Of course Obama’s health care plan, as originally conceived, won’t work. Everyone knows it now, and it looks as if momentum is shifting toward a less radical plan (whether the alternative will be a sensible plan is still in doubt).
My own belief is that Obama is not so much interested in the details of health care reform – he pretty much proved that in his disastrous press conference last week – as he is in having legislation of any kind that will serve as a memorial to his presidency (I used a photo of a pyramid yesterday in illustrating how he views the significance of a health care bill: it is intended to be a lasting tribute to his personal awesomeness). If congress were to pass an amendment to a health care bill that required virgins to be thrown off the Washington Monument in order to placate the Dreaded Pox God, or a Shirley-Jackson-type lottery for citizens over the age of 65, Obama would probably sign on the dotted line without giving the matter a second thought (if he even noticed the provisions at all).
Therein resides the opportunity – and the danger – facing Republicans and so-called moderate Democrats. Since UK-style, single-payer health care is off the table (for now), there is a chance for elected officials who actually have some reasonable ideas on the subject to create a sound piece of legislation that the President may be willing to support (although perhaps it would be more accurate to say, that the president will be forced to support, if he wants to avoid looking like a Carteresque loser). The temptation, I’m afraid, is that Republicans and their temporary Democratic allies will be so relieved to have avoided the worst possible outcome that they’ll settle for something that’s still fairly awful. No bill is still better than a bad one.