Posted by: mutantpoodle | March 9, 2010

Dennis Kucinich and the Agent’s Fallacy

I used to work for a large studio, and have 20+ years of experience on the business side of the film industry. And when I see Dennis Kucinich standing up for a version of health care reform that will, quite simply, not happen (joined, as he is, by some in left blogistan) I think of what I call the agent’s fallacy.

Let’s say you’re a Hollywood agent, and you have a client who is recognized and in demand. You’ve just negotiated a $5 million deal for her to star in a film that has cache in town, which is the biggest payday she’s ever gotten from a movie studio that’s notoriously stingy. You’re feeling pretty good.

This is your nightmare:

Your client is at a party, and an agent from a competing agency is there, chatting with her.  The new film comes up, and this agent is being obsequiously complimentary, as is an agent’s wont, congratulating your client on this great opportunity and assuring her that she’ll be great – no, fabulous – in this part, which looks, in retrospect, like it was written for her.

And then this: “I hear your agent got you $5 million. I would have asked for eight.”

Where do I start.  First off, you probably DID ask for $8 million, because who knows – maybe someone will be off their meds and say yes.  But you got $5 million, which is a good number, and, given the environment, the best you could hope for. Sure, you might have gotten a little more in perks, or another pair of tickets to the premiere, but there’s no way – in a town with other actresses who wanted the part – you could have done better.

I would have asked for eight.

Well, yes, your agent provocateur would have, and he’d have wound up at $5 million, like you, or would have blown the deal.

So: you are Barack Obama, health care reform is the actress, and the “agent provacateur” is progressive opposition to health care reform as it stands now.

I know some folks on the left want better, bigger health care reform. Guess what? So do I.

But we’re not faced with a choice between the Senate bill (with tweaks) and the importation of Canada’s health insurance system.  It’s not clear that the Public Option folks on the left are clamoring for is such a great deal, anyway. (For what it’s worth, the brilliant Karoli isn’t a fan.) We have a choice between the Senate bill, tweaked through reconciliation majority rule, and nothing.

And nothing isn’t benign – it’s aggressively bad.

So: pass the damned bill. Why? Because if we do, the bell won’t be un-rung.

  • Republicans won’t repeal it (assuming they had majorities to try) – do you really think they want to pass legislation allowing, once more, all the worst excesses of the current health insurance system?
  • Once the regulatory framework in place, bigger fixes (like Medicare buy-in, for example) can be accomplished by jamming a bill down Americans’ throats reconciliation a majority vote.
  • Health care for Americans will be considered, at long last, a right, not a privilege.

Sadly, very few of the players in this drama look good these days.

  • The Republicans have been outlandishly dishonest and more interested in hurting Barack Obama than in addressing a pressing issue.
  • “Centrist” Democrats have been pillars of cowardice, stroking their chin about “costs” and insisting on changes that reduce the potential savings of reform
  • Progressive opponents have been hawking the fantasy that we’d get a better bill next year if we just started over. Of course, that assumes that the Republicans who take over the House of Representatives after health care reform fails are ideologically aligned with – or to the left of – Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake and Dennis Kucinich.
  • Bart Stupack and the forced-birth twelve (or however many white, male congresscritters he has in his pocket) are willing to sacrifice tens of thousands of people a year over the fiction that the Senate bill is somehow soft on abortion.
  • The media, with few exceptions, have been unable (maybe) or unwilling (more likely) to inform people about what the reform package in front of Congress would do. How do I know? “Obama’s Health Reform” polls badly, whereas the individual elements of his reform package poll pretty well. Now, some of that is a problem with Democratic messaging, but a lot of it is the willingness of a credulous media to pass along whatever vile lies the GOP has chosen to spout on a particular day.
  • The Obama administration has been, until very recently, a pretty passive player in this process.  I don’t know if Obama could have gotten Max Baucus to stop chatting with Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi in July as opposed to September, but it sure would have helped. That said, these days Obama seems to be the grownup in the room, followed closely by Nancy Pelosi, who must feel like she’s trying to herd 217 cats across the Donner pass in January.

Politics is the art of the possible, said Otto von Bismarck, who managed to pass, for Germans, health care legislation of his own – in 1883.

I know it’s only been 127 years since Bismarck pulled it off, but maybe it’s time to get this done?

P.S. Stephen Colbert has more.



  1. There is nothing more that can be said on this issue, one of three things will happen: A. They D’s can’t pass the bill, look like and are incompetent jerks and lose the House and Senate, maybe even the Presidency. B. The D’s pass the bill but can’t get the fixes enacted, look like and are incompetent jerks and lose the House and Senate, maybe even the Presidency. 3. The D’s pass the bill and get the crappy parts (almost all of the GOP ideas) fixed and we are all happy but still won’t have a Health Care System as good as, say, Costa Rica. But this would at least be a start.

  2. Yeah for you. Kucunich si the new Nader.

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