Transcript: Thom Hartmann gets Governor Howard Dean's reactions to the health care bill. 16 December 2009

Thom Hartmann: At this moment apparently, the AFL-CIO and SIEU are meeting to debate whether or not they should actively oppose, passively support, or actively support - that seems the least likely option - this new health care bill that has been put forward. And I’m suggesting that the bill should be killed altogether. This bill, which is going to require, now wrap your head around this for a minute, and just think about this, I was going to say as if you were Karl Rove. I realized putting yourself into the mind of a sociopath can be a very painful thing. Think of it as if you were a Republican strategist, and the Democrats hand you this gift, and this is a gift.

They say, we’re going to say to thirty to forty-five million Americans, “You must buy health insurance.” And we’re not going to give you a government programme like Medicare that you can buy into, with a two percent overhead, you’re going to have to buy it from the gangsters in suits who right now insert themselves between you and your doctor, call themselves a health insurance industry, with anti-trust exemptions, and multi-millionaire salaries, and private jets with gold-plated faucets in the restrooms, you know, and on and on it goes.

You’re going to have to buy it from those gangsters. Now if you’re poor, we’ll give you some money but it’s going to come out of everyone’s taxes, and the middle-class is going to say, "what? You're raising my taxes to give money to these gangsters, the health insurance companies?" And the Republicans, they’re lying in wait. I tell you, they’re lying in wait for this for this, for this mandate.

And this is not the fundamental change that we have been hoping for. This is not the fundamental change that, and frankly, I believe that there’s a couple of reasons why it’s not that fundamental change. Number one, I think that President Obama thinks that he can pull off what Bill Clinton did and what Ronald Reagan did and what George Herbert Walker Bush did, and what to some extent George W Bush did, which is prestidigitation, you know, magic tricks. “We’ll do the World Trade Organization and tell you that it’s going to help American workers. Don’t worry, it’s going to help American workers. Just wait five years” Yeah. It didn’t work.

Thom Hartmann: So, anyhow, Howard Dean is on the line with us. The former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the former Governor of, six term Governor of, when I lived there, my State of Vermont, not my home state, but I lived there for a decade and I was very, very proud to have Howard Dean as my Governor, and one of the best Governors I’ve ever had the privilege of living in the State of, and a man that I wanted to see President of the United States, when he was running for the United States, for the Presidency. By the way, his brother’s organization is the website. I don’t know, Governor Dean, if there’s any other sites you want mentioned, right now?

Howard Dean: Probably just the Progressive Book Club .com, that would be a good one.

Thom Hartmann: Ok.

Howard Dean: As long as we're mentioning great web sties, and thank you very much for having me on.

Thom Hartmann: Well, I’m very pleased that you could come here and speak with us, Governor.

Howard Dean: I apologize for being late.

Thom Hartmann: No, that’s quite all right. I wrote an op-ed that’s all over the Internet yesterday, called “First They Came for the Banksters”, you know, pointing out that much like the health reform, or the financial reform that Matt Taibbi has been writing about, we’ve basically been sold out on health care reform, and this bill should be blown up. I’m curious, and I know that is very similar to your position, let me let you riff on that for a moment.

Howard Dean: Well, there are some good things in this bill. They do expand Medicaid. Bernie Sanders has got a great significant expansion of community health centers, Tom Harkin has got a wellness and prevention piece in there. There are some good things in the bill. The problem is, there is an enormous number of bad things in the bill. Basically, they just force us now, every American, to get health insurance, pay a health insurance company which can take up to thirty percent of your premium dollars, and spend them on things like paying million dollar CEO salaries, and return on equity, and this is not, this is so Washington. In the last week or two, everybody’s desperate for a bill so they throw caution to the wind, they forget why they’re there, and they throw anything into the bill that can get them a few votes and unfortunately there’s still a lot of special interest folks, you know, in Congress.

Thom Hartmann: Right. Let me ask you a question that I asked Jeff Merkley yesterday or the day before, and his response was, you know, it’s a good thing to dream, Thom, which was like dream on, a good thing to dream good dreams, but….. What if this thing goes down and I mean, if the House progressive caucus keeps their word, it’ll go down in the House, or it goes down in the Senate? But what if this thing goes down and the whole thing collapses, and they say ok, we’ve got to have a reconciliation, in my mind, and correct me if I’m wrong, it seems like the only thing that could really work with reconciliation is to say, "Ok, the entry age for Medicare is now zero. Everybody in America has Medicare coverage. Medicare will be paid for, the balance of that is going to be paid for out of the general fund. We’re going to roll back the Reagan tax cuts to pay for it".

And boom, and just in the dead of night, overnight, really quickly get that through, get an agreement in the House and the Senate, throw it through, and get it passed and signed, because it's reconciliation, get it passed with fifty one votes, before the Republicans have a chance to mount more tea parties, and get it on the desk of the President immediately and boom, we join the rest of the developed world. Do you think that there is even a remote possibility of something like that happening?

Howard Dean: No, but it’s not, but as senator Merkley said, it's nice to dream but, but there is a possibility that they could do that. It wouldn’t go down to zero Medicare, and you know, Senator Conrad, who has expressed some concerns about using Medicare as the chairman of the Budget Committee, which is what that bill would have to go through, but that is a viable possibility, not to go down to zero, but to have Medicare as a base. Medicare makes much more sense as the base, and it is why it was so excited a couple of weeks ago when they started talking about this. Because there is an existing bureaucracy, you can sign up people in a month after the President signs the bill. And what is in the bill as it now stands before the Senate, most people have to wait until 2014 to get any health insurance. But there are lots of problems with this bill as it now stands.

But you could do that in theory, and in practice your alternative is not a bad one. It wouldn’t be quite as comprehensive as you just said, that's just not, there’s just not enough votes for that, but you could certainly do a lot more than the Senate bill, and a lot more than even was in the Senate bill when I thought it was worth passing.

Thom Hartmann: Sir, in the two minutes we have left...

Howard Dean: And the other thing that you could do, Thom, is to start all over again. [ unclear ] This idea that no President is going to do this for twenty years if this fails is just not true. There is a health care emergency in this country, and this is going to have to get fixed. And I think the first time, they essentially failed. The second time, I think we could do better.

Thom Hartmann: Yes, hopefully, hopefully. Although the Democrats might take a huge beating in the 2010 election as a consequence of this……

Howard Dean: That’s going to happen no matter what they do.

Thom Hartmann: I think you’re right. So what do you think is going to happen next, Governor Dean?

Howard Dean: It probably will pass the Senate, it will go to conference committee. And then I think it's anybody’s guess. You know the same four Senators who represent the insurance companies, who vetoed the bill before, could veto again, so I don’t see a whole lot of changes in the conference committee.

Thom Hartmann: So, your best guess is that the House is going to kill the bill?

Howard Dean: Well, I don’t know. That’s a very good question. I think that it will be very, very close in the House.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. We live in interesting times, as the old Chinese curse goes.

Howard Dean: We do indeed, but I think there is no point to be, just give up and throw up our hands. I do think that we’re going to get reform. I think we’re going to get reform sooner than later, I think it’s important for the reform to be good reform. It doesn’t have to be perfect reform. I mean, look, most of the left in America was willing to give up the single-payer, even though they felt it was the best system, and what they’re not willing is do a huge bailout at taxpayers expense, for the insurance companies.

Thom Hartmann: Well, it’s not even a bailout, because they’re not in trouble. I mean, it’s just a gift.

Howard Dean: Right, right. It’s just a special interest gig. You know, special interests are not stupid in this town. They wait until the last minute, until everybody’s desperate, they get somebody like Senator Ben Nelson or somebody to carry their water for them...

Thom Hartmann: And they’re off to the races.

Howard Dean: And they’re off to the races, and they usually get what they want. And this time it's time to say no.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Governor Howard Dean, Governor, thanks so much for being with us today.

Howard Dean: Thanks for having me on, Thom.

Thom Hartmann: Great talking with you.

Transcribed by Gerard Aukstiejus.

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