Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

Reason #4,672 Why Congress Kinda Sucks

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Politics

Because they don’t have spirited, culturally awesome arguments like this one between British Prime Minister David Cameron and a member of parliament, where they pretty much just throw out old Smiths songs as a way of bickering about Cameron’s proposed budget cuts:

MP Kerry McCarthy: “As someone who claims to be an avid fan of The Smiths, the Prime Minister will no doubt be rather upset this week that both Morrissey and Johnny Marr have banned him from liking them. The Smiths are, of course, the archetypal students’ band. If he wins tomorrow night’s vote [on tuition fees], what songs does he think students will be listening to? ‘Miserable Lie,’ ‘I Don’t Owe You Anything’ or ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now?’”

Cameron: “I accept that if I turned up I probably wouldn’t get ‘This Charming Man,’ and if I went with the Foreign Secretary [William Hague] it would probably be ‘William It Was Really Nothing.’”

David Cameron and an MP rapping about the Smiths in public? As part of a policy exchange? Sign me up!

Of course, the British parliament has always been noticeably more, um, lively and exciting than their American counterparts. In short, the House of Commons is basically the political equivalent of a rap battle.

We don’t do that in the United States. In fact, we pretty much do the opposite — we let our elected representatives pontificate ad nauseum to a near-empty chamber until they quite literally put people to sleep. But that doesn’t mean there’s not an appetite for this kind of robust debate in American politics.

Indeed, think back to last February, when the country was (briefly) atwitter over President Obama’s decision to take on his opponents head-to-head in a question-and-answer session at the House Republicans’ retreat. It was like the Woodstock of actual, real-life debate in Washington. It was legitimately thrilling to actually see (for once) the best and brightest of both parties really going at it in a more casual, open setting.

However, that unique moment becomes significantly less thrilling when you then realize that the British prime minister does the same thing every single week in Prime Minister’s Questions (or PMQ, as it’s apparently abbreviated), which is where the aforementioned Cameron-McCarthy Smiths exchange took place.

You may be thinking this isn’t really a substantive critique. You’re right — it isn’t. Barack Obama and John Boehner clearly aren’t going to develop a bipartisan plan to magically eliminate the national debt by swapping Run-DMC references on a weekly basis (although I hear Boehner is a huge fan.) But I can’t help but feel that our policy and our politics could only benefit from having more spirited public debates on the issues — particularly debates where policymakers and leaders from both parties (including the president) have to stand up and answer their critics directly in a healthy exchange of ideas and opinions.

I refuse to believe that such a heightened level of debate and transparency could somehow be bad for this country. But then again, I do love myself some political theater and a good Smiths reference — so maybe my motives are selfish in that regard. I guess I just live in the wrong country to be consistently entertained by my public officials’ weirdly encyclopedic knowledge of mopey 1980s British pop music…

The Obama Administration's Self-Inflicted Political Straitjacket

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Uncategorized

Yes, I’m alive. Welcome back to the blog. I hope everyone had a nice little break over the Thanksgiving holiday. I know I certainly did.

You know who didn’t have a nice little break over the Thanksgiving holiday? The White House.

It’s been a(nother) bad week for Barack Obama and friends, what with WikiLeaks dumping 250,000 top-secret State Department communiqués that reveal nothing particularly earth-shattering, but some damning backroom espionage by America’s top diplomats nonetheless. This, of course, beget a media firestorm questioning whether the leak has left the president “weak” in both the political and foreign policy realms just as his administration prepares to shift an eye toward reelection efforts.

Oh, and the president took a mean elbow the mouth in a friendly post-Thanksgiving basketball game, resulting in 12 stitches and some unflattering pictures of the commander-in-chief holding a wad of toilet paper to his bloody lip as he made his way out of the gym.

In the words of VH1, Barack Obama is having the best week ever!

And do you know what cures a bad week better than anything else? A poorly strategized, one-sided gesture of “bipartisanship” that undermines your economic agenda, that’s what!

Yesterday, in what seems like a desperate attempt to deflect some media attention away from the WikiLeaks scandal, the White House announced a two-year freeze on salaries for all civilian federal employees. You know, those lazy fat-cats that are living large on government benjamins — or, in other words, getting paid $40,000 a year to perform thankless jobs that are nevertheless essential to several important programs that millions of Americans rely upon every day.

That’s right, public servants. Stop sticking your hand out, the gravy train stops here.

Oh, President Obama. Where to begin?

The pay freeze is, first and foremost, a disappointing political move. These kinds of one-sided gestures are exactly what killed the White House (and, by extension, the Democrats) on both the stimulus package and health care reform.

Let’s recap. In early 2009 when the administration was trying to pass a large-scale stimulus package in hopes of boosting the flailing economy, the president made it very clear that he wanted some Republican support for whatever measure ultimately passed through Congress. How did he do that? By putting forth a bill laden with Republican-favored tax cuts that his economic advisers cautioned would be less effective in stimulating economic growth than other methods. In fact, tax cuts comprised approximately one-third of the $789 billion stimulus package.

Now, it’s all well and good to compromise with Republicans. Indeed, it’s preferable to be agreeable and productive, both politically and policy-wise. But you don’t open negotiations by giving them what they want right off the bat. That’s not how it works. Such a strategy — or lack thereof — doesn’t require them to make concessions (i.e. give up some votes) in order to secure a more desirable policy outcome. It doesn’t give them a political stake in the negotiation process.

Imagine a world where the president comes to the Republicans and says, “We want to do this stimulus package. We’d like to put $789 billion into the economy — 45 percent through infrastructure spending, 45 percent through aid to state and local governments, and 10 percent through tax cuts.” What would the congressional Republicans do? They’d throw a fit. “That’s ridiculous, Mr. President,” they’d say. “Our members won’t vote for something with that much spending and that little tax relief.” And they would be right about that.

This is where negotiation begins.

Perhaps after haggling for awhile, the president could secure some modicum of Republican support in exchange for cutting the bill’s spending and increasing its tax relief efforts. Perhaps he could strike a deal where the package would be structured equally across the board — one-third to tax cuts, one-third to infrastructure spending, and one-third to state aid — but do so in such a way that gives the Republicans some kind of role in the process (and, therefore, some responsibility) and picks up a chunk of votes along the way.

Or he could do what he did — just throw them a bone up front and get nothing in return. What incentive do Republicans have to be cooperative if the White House is just going to give them what they want without demanding any kind of concessions? In that scenario, they are free to sit on the backbench and lob political grenades at the administration, vote against the bill, and still get their desired policy outcome — and that’s exactly what they did.

This is an absolutely crazy thing for the administration to do — but they keep doing it. First the stimulus, then health care reform, and now the pay freeze. The White House continues to give Republicans what they want without getting any substantial concessions in return. Even worse, they know what they’re doing. They know these kinds of tactics are a mistake — as the president has lamented in recent weeks — yet they continue to do it.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results each time, then the White House political team is in dire need of a nice facility with tight white coats and padded walls. I don’t care how badly the press is savaging the administration over the WikiLeaks documents — we’ve been down the road of foolish, one-way “bipartisanship” before, and it doesn’t end pretty for anyone with a ‘D’ next to their name.

When does the madness stop?

Matheson

The Saga of Jim Matheson

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Anybody who attended the Utah Democratic Party’s caucuses this week is well aware of the anger that currently exists towards Jim Matheson, Democratic representative for Utah’s 2nd congressional district. He is the only Democrat representing Utah in Washington D.C., which is precisely why he has evoked this anger.

The primary reason for the fury is that many Democrats feel betrayed by Matheson, arguing that he ignores his base and votes like a Republican on many key issues. Most recently, he voted no on President Obama’s monumental health care reform bill. It was a close vote and represented, for many, a core principle the Democratic Party has been working to accomplish for decades. Needless to say, it was a controversial vote being that the bill passed by a slim margin of 219 to 212.

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Why Democrats Should Use Reconciliation

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

At the health care summit last week, nearly every Republican senator and congressman made clear their disapproval of using a process known as reconciliation to pass health care reform. Reconciliation is a process that is used for budgetary reasons in order to circumvent a filibuster and achieve a straight up-or-down vote. It helps needed budgetary bills move through Congress in a timelier manner. It has become somewhat of a hot-button issue due to the possible repercussions. Democrats fear using reconciliation would divide the House and the Senate or, in other words, Republicans would continue to vote no on every last thing Obama proposes. So really, there would be no repercussions.

The health care bill does, in fact, account for a large portion of the economy and would have a significant impact on the budget. Republicans actually back me up on this. By the Republicans persistent efforts, they have declared over and over again that health care accounts for a large part of the economy. At the health care summit last week, Lamar Alexander defiantly said that health care makes up roughly 17 percent of the economy and that we should not change it all at once. With that line of thought, reconciliation actually should be used in this case, right?

POLITICS: Incredulous Republican Fear of Debate

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

There have been plenty of complaints about the health care debate not being transparent enough, and that President Obama and the Democrats have not included the Republicans enough in piecing together legislation for a health care bill.

There have been accusations that the president has not kept his word. For example, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz tried calling the president out in a question at the Republican retreat a couple weeks ago.

“When you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN, you didn’t,” Chaffetz said. “And I was disappointed, and I think a lot of Americans were disappointed.”

Fair enough. Although the majority of the congressional hearings and committee meetings dealing with health care were, in fact, televised on C-SPAN. I guess the question for critics of this sort is how do you logistically make sure that every meeting is televised? Should every single hearing be televised? What about unofficial talks before actual meetings? Conversations? Opinions? I am as big a supporter of transparency as anyone, but it undeniably gets a little messy.

But now, perhaps in response to the criticism, the White House has invited congressional leaders of both parties to a summit to discuss health care with the hope of moving forward and making health care reform a reality. And yes, it will be televised in its entirety.

Unbelievably, almost immediately Republicans criticized the gesture. The talking points were heard far and wide, migrating from Fox News and the EIB Network directly into Republican leaders’ mouths. “It’s a trap,” they said, typically followed by “I don’ t know what to expect.” There are also fears the president is trying to “intimidate” the Republicans and Americans into a “government takeover of health care.”

From what we know about the debate, it is hardly a trap. By the time it takes place, Republicans will have had nearly three weeks to prepare. The Democrats’ updated bill will be posted online before the gathering, challenging the Republicans to put forward legislation of their own. Both parties were allowed to choose additional participants and staff members specializing in health care policy. In other words, if Republicans are caught by surprise or feel trapped, it will be their own fault.

Republicans are acting like they’re new to debate — or politics, for that matter. A televised debate with more than enough time for preparation is not a trap. Republicans complain about the health care process going too fast, but cannot get enough time to prepare for a debate on a policy we have steadily been talking about for over a year now? Isn’t that the point of debate, to present your proposals and see who has better ideas? Doing an interview with Stephen Colbert is more of a trap than the White House summit will be. (Chaffetz has done an interview with Colbert, by the way.)

Having a couple weeks to get ready for a televised, transparent debate on the people’s health care policy is not a trap. Public policy debate is not a trap. It’s part of open democracy.

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus.

POLITICS: Our Boy Brown Won Boston Town!

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Scott Brown

Call everyone! Teddy gave his seat up to a Republican! It’s sad to see there will actually have to be discussion again on the senate floor about issues like health care. I wonder how such a thing could happen. After all, the Democratic nominee, Martha Coakley, was ahead by large margins only a few weeks ago. Now she’s going back home with nothing but a “better-luck-next-time” and the reputation of being the first Democratic nominee to lose a senate seat for Massachusetts in the past three decades.

Now you might blame bad campaigning or whatever else, but in the end, is there a hidden message in this little turn of events? I don’t think it’ll be quite as challenging for the Senate to understand the hint, but hopefully they’ll get it: We don’t like the changes that are happening. The White House claims that the misdoings of their agenda has been merely “bad communication” to the American people. You’re right, Obama, because we would have never voted for you if we knew you were going to try and fundamentally alter American society within a year’s time.

Obama and his crony gang that is running both the Senate and House are sitting in office as the embodiment of an attitude of entitlement and welfare that has developed in America. I’m all for helping others out, but the attitude that government should provide all is nothing more than a virus that will corrode the bedrock of our founding. So perhaps the guilty party includes you and me. Thankfully, we seem to be waking up slowly and realizing we want change, but not at the price Obama is quoting us.

Whatever implications this has on party reactions and preparations for the 2010 election year is still hard to say. Democrats may take measures to reach out more to the people and work to address the job crisis in their states instead of pushing solely on the health care issue. Or perhaps they’ll just remain out of touch with their constituencies long enough for a changing of the guard. Who knows? For now, it’s just nice to see that in even the heartiest camps of liberal delusion, common sense still holds sway. Welcome to Washington, Senator Brown!

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. We welcome him back from his eight-year vacation.

POLITICS: Excuse My Musing (A Piece of Short Fiction)

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

“Teddy’s gone,” the voice told Nancy Pelosi through her overpriced cellular phone. She smiled. Finally, she had another chance to rally the troops behind her blitzkrieg of a health care bill and “realize the dream” of old Teddy Kennedy. Sure the “Lion of the Senate” was gone. He was the last of one of the most iconic political families in U.S. history; however, in light of the tragedy of his passing, there could be no time lost. She must seize the moment. But how?

As she drafted her statement concerning his passing, she couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of glee knowing that perhaps this would help win back many of the “fallen” Democrats that she had so earnestly blacklisted for their opposition to her flawless bill. Those cursed Blue Dogs; Who would have thought that even Democrats could think to oppose her? This thought made her dictate more furiously (because, of course, she’d never lay a finger on one of those complex electronic typing machines).

The hour grew later, and Nancy was struggling. She needed a war cry. Her dictation machine nearly short circuited from her long-winded braindump of thoughts about Teddy and her precious bill. Exhausted she sat down and asked her butler to turn on the T.V. for her. She sat as he flipped the channels and came across the good old AMC station. She loved those old time movies.

“Pause there,” she exclaimed. Her butler gave her the remote and left the room.

It was the movie Rudy. She loved this movie (or at least she had heard it was good at one point in time.) She paused and watched little Rudy in the dressing room of the Notre Dame football team. She didn’t care much for football (she didn’t understand the rules), but she watched little Rudy as he paused and looked at a plaque hung in commemoration of the famous words of Knute Rockne. (“Whoever he was,” she thought to herself.)

Little Rudy began to read. Dreary eyed, Pelosi watched in dull interest, trying to stave off the sandman a little longer. But then Rudy’s voice lifted saying, “Sometime, when the team is up against it—and the breaks are beating the boys—tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper,” Nancy’s eyes shot wide open.

“That’s it!” she exclaimed. “We’ll win one for the Gipper… I mean Kennedy. We’ll do it for Teddy. Perhaps he’ll be more useful now than he was alive.”

She hurried to her desk and began hissing her thoughts into the dictation machine. She could almost see herself alongside Rudy, reading that immortal speech by whoever that Knute Rockne guy was. “Win one for Teddy.” This would be priceless.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Now this is not in any way, shape or form an accurate description of the events leading up to the Democrats’ decision to rally support for the health care bill around the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy, but I’d like to think that this sad excuse for a P.R. rally occurred in a manner similar to the story I just spun for you.

With disapproval ratings on the rise, it’s understandable that Democratic leaders will try anything to bolster the diminishing support for their precious bill. I just flinch at the sight of them prostituting the passing of a fallen comrade to perhaps soften a few calloused conservative hearts.

It’s a last ditch effort to drum up support. It’s smoke and mirrors and nothing more. After all, there’s been an overwhelming consensus that the plan as now proposed is illogical and fiscally damaging to the nation. So why not turn to the pity card? Or better yet, how about we let the noble senator rest and focus on fixing the undesirable bill?

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. His editor developed approximately 17 ulcers while reading this column, but opted to publish it nonetheless. Three cheers for free speech!

POLITICS: From One Hypocrite To Another

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

Greetings to all you Rhombus readers. It’s wonderful to publish articles for you and hopefully it’s been interesting to read. The more articles I attempt to publish and the more feedback I get from readers, it’s become apparent that there’s a large portion that don’t agree with what I have to say.

It’s not a very big shocker, I know. My editor is more liberal than Richard Gere and Michael Moore combined and loves/despises every piece I submit. And yet this funfest of contention doesn’t stop at our humble Web site, no sir. Even more amusing is the hype and heat that is radiating around controversies and conflicts produced by talk show hosts like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, the White House, Congress and basically anyone else who voices their opinion.  Oh dear, we’re disagreeing with one another.

Now there seems to have been some nasty treatment of the fair-minded liberal leaders in office. Isn’t is awful how those conniving conservatives are waging this national whinefest to combat the pure intentions of the Democratic Party? How could conservatives generate so many lies and misinformation and slander our leaders in such a shameless and degrading fashion?

The truth is, it’s been happening for ages. And I’m not just blaming the “vast right-wing conspiracy.”You could easily switch the parties around and what would we have? Why we’d be right back in the good ol’ days of “W” and the Haliburton Hitmen of the Bush administration. There is no question as to whether the Pinko commie liberals were using dirty tactics of misinformation and rabble rousing. Millions of rock albums were sold on the mistaken idea that we were living under a fascist dictator. (Here’s looking at you, Green Day.) But now that we’re not under the spurs of our beloved Bush Jr., it’s fun to see how they whine about the nasty and apparently unfounded attacks on our new president, the great reformer.

I’ve got two words for you: Double standard.

Please don’t think of this as an attempt to excuse the conservative nut jobs from their slanderous statements toward public officials. I’m just hoping you realize this isn’t a new issue and mistreatment isn’t a one-way street running from the right to the left.

Some may argue such tactics of misinformation are only fringe practices in the Democratic Party and that Democrats are much more concerned with bigger, more important issues. But guess what? That’s because the Daddy Democrats are now actually in charge of helping to steer the country. They’re running the show, so naturally they have to be a little more preoccupied with actual affairs of state and less stressed about debunking the commander-in-chief.  Such tactics have, of necessity, been pushed to the fringes.

Now I’m not saying that there isn’t a need to decry unfounded allegations and accusations made against those of opposing viewpoints, but I am saying (to both sides) to stop playing the martyr. We disagree on what needs to be done here in the States. The whole right/wrong concept really boils down to which side of the aisle you stand on. The basic belief systems that we have espoused perhaps differ greatly. Some amenities that I would consider privileges are regarded by others as God-given rights. It in no way says that I’m right and your wrong or vice versa, it just means we have differing viewpoints.

You don’t walk up to a member of a different religion and say, “You’re wrong!” That’s both rude and hypocritical. I’m sure you’d feel the same if an atheist came to you and said your beliefs are foolish (if you are of a particular religious denomination). The fact that we believe ourselves to be correct doesn’t warrant a crusade to unhinge the beliefs of others. Once we can get that concept clear, maybe there will be less of this ideological propaganda and a greater effort to reason together and incorporate ideals to achieve more elevated solutions to today’s problems.

But until then, bring on the bickering, back biting and blowhards. I’m sure there will be some sort of sense we can find in the endless debates on CNN, The O’Reilly Factor and other “credible” news sources. If anything, we’ll stimulate the economy from added airtime for private advertisements. So don’t worry about progressing: It’ll be fun! Having played water polo in my past life, treading water has always been a pastime of mine anyway.

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. His editor doesn’t quite consider himself the liberal revolutionary that Mr. Jones does and genuinely wonders when Richard Gere become the new envoy of the left.

POLITICS: The Medical Monkey On Our Backs

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

In what has been one of the most heated and highly publicized debates in recent years, it’s been amazing to see the upheaval of public interest in health care reform.  From countless YouTube videos and dozens of newsflashes and reports of town hall protests, it’s easy to see there are a lot of people that aren’t happy with what’s going on. Now, this would normally be a time for me and my conservative minions to proudly sound an advance on Capitol Hill, but there is some reckoning that needs to happen first.

The debate has taken a turn for the worst. We’re no longer compromising. Be it the bull-headed GOP or the jackass liberal Democrats, a definitely line has been drawn in the sand; Representatives are being forced to choose their side under immense public scrutiny. The White House has even begun to imply that there will have to be a Democrat-only vote to push health care legislation through Congress. The white house blames the GOP and the visa versa.

What really chaps my hide isn’t so much the fact that we’re disagreeing. Heck, we’ve been at odds with one another since men were still wearing wigs and knickers. What really get me are the implications of the outcome of this debate. There is a serious shift of power that is occurring in this country as we consider and possibly pass bills such as the health care bill currently sitting on Capitol Hill.

With the introduction of federal programs, there comes a surrendering of autonomy in some degree or another. Many families lose the ability to find decent health care, because private insurance companies will be scrambling to match the government’s offer. Even then, if those families decided to take the feds up on their new program, they’ll have to take a number and wait for their turn to check out some ailment that should have been addressed much sooner. Companies, both big and small, will suddenly lose a bargaining chip (a.k.a. health benefits) that they once used to attract skilled full-time labor and instead get a “tax monkey” to carry around, in order to support this doomed program.

Part of my sentiments about this issue comes from time spent abroad in the socialized nation of Chile. One thing I noticed above all is the polarization of the health care offered to the Chilean people.  If you were looking for treatment that was comparable to “U.S. standards,” you would have to be willing to shell out the big bucks to pay for it. Otherwise, the government-run hospitals and clinics were the only other local option.  Since there was little-to-no cost to the patient for health care, people came for the slightest coughs and sore throats. A mere checkup would be scheduled out three to four months in advance.  Is it any wonder that the leaders of other countries come to the States for their medical needs?

If you’re scratching your head and saying, “Jess, you’re an alarmist and an over-exaggerator,” try this one on for size. I am currently enrolled in a health plan that mimics the proposed health plan the federal government will provide if the bill passes. Several months ago, I went in for a checkup for chest pains and was informed that I needed to visit a specialist that dealt with such problems. Should the problem continue, I was in danger of contracting cancer. Naturally, there was need for an urgent checkup to curb this potentially lethal problem. However, the program in which I am enrolled offered only one specialist — and he was booked solid for four months. Keep in mind, this was America. Granted, I only had to pay for the co-pay and I would eventually get seen, but what can we expect from a larger version of this plan? Is there need to worry about the shortage of doctors and specialists that will want to work for government?

I guess what is most troubling above all is the manner in which we are proceeding to pass this bill. Democratic leaders, along with the White House, are determined to pass this bill without delay. I don’t fault them for their vigor, nor for their ambition of helping a larger portion of Americans receive healthcare; However, there is no room in democracy — especially in American democracy — for these thug-like stratagems in Congress. This bill is just one of several examples of a major shift of power and responsibility towards the federal government.

It’s a big deal and for Democrats to just say “We’re doing this whether you like it or not” isn’t only offensive to the framework of the Constitution, but it’s a key indicator of the lack of leadership abilities of both the majority leaders and the White House. The attempt to garner public support through town hall meetings has proved that many Americans are against the plan set forth thus far. Polls show that more Americans disapprove than approve of the plan, so why are our leaders planning on making a power move to ramrod this legislation through Congress when it will clearly take a step toward greater government control?

You may think this is a half-hearted attempt at a Beck/Hannity homage, but the truth is there are things to consider here that are of serious consequences. James Madison explained that the purpose of the American republic was to reduce the effect of factions, splinter cells that are looking to deprive others of their rights. Although the representatives that are fighting over this bill were elected by the people, a faction of leaders has emerged on Capitol Hill with the determination to decide for us one of the most personal decisions that we could make: How we care for ourselves medically. Are we in trouble or are we paving the way of the future? Such questions are worth debate and a personal diagnosis.

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. He is also the incoming vice-chair of the BYU College Republicans.

POLITICS: Hooray For Common Sense Health Care Reform!

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Politics

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a revised health care reform bill today that includes both a public option and a significantly lower price tag:

WASHINGTON — Democrats on a key Senate Committee outlined a revised and far less costly health care plan Wednesday night that includes a government-run insurance option and an annual fee on employers who do not offer coverage to their workers.

The plan carries a 10-year price tag of slightly over $600 billion, and would lead toward an estimated 97 percent of all Americans having coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Chris Dodd said in a letter to other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The AP obtained a copy.

By contrast, an earlier, incomplete proposal carried a price tag of roughly $1 trillion and would have left millions uninsured, CBO analysts said in mid-June.

All right! $600 billion and a public option? This we can do! Just think: a few weeks ago we were trying to find ways to get a bill without a public option at less than $1 trillion. Not only does the public option not cost nearly as much as its opponents have stated recently, but it turns out it actually saves money:

The letter indicated the cost and coverage improvements resulted from two changes. The first calls for a government-run health insurance option to compete with private coverage plans, an option that has drawn intense opposition from Republicans.

“We must not settle for legislation that merely gestures at reform,” the two Democrats wrote. “We must deliver on the promise of true change.”

Additionally, the revised proposal calls for a $750 annual fee on employers for each full-time worker not offered coverage through their job. The fee would be set at $375 for part-time workers. Companies with fewer than 25 employees would be exempt. The fee was forecast to generate $52 billion over 10 years, money the government would use to help provide subsidies to those who cannot afford insurance.

The same provision is also estimated to greatly reduce the number of workers whose employers would drop coverage, thus addressing a major concern noted by CBO when it reviewed the earlier proposals.

And there it is. All this screaming over health care, about how it couldn’t be done, about how any type of mandate would kill small businesses, about how the publci option would be the death toll of capitalism, etc. etc. — and this is all it takes? Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd sit down and hash it out? I’m okay with this.

Of course, Republicans will still whine, but it’s not clear what there really is to whine about. Increased coverage: check. Decreased cost: check. Decreased taxpayer burden: check. What is there left to holler about? The folks at Daily Kos put it perfectly:

Politically, this puts Republicans and Democratic opponents of the public option in a terrible position. They can’t argue that the public option is too expensive. And they can’t argue that it won’t lower costs and expand coverage.

The only argument they have left is that private insurers won’t be happy with the public option. To the extent that argument sways opinion, it will sway opinion in our direction.

Amen. This bill could be the one that finally passes, that finally gives America the health insurance system it deserves. I hope it does and I hope Harry Reid has the stones to railroad it through, if necessary. It’s the right bill with the right coverage at the right price. The president wants it and, more importantly, the American people want it.

Let’s get it done, shall we?