Or, God hates a welcher.
So Josh Trevino and I had a bet. (If you don't know Josh Trevino, I used to post at his old "Tacitus" blog, waay back in 2005 or so. Then he was one of the cofounders of Red State. These days he's blogging, very intermittently, over here.) Josh bet that we'd get some sort of health care reform, but without a public option. I bet that we would get a public option.
This was back in [rummages through inbox] the summer of 2008. Health care reform passed, sans public option, in February 2009. So I'm a little late on this one. But New Years' Eve is the time to discharge obligations.
The bet? Loser does a blog post on "I was wrong, and why".
The first part is pretty easy: I thought we'd get a public option and we didn't. Wrong.
So, why then?
Well: the simplest answer is that I let hope -- of all things -- cloud my better judgment. The US health care system sucks so badly, and is so obviously broken, that it seemed inconceivable we wouldn't replace it with something better. And a public option seemed the least-better plausible something, if you see what I mean. Living in Germany may have influenced me, subliminally, a little. Germany has a public option. In fact, the public option dominates the sector. (It's not the whole sector. Private health insurance survives, and maybe a fifth of the population uses it.) Health care here has its little quirks, but it's just obviously better than the US version -- less expensive, better outcomes.
Also, to be frank, I drifted away from politics for a while. Just somewhat lost interest! The year before the 2008 election? Utterly focused. The first few months of the new administration? Watching with great interest. But from around mid-2009 until, oh, recently -- I somewhat lost interest. Some of that was inevitable letdown after the sustained intensity of 2008; some of it was... I don't know. The transition to the boring details of administration? Something like that.
So I wasn't paying attention to the political details of getting health care passed -- especially the nose-counting in the Senate. 60 votes and a thumping mandate! Clearly the Jubilee had arrived.
It's a little bit galling, because I used to be part of that world. Congressional aide, food soldier at the RNC, legislative counsel, legal counsel to a governor. I don't claim any particular nous, but I used to have some notion how the sausage got made. But you have to keep paying attention.
The campaign of mis- and dis-information also caught me a bit by surprise. From death panels to "hands off my Medicare" to the ubiquitous government bureaucrat who'll stand between you and your doctor, the level of noise on this issue was really pretty startling. In retrospect it's clear it had some effect on the outcome, especially on swing-state Senators. Which is a pity. As any parent can tell you, the one thing Skinner got right was that behavior that is rewarded is likely to be repeated. So we'll doubtless be seeing more of this.
Finally -- again -- I think there was some wishful thinking. Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus: after all that fuss, to end up with a bill that's basically a patch on the current system? When the developed world is full of models that are obviously better? Okay, most of those models were politically impossible, and health care for everyone, including children, is a great achievement -- but the law does little to reduce costs or make the system more efficient. It's not so much disappointing as deflating.
This wasn't one of those "I'm glad to have been wrong" bets; no, it sucks to have been wrong. Health care in the US is a big problem that's going to get bigger; things will get worse before they start to improve.
Well, there it is. Anyway. This is my last post of 2010, which was a very interesting year. I wish my (few, remaining) readers a very happy New Year, and look forward to seeing you all in 2011.