To proceed with Healthcare reform, which has become so fractious it could be considered Scarecare, the Democrats should proceed with Reconciliation, so they only need 51 votes in the Senate, not 60.
The notion that 60 Senate votes somehow reflects 60% of the American populace is erroneous. By and large, it is the Republican Senators from largely rural states who are opposing the Public Option, which is supported by 77% of the American people in the latest Survey USA poll. The Baucus Six -- the Senators from the six states with the most clout on the Health Care issue - come from Maine, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico and Wyoming. They represent less than 3% of the nation's population and hold less than 2% of the nation's uninsured. They represent virtually none of the nation's major medical research centers or renowned hospitals and an infinitesimal portion of the country's tax base that might have to pay for additional health care.
The recalcitrant Republican Senators, as a whole, probably represent (even making the very generous assumption they are reflecting the will of their own constituents), maybe 20% of the country's population. One could fit Public-Option reluctant Democratic Senator Kent Conrad's North Dakota population into downtown Manhattan. This isn't to say that rural states should not be represented in the debate, but they are clearly over-represented.
This is quite aside from the fact that the Democrats are fitness-challenged by Sen. Kennedy's and Sen. Byrd's chronic illnesses, and are being penalized by the Senate's antiquarian rules that a member must be physically present in order to vote.
fact that reconciliation hasn't been seriously pursued indicates that the Dem's
heart is not in real reform, but that they are counting on the Loyal
The cost issue for a public option could be nearly wiped off the table by simply charging people under 65 full cost for Medicare. People already know, and like, Medicare, so this would wipe out any lingering Scarecare doubts about Death Panels and Rationed Care. It's hard to believe that the Senate has not considered extending Medicare to non-seniors, and hasn't thought about ways to pay for it, so what is really going on here?
One has to consider that it is not cost that is constraining these politicians -- after all, most of them voted for the Bush increases in Defense spending, the wars and the tax cuts that helped Bush double the national debt during his tenure. It may simply come down to ideology. They simply do not want a country in which the government provides a vital service like health care. It is too late for them to do anything about Medicare, though many Republicans have supported "privatizing" even that. But what they are truly fearful of is not that the government will get healthcare wrong, but that they might get it right, which would undermine their free-market-is-always-right argument on a host of issues. For the Republicans, it would lead to a fatal erosion of their Get-the-Government-off-my-back base. The next thing to go would be opposition to Energy and Infrastructure upgrades for a green economy, then opposition to high-speed trains and support for Mass Transit. This is a slippery slope the Republicans have no desire to fall down.
Of course, the fact that most of Europe, Japan, and Canada all have free markets and some sort of government-supported healthcare (not to mention they are ahead with bullet trains and green energy) doesn't seem to phase them -- those are Socialist countries in their minds.
In the current debate, we are paying for their ideological security with our own healthcare insecurity.