Of Bargaining And Leverage

>> Friday, September 11, 2009

To follow up a bit on Rob, I would have to say that I'm if anything a little more in sympathy with Matt's point. At the very least, if one thinks that Obama could get a good bill out of the Senate if he wanted one, I need to hear specifics about how, exactly, he can make this happen. While I agree with a lot of Armando's recent health care arguments, I think that here he's skating a little too easily over the fact that in order that for threats to gain leverage in bargaining they have to be credible. American political institutions don't provide a symmetrical bargaining ground; supporters of the status quo and powerful interests have the playing field titlted strongly in their favor, particularly in the malapportioned and countermajoritarian-on-many-levels Senate. So, for example, Matt Taibbi's argument that starting with single payer would have constituted the Democrats "start[ing] from a very strong bargaining position" is silly, because everyone knows that single payer had no chance of passing. In Matt's comments, Petey does actually make a good case that Obama has considerable leverage over House Blue Dogs -- owing to the fact that a health care bill failing to pass is going to mean a wave of Republicans taking over marginal House seats in 2010 -- but as of now getting a decent bill out of the House hasn't been the problem. Over the Senate, though, Obama's sources of leverage are much less obvious unless you think a threat to defeat the whole process (which would obviously hurt Obama much more than marginal conservative Senators) would be credible.

I'd also be curious for those who think that the President is effectively in charge of domestic policy to explain the abject failure of Bush's Social Security privatization scheme. Surely, this wasn't because Bush lacked the willingness to engage in the requisite nut/ovary cutting, to shift rhetoric to the right, or to accept minimum-winning-coalition votes.


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