Washington Prowler

The Great Regrouping

Health-Care Leninists' two steps forward, one step back. Also: The renewed anti-conservative threat to the Internet.

By 8.17.09

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THE CO-OP FALLBACK
The White House on Sunday was pushing the notion that it was willing to abandon the tent pole policy in its health care reform proposal -- the so-called "public option," more commonly understood to be socialized medicine -- in favor of the national health insurance co-op proposal put forward by Sen. Kent Conrad. But some White House and Health and Human Services aides say supporters of the "public option" shouldn't abandon hope.

Because while some media presented this as a victory for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who protested Obamacare, and leftists and progressives were angered by the apparent waving of the white flag by the Obama Administration, some administration insiders privately believe they can achieve the goal of the "public option" through the co-op plan's implementation.

"The federal government would have to seed money into the co-op program," says a White House source. "Depending on who you talk to, it's between $6 billion and $10 billion in funding, along with a congressionally mandated and administration designated board to oversee the co-op at least initially."

According to some of the more progressive members of the administration, this board, which would set the policies for the co-op plan's implementation and operation, along with the strict requirements for financial stability, might be a back-door way to "eventually," as another administration put it, allow the federal government to take over the co-op and transition it to a plan more closely resembling the "public option."

"It might not happen as fast as we would want, but based on the challenges the astroturfers and insurance industry have put in front of us for the full plan as the President has laid out, the co-op plan probably isn't going to achieve what Conrad and its supporters want," says an aide to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "The minute this co-op runs into financial difficulty with low reserves" -- some estimates believe the co-op could become the third-largest health-care insurance provider in the country -- "it's the government that's going to have to bail it out, and then we're looking at the clear path to the public option."


NOTHING BUT NET NEUTRALITY
Former President Bill Clinton spoke to what might best be described as a lukewarm audience at the Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., last Thursday at the David L. Lawrence convention center. Clinton was largely reviled by the progressive movement by the end of his two terms, and the progressives by and large opposed the candidacy of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008, supporting Barack Obama instead. The crowd in the convention center was largely respectful, and gave him partial standing ovations when he spoke of progressive positions, though he was heckled about his support for the "don't ask, don't tell" policy he implemented, and he addressed the issue specifically.

Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett received similar treatment during her presentation on Saturday morning. She was heckled for the Obama Administration's decision to block release of photos that purport to show torture of jihadist terrorists.

While many of the attendees insisted they remained upbeat about Obama, they were less hopeful of the political environment they were seeing as a result of the administration's difficulties with health care reform legislation and Senate Democrats' seeming refusal to push the House version of cap and trade legislation.

"If we can't get everything we want out of health care reform and climate change, then we will have to take what we can and hope that we can get 'net neutrality' legislation passed. To get something on all three issues done in the same year, would be remarkable victories for us," said one attendee.

Yes, net neutrality. While the health care debate and fight over cap and trade and stimulus spending have garnered the bulk of the American public's attention, some conservatives believe the Obama administration and Democrats' attempts to regulate the Internet deserves equal attention, given the grave threat they represent to free speech and conservatives' ability to organize and mobilize politically.

During the last day the House was in session before leaving for its August recess, Rep. Ed Markey's staff introduced HR 3458, the so-called "Internet Freedom Preservation Act," which would essentially enable government control of the Internet, treating the networks as a government-managed utility. (For more information about "net neutrality," read this interview that one of the key "net neutrality" supporters gave to a Canadian socialist publication.) The Markey legislation is considered the last piece of what some conservatives consider to be Democrat and progressive attempts to control the Internet and limit citizens' ability to use the networks to organize and oppose their agenda.

The bill was introduced the same week it was revealed that the Obama Commerce Department was demanding from the phone and cable companies highly detailed data about private citizens' Internet and broadband connections as part of plans of "map" broadband networks across the country.

It was also revealed the White House had put in place a plan to collect email addresses of citizens who opposed the administration's health reform proposal, and then last week we learned that the Obama administration had negotiated deals with companies like Google and YouTube to collect and provide citizens' personal data, such as Internet addresses, when they visit government websites. Within days of this new policy being revealed, U.S. citizens who had not signed up for any information about the Obama health care bill received e-mails from the White House and Obama adviser David Axelrod touting Obamacare.

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