Since at least February, President Obama and other elders of the Church of Universal Coverage have labored to create the impression that universal coverage is inevitable, because a sense of inevitability reduces its cost. If interest groups think this train is leaving the station, they are less likely to stand in its way. Lobbyists are more likely to cut whatever deal they can if their clients believe, "It could have been much worse." That's why Obama has demanded haste: the longer the process, the harder it is to maintain a sense of inevitability.
Here's a sampling of today's health care headlines from the non-partisan Bulletin News, which summarizes news media coverage:
- Senate, Obama Back Off Healthcare Reform August Deadline.
- Obama Rakes In Cash For DNC, Criticizes Media Coverage Of Healthcare Debate.
- Obama's Performance At Wednesday's Press Conference Comes Under Fire.
- President's Media Strategy Raises Eyebrows.
- House Democrats Consider Sidestepping Committee.
- Democratic Caucus Holds "Contentious" Meeting.
- Black Caucus Blasts Blue Dogs; AARP, Unions Also Criticize Group.
- Freshmen Senators Ask Baucus To Hold Costs Down, Praise His Efforts.
- More Criticism Of Obama.
Now that reform seems less inevitable, interest groups will be less likely to settle for a bad deal. Instead, they will be more likely to demand higher payoffs than before, because their clients believe the expected cost of alienating Church elders has moved away from "getting punished" and toward "the status quo ante."
So, good luck paying for this thing.