Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Health Care's Lowest Foes

The most reprehensible critics of reform are not the ignorant or deluded, but the conspirators who lie knowingly about what's at stake.

H.L. Mencken famously observed that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. Were he alive today and watching our debate over health-care reform, he would nod his head knowingly and say, "See? I told you so." And he would no doubt have more than a few things to say about those whose seeds of deception have found such fruitful soil in the fears and prejudices of so many of our fellow citizens. Reform's fate will be uncertain until the last possible moment, and if the legislation does succeed, it will be by the skin of its teeth. Perhaps the success of reform will be enough to wipe away the bitter taste the last few months have left in the mouth of anyone who cares about American democracy. But ask yourself this: In your lifetime, can you recall a debate in which lie was piled so high upon lie, in which one side operated so cynically, in which fear was so gleefully wielded, in which ignorance and misconception and plain old stupidity so thoroughly...

Last Chance for the Public Option?

Reports of its demise could be premature.

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If it could turn back the clock, the Obama administration would probably go back to late November and undertake an elaborate war game on health-care reform. It would lock its smartest people away in a secure location for a week or so and have them play out every conceivable scenario and subplot, detailing plans for all eventualities. Then, when the time came, it would be prepared for anything. Administration officials don't appear to have done that. But if nothing else, they should have been able to predict that the public option -- a Medicare-like program from which Americans could chose to get their health insurance -- would eventually become the ideological flashpoint of the entire debate. You didn't have to be a genius to see that coming. Though it took a while, the public option is now at the center of the discussion. Among other things, this means that progressives are finally getting to participate, beyond defending the administration against the ridiculous claims of critics...

Insurance Fraud

In the health-care reform debate, the insurance lobby is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

When Barack Obama made the election promise of ambitious health-care reform in his first year in office, anyone who had paid attention to the issue would have predicted that the battle would be fierce. But one of the most curious developments of this debate has been that the group one would have thought would be leading the charge against reform – the health-insurance companies – has largely stayed quiet. They haven't aired attack ads, as they did in 1993, nor have they sent their representatives to the talk shows to blast the president and his efforts. Before we start rethinking whether the insurance companies are as malevolent as they've been made out to be (spoiler alert – yes, they are), it's worth noting just how remarkable their relative absence from this debate has been. Whatever else you can say about them, they're not the ones whipping up fear of "death panels," or comparing Obama to Hitler, or screeching about "socialized medicine." In fact, if you didn't know about their...

All the Rage Over Health-Care Reform

The ugliness of the opposition to health-care reform is a symptom of something much larger.

About 200 protesters wave signs and chant outside a townall meeting in Alaska where Sen. Mark Begich is speaking. The group is working to get Begich the hold a town hall meeting on President Obama's health care plan. (AP Photo/ Al Grillo)
If you've watched any of the growing library of YouTube videos depicting (mostly) middle-aged white guys yelling at their members of Congress during town meetings about health care, you may have had the following reaction: Why are these people so angry? Did that congressman kill that guy's dog or something? What the heck is going on here? One answer is that what is going on is a campaign of thuggery organized by a loose coalition of corporate-funded interest groups, lobbying firms specializing in "Astroturf" campaigns, and conservative organizations. But that's only part of the story. For all the strategizing by the usual right-wing suspects, the people being marshaled are there of their own volition, and they aren't acting. They may have been told where and when to appear by a Washington lobbying firm, but they are genuinely, sincerely, quiveringly mad. At present, their anger is being spat at the administration's attempt to reform health care. But that rage goes much deeper than any...

Health Care's Public Perception Malady

Don't count on successful health-care reform to change the public's attitudes about government.

For many years, it was hard to know whether the oft-told story of the elderly woman who walks up to her congressman, wags a finger in his face, and says, "Tell Washington to keep its hands off my Medicare!" was actually apocryphal. But today, this episode is being re-enacted over and over again, at town meetings and in coffee shops where politicians go to practice their phrenological arts, passing their fingers over the ever-changing bumps on the public's collective pate. One recent example came in a Washington Post article , in which Rep. Bob Inglis, a Republican from South Carolina, related that an elderly constituent gave him this very instruction. The depressing punch line, however, was this: "I had to politely explain that, 'Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,'" Inglis recalled. "But he wasn't having any of it." This anecdote is coming from a Republican almost guaranteed to vote against whatever health-care reform bill emerges from Congress. What...

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