FROM THE BUSINESS SECTOR TO CONGRESS IS NOT “OBLIGATIONS” BUT PLAIN BRIBERY AND SHOULD BE ILLEGAL. PERIOD. CALL IT FOR WHAT IT IS, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.]

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, some are and some aren’t. I mean, the House, at least, just passed a bill that’s over $100 billion to extend unemployment, extend insurance benefits in the interim prevent lay-offs at the level of state and local government. Now, you have a group of Democrats, and this is the real pity of it. The Democrats are supposed to be the party of the average person. You have the so-called New Democrats who are really the party of Wall Street. And then you have the Blue Dogs who are fiscal conservatives. And if you look at what happened in Barney Frank’s committee to the financial reform bill, he’s a pretty good liberal, he ended up looking like a complete stooge for industry because in order to get a bill out of his own committee, he had to appease the 15 New Democrats, so-called, who were put on that committee mostly by Rahm Emanuel when he was the-

MATT TAIBBI: Sort of as a means to raise money.

ROBERT KUTTNER: As a means to raise money. So Melissa Bean, who’s a two-term Democratic Congressman ends up being the power broker because she controls 15 votes on Barney Frank’s committee of what she’s going to allow out of committee and what she isn’t.

BILL MOYERS: Why does she control 15 votes?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Because there are 15 New Dems, and this is the centrist caucus that particularly specializes in taking money from the financial industry.

BILL MOYERS: You call them centrist, don’t you mean corporate Democrats? I mean-  [GOOD, BILL. CALL THESE PEOPLE FOR WHAT THEY ARE.]

ROBERT KUTTNER: Corporate, yes, sorry. That’s too kind. They’re corporate Democrats who were put on that committee because Rahm Emanuel felt that there’s no better place than the House Financial Services Committee if you want to shake down Wall Street, to put it bluntly.  [THANK YOU, KUTTNER.]

MATT TAIBBI: There’s a great example of Melissa Bean’s power was when the banks wanted to pass an amendment into the bill that would have prevented the states from making their own tougher financial regulatory rules. And Bean put through this amendment that basically said that the federal government would have purview over all these laws. And it passed. And this was the kind of thing that the banks wanted. They just go to Melissa Bean, she puts that amendment in there and it and it gets through.

BILL MOYERS: If you were Barack Obama in a city that’s overrun by money, how would you try to fix it?

ROBERT KUTTNER: I would go over the heads of the special interests to the people. I think there’s a lot of sullen apprehension, frustration out in the country. And I think the people are hungry for leadership. He’s not doing that sufficiently. [KUTTNER IS RIGHT HERE, OF COURSE.  THERE’S A VACUUM OF LEADERSHIP, AND OBAMA IS NOT FILLING IT BECAUSE HE’S A FRAUD, A SHILL FOR THE CORPORATE INTERESTS THAT PUT HIM IN THE W.H.. SO AT BEST OBAMA LACKS VISION AND COURAGE TO BE A GREAT LEADER, WHICH SHOULD DENY HIM ALL THESE ADULATION…AT WORST HE’S A SALESMAN FOR THE PLUTOCRACY. ]

MATT TAIBBI: It’s absolutely a political winner for the president to hit Wall Street very hard and do all the things that he’s supposed to be doing right now. You know, that all the things that FDR did. If he did those things, if he remade Wall Street in the way that it needs to be remade, he would do nothing but gain popularity. And I think that’s the strategy he should have pursued.

BILL MOYERS: But what if by nature, that’s not what he wants to do? What if, by nature, he prefers to head the establishment, than to change it?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Then he runs the risk of being a failed president. And I do have the audacity to hope that he’s a smart enough, principled enough guy, that some time in his second year in office, he’s going to realize that he’s at a crossroads. [KEEP WAITING FOR GODOT, BOB]

MATT TAIBBI: This isn’t a purely political problem. This isn’t just a question of how does Barack Obama get reelected. This is a serious problem. He has to put aside maybe his inclinations to think about what he can do to actually fix the country. And it’s, you know, desperately in need of fixing. And so, if he’s not that guy, he has to become that guy.

BILL MOYERS: You say it’s a serious problem. But isn’t from your own experiences, your long experience, your recent experience, isn’t this the fundamental question issue of why it’s not working, that there’s too much money canceling out other imperatives, other needs, other possibilities?

MATT TAIBBI: This is the fundamental question. Is there a way that we can have a politician get elected without the sponsorship of special interests? Can we get somebody in the White House who’s independent of the special interests that are in the way of real reform? And that’s the problem. We haven’t been able to have that happen. And we need to find a way to have that happen.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Right. And I think it’s not accidental that the last three Democratic presidents have been at best, corporate Democrats. And one hoped because of the depth of the crisis and the disgrace of deregulation and ideology, and the practical failure of the Bush presidency, this was a moment for a clean break. The fact that even at such a moment, even with an outsider president campaigning on change we can believe in, that Barack Obama turned out to be who he has been so far, is just so revealing in terms of the structural undertow that big money represents in this country. [NO, KUTTNER, AGAIN YOU’RE LETTING OBAMA OFF THE HOOK, AS IF THE MAN HAD MEANT ALL THAT BALONEY ABOUT “CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN”…THAT WAS SIMPLY A SLOGAN FOR SUCKERS, PART OF A WELL CRAFTED MARKETING CAMPAIGN. OBAMA AND HIS CREW NEVER INTENDED TO DELIVER ANYTHING CLOSE TO THEIR INFLATED RHETORIC. AND BY THE WAY, NO MAN TAPPED BY THE ESTABLISHMENT’S CORE IS AN “OUTSIDER”.] The question is: Is he capable of making a change — he’s only been in office less than a year — in time to redeem the moment, redeem his own promise?

BILL MOYERS: When you talk about corporate Democrats, exactly what do you mean?

ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean Democrats who are reluctant to cross swords with the corporate elite that has so much power in this country, whether it’s the Wall Street elite or whether it’s the health-industrial complex.

MATT TAIBBI: And I think, you know, back in the in the mid-’80s, after Walter Mondale lost, I think the Democrats made a conscious decision that they were no longer going to rely entirely on interest groups and unions to fund their campaigns, that they were going to try to close that funding gap with the Republicans. And they made a lot of concessions to the financial services industry to big corporations. And that’s who they are now. I mean–

ROBERT KUTTNER: That’s a little too harsh. [MY GOD, KUTTNER, WHO ARE YOU DINING WITH INSIDE THE BELTWAY? IN FACT, TAIBBI IS BEING MUCH TOO POLITE. ] Just the pity of it is there are probably 40 Democrats in the Senate who are not corporate Democrats. And there are probably 200 Democrats in the House who are not corporate Democrats. If we could push a little harder, we can take back our political system and have a democratically elected set of officials who are the kind of counterweight to big money that we need in order to get reform.

BILL MOYERS: So Democrats have their own obstructionists?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Yeah. You have Republican wall-to-wall obstructionism, which is partisan. And with a few exceptions, Republicans are totally in bed with big business. And you have just enough Democrats who are in bed with big business that it makes it much harder for progressive Democrats to follow the agenda that the country needs.

ROBERT KUTTNER: It just takes a lot of guts. It takes a lot of nerve. It takes a willingness to be somewhat radical.

BILL MOYERS: What you mean, radical?

ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean, confronting the elite that really has a hammerlock on politics in this country and articulating the needs of ordinary people. Now, in Washington, that’s considered radical.  [IF IT’S NOT RADICAL IT’S A NOVELTY AT LEAST.]

BILL MOYERS: I was thinking about both of you Sunday night when President Obama was on 60 MINUTES and he said…

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.

BILL MOYERS: Then on Monday afternoon, he had this photo opportunity in which he scolded the bankers and then they took it politely and graciously, which they could’ve done because the Hill at that very moment was swarming with banking lobbyists making sure that what the President wants doesn’t happen. I mean, what did you think as you watched him on 60 MINUTES or watched that press conference? [AGAIN MOYERS NOW IS GIVING CREDIT TO OBAMA AS IF HE WAS GENUINE, A COMMON LIBERAL MISTAKE. WHEN–IF EVER-DO LIBERALS LEARN? THE PHOTO OPS AND POSTURING RE THE BANKERS WAS JUST THAT, MANIPULATION BY THE W.H.]

MATT TAIBBI: It seemed to me that it was a response to a lot of negative criticism that he’s been getting in the media lately, that they are probably looking at the President’s poll numbers from the last couple of weeks that have been remarkably low. And a lot of that has to do with some perceptions about his ties to Wall Street. And I think they felt a need to come out and make a strong statement against Wall Street, whether they’re actually do anything is, sort of, a different question. But I think that was my impression.

ROBERT KUTTNER: I was appalled. I was just appalled because think of the timing. On Thursday and Friday of last week, the same week when the president finally gives this tough talk on “60 Minutes,” a very feeble bill is working its way through the House of Representatives and crucial decisions are being made. And where is the President? I mean, there was an amendment to put some teeth back in the provision on credit default swaps and other kinds of derivatives. And that went down by a handful of votes. And to the extent that the Treasury and the White House was working that bill, at all, they were working the wrong side. There was a provision to exempt foreign exchange derivatives from the teeth in the bill. That–

MATT TAIBBI: Foreign exchange derivatives are what caused the Long Term Capital Management crisis–


MATT TAIBBI: A tremendous problem.

BILL MOYERS: Ten or 12 years ago, right?


ROBERT KUTTNER: Yeah. And, Treasury was lobbying in favor of that. There was a provision in the bill to exempt small corporations, not so small, I believe at $75 million and under, from a lot of the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requiring honest accounting. Rahm Emanuel personally was lobbying in favor of that.

BILL MOYERS: So you had the Treasury and the White House chief of staff arguing on behalf of the banking industry?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Right. Right. And so here’s the president two days later giving a tough speech. Why wasn’t he working the phones to toughen up that bill and, you know, walk the talk? [YOU SHOULD ANSWER THAT, BOB. YOU’RE CONSTANTLY GIVING OBAMA THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. AS A POLITICIAN, AND IF HE’S INTELLIGENT, CAN’T HE TELL LEFT FROM RIGHT?]

BILL MOYERS: Get on the phone with the Chairman of the Committee and say, if you want that dam in your district, I want your vote on this.



BILL MOYERS: And that’s what you mean?


BILL MOYERS: You might praise them in public, but you threaten them in private, right?

MATT TAIBBI: Exactly, yeah. They have–

BILL MOYERS: Nobody’s afraid of Obama, you know. You go to Washington as you do, report from Washington. Nobody’s afraid of him.


ROBERT KUTTNER: This style is rather diffident. His style is rather hands-off. He’s very principled. [PRINCIPLED???????????????????  PRINCIPLED ABOUT WHAT? WHERE DO YOU READ HIS “PRINCIPLED” STANCES? IN THE WAY HE DEFENDS THE CORPORATE INTEREST? ABOUT THAT HE’S PRETTY PRINCIPLED.] But, if you’re going to be a politician, you have to get in there and mix it up. And to the extent that his surrogates are mixing it up, when it comes to reforming Wall Street, they’re mixing it up on the wrong side.

BILL MOYERS: Well, explain this to me. What is your own take on why he chose Geithner and Summers and people from Goldman Sachs and Wall Street to come and be his financial advisors, instead of choosing Stiglitz–


BILL MOYERS: Some of his advisors from the progressive wing of the Democratic system?

MATT TAIBBI: Most people that I’ve talked to have taken one of two positions on this. One is that Obama was naïve, that he doesn’t know a whole about the financial services industry, and he felt the need to rely upon people who’d been there before, people who’ve had these jobs before, and you know, who have this expertise. And there’s another school of thought that look, he took more money from Wall Street than any other presidential candidate in history. Goldman Sachs was his number one private campaign contributor. And if you just look at the evidence, it’s just really business as usual. This is what the Democratic Party has done since the mid-’80s. They’ve relied heavily on the financial services industry to fund their campaigns. And it’s the quid pro quo. They gave a lot of money to help these guys run, and in return, they get the big jobs, you know, in the White House. [SO WHY FRET SO MUCH ABOUT SAVING THIS BUNCH OF CROOKS?]

BILL MOYERS: But here’s how they repay him. This is on “The Huffington Post:” “Bank lobbyists launch call to action to crush financial reform. The American Bankers Association issued a call to action on Wednesday urging its lobbyist and member banks to make an all-out effort to crush regulatory reform in the Senate.” This is how they reward his own tolerance towards them, right?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Right. And you’ve got to play hardball against these guys now. I do not want to leave this show with your viewers thinking this has been just a council of despair. So will you allow me to play Pollyanna for 30 seconds? Because I think this guy is nothing if not a work in progress. He’s nothing if not a learner. And I think there is a chance. I don’t think I would bet my life on it but I think there’s a possibility that by the fall of 2010, looking down the barrel of a real election blowout, you could see him change course, if only for reasons of expediency, but hopefully for reasons of principle as well, if he feels that the public doesn’t have confidence that he is delivering the kind of recovery that the public needs. This is a guy who is a very smart, complicated man. And I think don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin. I don’t want to totally give up.

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah. I mean, obviously, it’s too early to completely abandon hope that he’s going to turn things around. But I think that’s a belief that’s not really based on evidence. [CORRECT, TAIBBI.] If you look at the evidence of how he’s behaved so far, and who he’s got, you know, working in the White House, and who he’s getting his money from, and how the party has behaved over the last couple of decades. You’re really basically relying upon the impression that he gives as a kind, decent, warm-hearted intellectual guy. That’s what the basis of that faith that there’s going to be this turnaround. It’s really not anything that’s actually concretely happened that would give you reason to think that. [MATT HAS HIS FEET ON THE GRUND, AND HE’S NOT EVEN A MARXIST. BUT HE ACCEPTS THE EVIDENCE WITHOUT CLAPTRAP IN HIS BRAIN.]

ROBERT KUTTNER: The other thing that’s missing, if you compare him with Roosevelt or LBJ or Lincoln, the other thing that’s missing is a social movement. In all of these great periods of transformation, you had social movements doing a complicated dance with the president, where sometimes they were working with him, sometimes they were beating up on him. That certainly describes the civil rights movement and Lyndon Johnson. It describes the abolitionists and Lincoln. It describes the labor movement and Roosevelt. Where’s the movement?  [OBAMA COULD HAVE GIVEN WINGS TO A MOVEMENT, GIVEN THE THIRST FOR POPULIST LEADERSHIP IN THE NATION. BUT HE REFUSED AND REFUSES TO DO THAT, AND BY NOW HIS POLITICAL CAPITAL IS BADLY DEPLETED WITH BOTH HIS BASE, WHICH HE BETRAYED AND INDEPENDENTS.]

BILL MOYERS: Coming down to the office this morning, the cab driver turned and said, “You see the newspaper this morning?” And he turns and hands me the NEW YORK POST. “It’s Wall Good: Wall Street Earnings Soar to $49 Billion in the First Three Quarters of the Year … Profitability has soared because revenues rose … Wall Street bonuses for employees in the city may be as much as 40 percent higher than in 2008.” What would you say to the President about this? Does he know?

ROBERT KUTTNER: I think, to some extent, the White House lives in an echo chamber. They do these public events that are intended to demonstrate that the president’s listening, that he’s feeling our pain. Congress gets a very bad rap. But I was invited to speak to the House Democrat caucus a couple a weeks ago. And they are furious. They can’t publicly embarrass their president, but they go home on weekends and they talk to their folks and they hear the individual stories of suffering. And they feel that certainly the Treasury, to some extent the White House, just doesn’t get it and the Republicans are going to end up with a narrative and the Tea Party folks, it’s the far right that is on the march when ordinary people need a champion.

BILL MOYERS: So, what are people to do?

ROBERT KUTTNER: I think there are things that are not too complex for people to understand. If the value of your home is going down the drain because the government’s not doing anything about an epidemic of foreclosures, that’s the kind of thing that people can talk about across a kitchen table. They do talk about it across the kitchen table. And you need more leadership like a Marcy Kaptur or a Maria Cantwell, elected officials who get it, who have not been bought and paid for by Wall Street stirring up people and turning this into a movement.

MATT TAIBBI: And that’s really where Barack Obama’s failings are the biggest. This is exactly where we need a president with the communication skills that he has. I mean, he’s probably the one person who could help all of America make sense of all this stuff. And he’s not doing it. I mean, he’s doing these photo ops, you know, earlier in the week, with a couple of bankers. It’s a kabuki dance to show that he’s against Wall Street. But he’s not explaining to people how all this stuff works. And that’s the problem.

BILL MOYERS: Are you a cynic after all your reporting this year?

MATT TAIBBI: No, not at all. I mean, I think on the contrary. I think cynicism is accepting all this as, you know, politics, as the way it is. I think we have to not accept what’s going on. And that’s not being cynical. That’s being helpful.


ROBERT KUTTNER: I think there are periods of American history when the political system rises to the occasion. It certainly did with the civil rights movement. It certainly did in the 1930s. But there’s no guarantee that it’s going to come out the way it needs their come out. So I wouldn’t give up on the political system. [HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE KUTTNER TO GIVE UP ON THIS SYSTEM? WHAT KIND OF CRIME AND HYPOCRISY MUST THE SYSTEM DEPLOY FOR HIM TO BAIL OUT AT LAST?] I mean, you have to keep fighting and working to rebuild democracy. Democracy is the only possible counterweight to concentrated financial power. [AS AN ARISTOCRATIC REPUBLIC, THE US HAS NEVER HAD A REAL DEMOCRACY, BUT A VERY IMPERFECT BOURGEOIS DEMOCRACY, A FORMAL DEMOCRACY IN WHICH THE “THEATER OF DEMOCRACY” IS ENACTED, BUT THE CAPITALISTS CALL THE SHOTS. THESE DAYS EVEN THAT FLAWED ARRANGEMENT HAS BEEN FURTHER EVISCERATED BY THE ADVANCES OF THE CORPORATE RULING CLASS. See the WIKIPEDIA DISCUSSION OF “FORMAL DEMOCRACY”. ] And ideally, that takes a great president rendezvousing with a social movement. One way or another, there is going to be a social movement. Because so many people are hurting, and so many people are feeling correctly that Wall Street is getting too much and Main Street is getting too little. And if it’s not a progressive social movement that articulates the frustration and the reform program, you know that the right wing is going to do it. And that, I think, is what ought to be scaring us silly.

MATT TAIBBI: We are starting to see signs of a little bit of a grassroots movement. I mean, the stuff, you know, people who are refusing to leave their homes after they’ve been foreclosed upon. There are little pockets of movements you know, groups that are organizing against foreclosures all across the country. And this is one small slice of the economic picture that where it’s quite clear what’s going on, and people can really understand the relationship that they have with the financial services industry. And I think if, you know, there it’s possible to imagine a movement coalescing around something like that.

BILL MOYERS: Matt Taibbi, Robert Kuttner, thank you for being with me on the Journal.

MATT TAIBBI: Thank you.


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One thought on “Bill Moyers Journal: Taibbi and Kuttner on the Health Care Bill

  1. These are the 39 original comments for this article, posted on crooks & liars
    No matter how bad things get
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 04:59 — project
    The one thing you can count on is that polliticians are not trustworthy. The dems have fucked us as bad as the repubs!
We have to turn this around. WE have to get rid of our current legislators. we need to empty the senate and the congress.
We may have to do this the way it happened in the days of civil rights unrest. We may have to start rioting in the streets.
I hate to see all the people who will be injured or even killed if we have to take this route.
But this may be another thing where we are forced to riot because the media is on the side of the corporations because they are owned by the very people who stand to gain the most from robbing the American people. WE may have to protect ourselves! It is very clear our government does not consider the people to be as important as their corporate benefactors!

    This Health Insurance thing is no different
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:48 — Evet
    then when the British told the people of India they couldn’t be self sufficient, locally and regionally enterprising people and had to buy everything from the British with threat of punishment in one form or the other.
    Same thing

    Gandhi got the Indian people to boycott British goods.
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 13:49 — maximus7
    Gandhi eventually with his boycotts of British goods threw the British out of India.
    That’s what we should do here. Boycott products from those companies that give money to conservatives in both parties. See

    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:59 — Plisko
    So let’s see where we are:
    If the Democrats don’t pass a bill the Washington pundits, wonks and Republicans will all say what a failure they are and that may trickle down to the voters and hurt them in the next election. If they pass a bill the Republicans will say what a failure they are, the wonks and pundits will be split between failure and pragmatism . . and the voters will be pissed. . . and it will work against them in the next election.
    Given the two choices, the Democrats and the President are choosing to cast their lot with the pundits and wonks (and the medical industrial complex)rather than the voters.
    Interesting strategy you got there Rham.
    Wanker. . .

    I’ve said this before
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:56 — JohnnyBravo
    we need a revolution, violent or not. The Dems and Reps have again succeeded in screwing the people who voted for them and donated time and money to them. These bastards have to go.

    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:11 — theWalrus
    I agree with both Taibbi and Kuttner. Does that make me a Centrist?

    This is Medicare Part D all over again.
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:11 — fiver
    An industry bill produced by industry whores.
    In fact, the back room, criminal deal Obama made with PhRMA was made with Bush’s Part D buddy Bill Tauzin. The bribes and quid pro quo are shamelessly in the open for all to see….
    And they indicted Rod Blagojevich…. it must have been the swearing.

    The Washington Idea of Reform
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:04 — Plisko
    Let me get this straight. . .
    The people are being shaken down by an insurance cartel. The government will now legally take our money, pass some laws against shaking people down and then give our money to the insurance cartel along with a sheriff badge.
    Does that about sum it up?

    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:30 — Alice X – Choms…
    This is a corrupt corporatist sham.

    Complete and total takover of the country
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:39 — Evet
    by Corporations and their Officers.
    Not to forget the looting of the Public they pulled off in the process. Public Trust Funds, pensions, property, etc. . And that’s not even enough! They want it all!
    Total and complete Corporate control over the people and the economy.

    So whats the protest plan
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:41 — Evet
    going to be? Obviously we can’t sit around sending emails and digital form letters to D.C. and expect anything. That should be obvious after 9 years.
    This Nation Fought a revolution against England and its Corporations once already.
    We’re back to that again now.

    Thanx, Evet. I guess I get to be in charge of the plan.
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:54 — fiver
    First: Find out who our friends in Congress really are. Their willingness to back this corporate bill might be a good indicator.
    Second: Progressive congresscritters need to gum up the works; shut the fucking government down if necessary. Remember in the middle of the night, how the Dems finally “overcame” a Republican filibuster of a military/industrial complex funding bill?
    What kind of leverage do you think progressives might have had if they threatened to join and stop the bill? Hmmm… suddenly the military/industrial complex is at odds with the insurance industry and there’s pressure to give in on progressive health care demands so that Halliburton can get its cash.
    That’s only one example. What if a couple progressive senators objected to unanimous consent on everything, how long do you think the mythical 60 vote requirement would last? Just how arrogant and dismissive will this White House be if we can shut down even one of its corporatist plans?
    It’s time to seriously embarrass this White House and the “Democratic” leadership in congress.
    Third: Primary all centrist Dems (including and especially Obama); those we cannot defeat in the primary should be opposed in the general as well even if it means electing a Republican. A Republican can be defeated in the following election. A centrist Dem guarantees that a conservative will still be in power the following election (n/a in Obama’s case).

    And don’t send checks
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:04 — Evet
    to those who are not getting in these politicians faces and demanding REAL results.

    Definitely not…
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:09 — fiver
    … send them to me!
    I kinda like this being in charge thing….
    Seriously though: we need to stop sending money to the party and support individual candidates.

    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:12 — Plisko
    That’s my plan.
    I can’t wait till the Democratic party calls me for money. I have a thing or two to get off my chest.

    The protest plan?
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 14:26 — maximus7
    We’re going to email and call conservative Democrats and conservative Republicans campaign contributors and boycott them until they get us a single payer public option and fix Medicare Part D by moving it into Medicare Part B and making some other changes to it.

    Take our country back…
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:48 — EarthAbides
    I have been baffled by all of what has happened in the last few weeks and after reading this, it all makes sense. We are so screwed! How do we take our country back? Who do we trust? I refuse to buy MANDATED insurance, let them throw me in Gitmo…. OMG… Where are those FEMA prison camps?

    Re: Bill Moyers Journal: Taibbi and Kuttner on the Health Care
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:03 — JerryO
    The senior Senator of my state announced $45 million maybe on it’s way from the Government for ‘defense related spending’. Some of which will go to the construction of a new ‘facility’, didn’t say what kind of ‘facility’. Just sayin’.

    A great place to start…
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:55 — mldavis254
    No meaningful changes benefiting the citizens until Big Business is cut out of the loop. At this point in history they ARE the biggest part of a closed loop. One thing will start the pendulum swinging back to giving power to the people, and that is real election reform.
    Campaign finance must be regulated to remove the massive financial influence of the corporate oligopoly. Of course after having stated that I should note that the current herd populating both branches of Congress seem to have an aversion to carrying out their duties of any meaningful kind of regulation. There are a few in Congress who might be persuaded to introduce sweeping campaign regulation measures. Once the ball is rolling though it will be up to the citizens to push for it with everything we have. Until this issue is addressed no other popular or populist legislation will ever be introduced or passed without being twisted to suit the bottom lines of the corporations who hold the power to make or break those who would truly represent the citizens.

    Who is winning with this Bill?
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:51 — JerryO
    Wow…dig up on the words that were being thrown around in that clip. Scripted…mandate…special interest…business. In essence 30 million people are going to be driven like cattle and forced to buy protection from the very companies that are responsible for our broken Health Care System. It’s official for me. I will never vote for another Democrat and most certainly not a Republican in any election for a very long time, maybe even the rest of my life…I will continue to exercise my right to vote, just not for them. The two party system can no longer effectively serve the American People. I guess what Obama meant by ‘change’ was to be screwed in just a different way and hope no one notices.

    I, like you
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:59 — ron
    don’t like many things in this bill but pt still has to go through nthe conference committee and there are a lot of things in the house bill and a bunch of the house progressives that don’t like a lot of things in the senate bill either. There are things in the bill that may go away. I suspect the mandate may be one of the first to go.

    Mandate must go!
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:02 — EarthAbides
    I hope you are right…

    I hope so too.
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:43 — Stupid Git
    But if the mandate goes, what is left?
 Tax credits?
    Why don’t they just print coupon books and mail ’em out to us. 25% off on your next prostate exam!

    The insurance companies and
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:54 — 4thePeople
    their congressional whores will never let the mandate be removed from these bills.

    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 14:00 — ysbaddaden
    Who is winning with this Bill?
Sun, 12/20/2009 – 11:51 — JerryO
    • Login or register to reply
    Re: Bill Moyers Journal: Taibbi and Kuttner on the Health Care
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:10 — pinkobait
    This entire situation is a tragic mess.
 On one side you have a precarious economy, some extremely powerful corporations and lobbies, a radical right wing opposition marching in complete filibuster lockstep and a complicit media. On the other hand you have a badly divided Democratic Party split up into conservatives, moderates and progressives.
 On your mark, get set…blow. 
Nothing concerning the hopes for a just democratic society will ever be realized until the problem of ever growing corporate power is settled. Moving in “increments” would be an acceptable alternative if that were the case. Unfortunately this Bill as far as I understand it seems to be a big step backward.

    Passing crappy bills will not get more votes.
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:12 — Fish
    The Democrats are gonna learn this the hard way.

    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:38 — ctalk
    Called Obama’s banking photo op a kabuki dance, sadly I agree. Obama has lost my trust and admiration. He’s just another politician who deserves no second term.

    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 12:40 — Stupid Git
    Vote for it and the Democrats and Obama get a “win” but the party will be destroyed.
    Vote against it and Obama is a lame duck before his first year is over.

    I could give two shits
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 13:01 — JohnnyBravo
    about O’s reputation and status. I hope somebody comes to their fucking senses and kills this bill.

    time to admit it , we’ve been had ,
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 13:00 — Kreskin
    “Aren’t you saying that in order to save the Democratic President and the Democratic Party in 2010 and 2012 you have to have a really rotten health insurance bill” ? YES . To quote post above , what a tragic mess ! Why the F did they even bother ? I figured it was Emanuel’s brain child alright . What an F’n joke , this isn’t health care reform , this is more of the same , worse yet ! A mandate , you must buy Insurance from the private Insurance companies that have been reaming us and ripping us off and will continue to do the same as far as the cost ! I’ve been giving Obama the benefit of a doubt to the point that I’ve been in denial and making excuses for him , this is bullshit . To top it all off they screwed us right from the get go and just played us . And Obama’s meeting right before the vote , making sure that the bill to allow the importation of cheaper drugs was DEFEATED when it had the votes to pass the bill ? What an outrage ! Ditto “ctalk” and “Obama has lost my trust and admiration” .In regards to Obama , I can only conclude that we were had , lied to . Guess I shouldn’t be surprised . What’s the definition of insanity ? I think it’s time we all vote an Independent or third party regardless of the consequences .

    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 13:45 — myshadow
    The first thing to do is to quit blaming Rahm and Lieberman. This president can’t plead ‘Bush’. He is too intellegent and cognitive.
 Sure Rahm and Lieberman are douches. Leiberman is the figleaf the President used to finally 86 the Public Option, rahm is his bad cop.
 The fact is, this President CHOSE these people to act on his behalf.
 The craven nature of the duplicity of his appeal to the voters will reduce him to being a lame duck in months. Matt Taibbi has been villified in the MSM, but his last piece in the Rolling Stone is the nail in the coffin. This President has sold out a country battered by depression, economic and emotional, the middle class is terrrified for its existence. This guy has yet to utter a syllable of empathy.
 Sure, Bush left him a table full of steaming plates of shit. To sell out the country to the insurance companies, let banksters vacuum the treasury makes Bush look like a piker. When we all smacked our foreheads when Bush stole his reelection, we knew what we were in for. 
It is hard not to feel we have been duped with/by this President.
    When Kuttner said he thinks/hopes the President will come to his senses next summer, it is a variant of a thought of mine. 
The President had to appear to be cozy with the banksters so Holder and the FBI can build cases for/against Blankfein and Cassano, at the very least. The economy of the world doesn’t collapse because everyone was obeying the law. 
I am hoping this bill gets shot down in the House, and he is handed a well deserved defeat.
    Whatever contempt the villagers have for the ‘left’ they had better watch their tongues. The ‘left’ is also the independent, middle who needed a little convincing. Making them pony up to the insurance companies after being told they won’t have their taxes hiked.
 What the fuck do they think a ‘mandate’ is?
 The trouble is, the president/Rahm has pitted the left with the party of no as the opposition to this thing, at their very great peril.

    As a conspiracy theory
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 13:41 — Peter G
    the idea that this was all some pre-arranged fallback designed to suit the pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies suffers from one gigantic deficiency. If it were true, then at least some Republicans, who take even more money from those industries would be on board and the Senate bill would have considerable bi-partisan support. It does not. On the other hand, Taibbi is right about this rather bungled attempt at party unity will be a real albatross around the Democrats neck. Their only real option to remove that albatross is to get this bill done and immediately proceed to another bill that restores a public option or medicare buy-in and is written with budget reconciliation in mind. 2010 is coming.

    Not necessarily.
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 13:47 — myshadow
    The dems had enough rope to hang themselves and totally own it.
 The republicans can count.

    Re: Bill Moyers Journal: Taibbi and Kuttner on the Health Care
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 14:03 — fiver
    If it were true, then at least some Republicans, who take even more money from those industries would be on board and the senate bill would have considerable bi-partisan support.
    Why? There’s a ton of money to both parties, and Republicans have a role to play. Industry has managed to govern “both” sides of this debate (aside from the netroots). The Republicans main purpose is to force the discussion ever further to the right. Obama, by default as there are only two sides allowed, represents “the left” thereby eliminating progressive points of view (aside from the netroots).
    The discussion is thereby reduced to “the left” advocating a bill that Industry loves and the right demanding compromises that Industry loves even more.
    It’s win/win.

    Re: Bill Moyers Journal: Taibbi and Kuttner on the Health Care
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 13:41 — Gene214
    30 million people without health insurance; thousands dying everyday because they can’t go to a fucking doctor, and this is all I hear? What are the political ramifications for Obama and the Democrats? Fuck that noise. We the People gave the Democratic Party control of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency and what did they do? Nothing, that’s what. The Democrats were handed the reins of power to accomplish 3 things: Stop the fucking wars, repair the economy, and do something to provide relief to those who have fallen victim to the predatory Medical/Industrial Complex, and what did they do? In true DLC fashion they cowered before a political party which grows more out of touch and irrelevant everyday, and they did so in the name of what? Bipartisanship? What really, really, pisses me off is that they’re going to dump this steaming pile of shit on the American people on Christmas Eve, and expect what? That we should drop to our knees and kiss the feet of people like Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Baucus, etc, etc? You’ve gotta be friggin’ kidding! Yeah, Democrats, wait until you see how greatful we are in ’10 and ’12. A bunch of useless, corporate-owned fucking losers, thy name is the Democratic Party.

    And the Republicans
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 14:00 — ron
    obstructing everything.

    Re: Bill Moyers Journal: Taibbi and Kuttner on the Health Care
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 14:36 — ITDog09
    “You’ve been hoodwinked. You’ve been had. You’ve been took. You’ve been led astray, led amok. You’ve been bamboozled.”
    Malcolm X

    Re: Bill Moyers Journal: Taibbi and Kuttner on the Health Care
    Sun, 12/20/2009 – 14:51 — Ossi
    But I think if it goes down, just because of the optics of the situation and the way the Republicans have framed this as a make or break moment for President Obama, it will make it easier for the Republicans to take control of Congress in 2010.
    Isn’t there a fix to this? Let the bill pass on republican votes, then this unpopular bill is theirs not dems’?

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