The mandate is a poison pill

No matter how its worded.

Jon Walker closes this post with a sound idea:

At the very least, remove the individual mandate so it can be held as a bargaining chip by progressives to extract greater reforms between now and 2015, when the mandate would go into effect. Passing the individual mandate now (just so it can sit on the books for years) would be a political and negotiating disaster for Democrats. As it looks now, the next reform battle will be fought on the terms of the insurance companies even more. That is not what I think is a step forward.It's painfully obvious that there are no talking points available to Democrats to attempting to defend the mandate. Its maddening to attempt to figure out why Democrats are intent on imposing a mandate now, enforceable by IRS penalties, that doesn't go into effect for 5 years, only to get clubbed with it for the next three cycles.

A recent national poll done by DFA/PCCC found very the majority of voters opposed to the mandate in its current form by a 56 - 33 margin.

When Jane Hamsher posted about the DFA/PCCC findings as fairly conclusive, Nate Silver objected. He questioned the political negativity of the mandate by stating that the DFA/PCCC question was worded uncharitably toward the mandate, and that a Kaiser poll with charitable wording showed just the opposite of numbers (implying inconclusive findings).

Here's the "uncharitable" wording of the DFA/PCCC poll in question:

Would you favor or oppose requiring all Americans to buy health insurance -- the so-called mandate -- even if they find insurance too expensive or do not want it? Favor 38 Oppose 51

Here's the "charitable wording in a poll done by Kaiser:

Would you favor or oppose requiring all Americans to have health insurance, either from their employer or from another source, with financial help for those who can't afford it? Favor 66 Oppose 31

Well, that's quite a contrast, but there's an important component of the Kasier poll that Silver left out. The next question of the Kaiser poll, asked only to those who said they favor the mandate, was worded:

"What if you heard that this could mean that some people would be required to buy health insurance that they find too expensive or did not want?" Still Favor 21 Now Oppose 73

Support drops dramatically. But something else becomes clear when comparing the wording of the single PCCC/DFA question with the two Kaiser polling questions:

PCCC/DFA question:
"Would you favor or oppose requiring all Americans to buy health insurance -- the so-called mandate -- even if they find insurance too expensive or do not want it?"

Kaiser questions:
"Would you favor or oppose requiring all Americans to have health insurance, either from their employer or from another source, with financial help for those who can't afford it?"

"What if you heard that this could mean that some people would be required to buy health insurance that they find too expensive or did not want?"

All the DFA/PCCC poll question did it seems, is combine the two questions asked by Kaiser. The only difference is that the DFA/PCCC question in the poll includes "the so called mandate" wording. Whatever. If someone wants to argue on behalf of the mandate having a PR headache for Democrats, that fine, but stop with the insinuations that calling it what we have all called it, a mandate, or an individual mandate, involves bias.

And besides, Jane Hamsher's obvious point wasn't that the poll could be no less neutrally worded, but that the political framing of the mandate would be much more toxic than this poll's question, ie., "When it appears in the ads of a Republican challenger who notes that the IRS will act as Aetna’s collection agency, I bet those numbers get dramatically worse."

And that it will. The simple follow-up question on the Kaiser poll turned the favorable numbers above, into a rout of opposition, with 80% opposed and just 18% in favor of the individual mandate to buy insurance.

This is really the point. Who really cares what is the most neutral wording of the poll? Are voters ever going to be presented with a neutral take by either party in ads and message from the candidates? No way now how.

So what we really want, is a further follow-up question that asks the inevitable '10/'12/'14 rightwing framing of the mandate to those 18% still in favor:

'What if you heard the individual mandate to buy private insurance is enforced by fines from the IRS acting as a collection agency on behalf of Aetna?'

'What if you heard the individual mandate to buy insurance is a bailout/giveaway/gift to private insurance companies?'

'What if you heard the individual mandate to buy private insurance is a disproportionately impacts lower-income families?'

And who can imagine what more are available. And yet there was Nate Silver in another recent post titled: "Why Progressives Are Batshit Crazy to Oppose the Senate Bill" where he argued: ... frankly, the individual mandate penalty is not very harsh ...if you adopted the House bill's subsidies for families at under 250% of poverty, and the Senate's (which actually become more generous) for people at greater than 250% of poverty -- perhaps in exchange for a harsher (not weaker!) individual mandate penalty -- you'd have a pretty reasonable compromise.Wow, that turns compromise into suicide-- and he's calling others crazy?

How are proponents of the mandate going to deliver the effective rebuttal to the attack on the mandate? Maybe its the the Kaiser follow-up guilt-question to those who opposed it is the answer (... deny coverage to the sick)? Whatever it is, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, Ezra Klein, and a whole Senate of Democrats that just voted for the mandate, could sure use it. And it won't be reality-based either, but instead a response to fear-mongering tactics for the next 5 years.

At the least, Democrats should get rid of the few-hundred dollar fines of the IRS associated with the mandate. If $1.2 Billion was available in the Manager's amendment to get the votes of Nelson and the others, then surely, can't the feeble amount collected by the IRS can be taken off the bill in an effort of toxic clean-up? And assign some sort of trigger to the mandate, that only becomes binding upon actual reform. Without some overhaul of the mandate in HRC, its a poison pill.

Nate Silver's latest claim is that removing the mandate would increase the CBO score, which is taken on by Jon Walker who points out just the opposite, Removing The Individual Mandate Would Reduce The CBO Score.

I doubt the deal changes much. But, it'll be interesting to see further breakdowns of the poll numbers regarding the mandate. I think it will only become more toxic overall, and the bulk of the response will be damage-control and on the defensive (you don't have to pay the IRS fine, OK!). But specifically, I'd like to see some numbers on voters and non-voters, and whether a person who has insurance or not (the ones effected by the mandate) is a voter, and what sort of breakdowns happen (this is one of those issues where libertarian impulses cross all sorts of barriers). That would begin to give the outlook some perspective of political fall-out.

There's more...

Thanks for sending me to Netroots Nation, DFA!

I can't say enough about how great Netroots Nation was last week.

It was an incredible experience for me and an ever better opportunity to network, train, and learn from some of the best in the business. (I also played a lot of poker -- lost, but still had fun!) But I wouldn't have been able to go without a sizable investment in me politically by Democracy for America.

Joining great new media activists like Daily Kos' own slinkerwink, Future Majority's Mike Connery, and our movement's 15 year old wiz kid Karl Singer (populista), I was among some pretty great bloggers and activists. But, more importantly, none of us would have been able to afford it without DFA.

I just finished penning a thank you note to the team over at DFA with a $20 check I hope will go to funding the scholarship program in 2010. I've attached it below and I encourage you to do the same.

There's more...

Netroots Nation

Netroots Nation 2009 is fastly approaching.  The annual convention of progressive and Netroots activists takes place in Pittsburgh this year from August 13-16. There are few events that I look forward to more each year than this one.  There are few times it feels more exciting to be a blogger or a progressive activist than when one is at the meeting formerly known as Yearly Kos.

If you are an activist who uses the Internet to try to change the world, there is no better place for you to be.  What could be better than being surrounded by thousands of like-minded people, all of whom are dedicated to the same things you are, all of whom have ideas and strategies on how to make change come alive.  Regardless of the official program, the key reason you should be at Netroots Nation is the opportunities you get to interact with an undending stream of people from whom you can learn about how to better do whatever it is you do.  It's also a great place to make contacts and connections that will further your own activism and your own career.

There's more...

BREAKING: Norm Coleman Raises $60,000 for Progressives!

Over at the Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away campaign, Norm Coleman's insistence on being a sore loser has raised over $60,000 to help progressive congressional challengers defeat Republicans in 2010.

And that number gets higher by the hour.

This campaign was launched 2 weeks ago by Howard Dean's Democracy for America and the new Progressive Change Campaign Committee (which I co-founded after leaving, along with some other great folks).

The goal is to change the incentives for Coleman's DC funders. Before, there was really no downside for those bankrolling Coleman's endless court challenges and denying Al Franken his Senate seat. But as thousands of us sign up to give $1 every day Norm refuses to concede -- to help progressives defeat Republicans -- the equation changes.

There are two things that make this campaign work: scale and buzz.

We've achieved great scale, but I'd like to formally invite anyone who hasn't already signed up to join the cause:

I'd also like to thank DFA, MoveOn, Darcy Burner, BlogPAC, and countless blogs for sharing news of this campaign with their networks.

Rec on Kos.

There's more...

DFA/Netroots Nation Launch '09 Scholarship Competition

It's that time of year again. From August 13-16, the 4th annual Netroots Nation conference will take place in Pittsburgh and once again, NN is teaming up with DFA to offer scholarships to send at least 30 deserving folks to the event.

As the conference grows each year, Democracy for America members have consistently been there helping to make the Netroots Nation conventions a continued success. As with many organizations, DFA contributes speakers, promotes attendance, and donates funds.

Last year, our members urged us to take our support a step further and find a way to help activists who couldn't afford to make it on their own still get to this great event. We started with a plan to send 9 scholarship winners. But the response and generosity went far beyond our expectations and in the end, 30 activists won a scholarship to Netroots Nation.

This year, we're starting with a plan to send 30 scholarship winners.

Click HERE to apply for a scholarship. Winners will get one Netroots Nation pass as well as lodging for one for the duration of the conference. The process by which winners are selected is as follows:

We will announce scholarship recipients in three rounds, with ten recipients per round. The people providing input on the selection process include the Executive Director of DFA, the Executive Director of Netroots Nation, former scholarship recipients, prominent bloggers... and you! Each applicant has a public profile and individuals can voice their support by nominating an applicant directly on their page.

The applicant with the most nominations at the end of each round will automatically win one of the ten scholarships guaranteed. Nominations reset at the start of each round, but applications and their accompanying profiles will remain active.

You can help 30 people attend Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh by contributing to the scholarship fund HERE.

There's more...


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