So, Governor Shumlin has announced he won’t be unveiling his financing plan for single-payer health care until after the 2014 election. Even by his lofty standards, it’s a formidable display of sheer political chutzpah, a full-on crotchgrab directed at anyone who might dare challenge him for re-election. “You’ll know my plan when I tell you my plan,” is what he seems to be saying. “You want some? Come get some!”
Okay, a bit of blogger’s license there. But look: if the Governor was in any danger whatsoever, do you think he’d continue to flout “the statutory requirement to present financing options in January 2013,” not to mention drawing the ire of Republicans and testing the patience of Democrats and Progressives who’ve advanced him a whole lot of credit for his promise of a workable single-payer plan? And the promise keeps on receding into the future. “Re-elect me, and then we’ll talk.”
No, he didn’t say that. Not exactly. But here’s what he did say on VPR’s Vermont Edition last Friday:
“I’m saying to my team, ‘don’t spend a lot of time getting committees that won’t even be the same committees working on something that isn’t going to be voted on anyway, and that we don’t have the answers for yet.'”
Which implies that he’s got a funding plan, or he’s close enough that he could unveil it this year if he wanted to, but ehh, why should he?
Why indeed. Must be nice to be bulletproof.
Apparently there were some second thoughts about the brazenness of his VPR statement, because by Monday he’d changed his tune:
“We’re not ready, it’s as simple as that,” Shumlin said at a press conference Monday.
… “All I’m saying is let’s get this right. That’s more important than meeting some arbitrary deadlines,” he said.
“Arbitrary” has, I guess, become a synonym for “statutory.” I’ll remember that when I see a speed limit sign on the freeway. You can almost hear the exasperated sigh in Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning’s reaction:
“I’ll have to confess it doesn’t surprise me,” Benning said Friday of the news that financing concepts had been put on hold.
Yeah, I don’t think it surprises anyone, Joe.
On the one hand, Shumlin’s move is politically savvy: He doesn’t have to subject his financing scheme to a full year of scrutiny and criticism, so he’s not going to. Sure, opponents will be able to attack his nondisclosure; but a defined plan would be a much juicier target. It could even create divisions within the Dem and Prog camps. (I’ve heard rumblings that some Progs are having second thoughts about single-payer because of how it might be structured and paid for.)
On the other hand, hubris is a terminal condition in politics: an excess of confidence leads to complacency, which in turn leads to carelessness (at best) or corruption (at worst). And that leads to defeat.
Back in the early 90s, Canada’s Conservative Party was a dead man walking. After the thoroughly corrupt Brian Mulroney years, followed by the brief and feckless Kim Campbell premiership, the Liberals had a stranglehold on power. But after 15 years of bumblef*ckery and scandal, the Liberals were out and the Conservatives were in. And now, Stephen Harper is remaking Canada in a very fundamental way. I don’t wanna see that happen in Vermont.
And this display of cockiness on the Governor’s part, although it won’t cost him a damn thing in the short run, is a bad sign for the future.
Shumlin talks about the “heavy lift” that will be required to enact single payer. Well, in the next biennium he’ll also be under the gun to deliver some sort of school-funding reform. You don’t think that’ll be a heavy lift as well? Dem lawmakers had best start hitting the gym. If they think the kitchen’s getting a bit warm now, wait till they tackle both of those issues at once.