Illustration: At least this would be as successfull as the other compromises they have made. Israel still has article 242 of the UN to comply with and that is 50 years old!.
Here we are at a key point is Obama's Presidency. He has 60 Democrats in the Senate and a large majority in the house. Democrats have tried to get single-payer health insurance passed since Roosevelt. Perhaps the strongest fight was put up by Harry Truman against a Republican congress. This is the best opportunity there has been for sixty years and is likely to be the last for 60 years. Obama has a chance, a real fighting chance, to get it passed.
It is certainly a key point for me even though I personally have nothing to gain from it. If Obama sells out on this now, we can all feel clean about dismissing him. I have a list of things to call him if that happens, but I'll wait. Over the weekend he seemed to waffle, but then said the "Public Option" is essential. So we shall see.
It is it for me.
Here are some informed essays on the subject:
William Greider: In naming Phil Angelides as chair of the new Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, Congress has picked an aggressive, visionary reformer.
He hands the insurance industry a huge victory. He rewards the right-wing frothers who have been calling him Adolph Hitler or Dr. Death. He caves to the conservative bias of the major media who insist only bipartisan consensus is acceptable for big reform (a standard they never invoked during the Bush years). Obama is deluded if he thinks this will win him any peace or respect or Republican votes. Weakness does not lead to consensus in Washington. It leads to more weakness. The Party of No intends to bring him down and will pile on. Obama has inadvertently demonstrated their strategy of vicious invective seems to be working.
Barack Obama mainly did this to himself. To avoid the accusation of socialized medicine, he intentionally shrouded his objectives in bureaucratic euphemisms like "public option." What the hell does that mean? It doesn't mean anything. The vagueness allowed anyone to fill in the blanks and anxious people did so in apocalyptic ways. The original idea, after all, was making something similar to Medicare available to anyone between childhood and old age who was either shut out by high prices or abused by insurance companies policing the system. This approach--call it Medicare Basic--would in theory give government the greater leverage needed to control the price inflation and reshape the system in positive ways. If you told people "public option" was a Medicare equivalent, the polls would demonstrate the popularity. Instead, that objective is now at risk. The right still calls Obama a covert socialist.
There is a more cynical interpretation of Obama's flexibility. He is coming out right about where he wanted to be. Forget the good talk, it is said, this president never really intended to do deep reform that truly alters the industrial power structure dominating our dysfunctional healthcare system. He just wanted minimalist reforms he could sell as "victory." Not until years later would people figure out that nothing fundamental had been changed.
In this scenario, Obama has always been more comfortable with the center-right forces within the Democratic party--Senator Max Baucus and the Blue Dogs--and the Clintonistas of DLC lineage who now fill his administration. His real political challenge was to string along the liberals with reassuring talk until they were stuck with lousy choices-- either go along with this popular president's pale version of reform or take him on and risk ruining his presidency. This sounds a lot like the choices Democrats faced during the Clinton years. Candidate Obama said it was "time to turn the page." We are still waiting to see what he meant.
I do not subscribe to the manipulative, deceptive portrait (not yet), but you can find lots of supporting evidence in Obama's behavior. His response to the financial crisis demonstrates a clear desire to restore Wall Street power, not to change it. His war strategy in Afghanistan looks like the familiar trap of open-ended counterinsurgency. The trap may soon close on him when the generals announce their need for more troops. Will this president dare to say no? Obama negotiated a truly ugly deal with the pharmaceutical industry--a promise not to use government bargaining power to bring down drug prices. His lieutenants still yearn to demonstrate "fiscal responsibility' by taxing the health-care benefits of union members or whacking Social Security.
In other words, this is really a decisive test for the Democratic party and its main constituencies. Will they go along with the president or push back and reject his misdirections? The burden will fall mainly on Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House majority. They will be under intense pressure from the White House to stay "on message" with the president. Organized labor seems to be breaking out of the go-along passivity. Richard L. Trumka, soon to be president of the AFL-CIO, promises to blackball Blue Dogs or anyone else who double-crosses the working people who faithfully financed their election campaigns.
Taking the high road will be hard and divisive. But maybe this is at last the season when Democrats reveal which side they are on.
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If Obama Discards Public Option, What's Left of Reform?
posted by John Nichols on 08/16/2009 @ 10:29pm
When Barack Obama assumed the presidency, there was talk that former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean might be his Secretary of Health and Human Services.
That would have made Dean the administration's point person in the fight for healthcare reform.
It also would have increased the likelihood that reform would be real.
But Dean was rejected.
And, now, the prospect of real reform is fading fast.
Dean said last week at the "Netroots Nation" gathering in Pittsburgh that the only thing that made healthreform legislation proposed by House committees (and apparently backed by the administration) worth doing was the public option. In that legislation, the physician and former Vermont governor argued, "the last shred of reform is the public option."
Just days later, however, the administration appeared to be shredding that last shred of reform.
The Associated Press reports that, "President Barack Obama's administration signaled Sunday it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system."
The woman who got the HHS job reform advocates had hoped would go to Dean certainly seemed Sunday to be jettisoning the idea of creating a government-organized alternative to private health insurance Sunday.
Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" program, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius dismissed the public option as "not the essential element" of the administration's healthcare agenda.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said pretty much the same thing when he appeared Sunday on the CBS News program "Face the Nation."
"What the president has said is in order to inject choice and competition. . . people ought to be able to have some competition in that market," said Gibbs.
Pressed on whether the administration was abandoning the public option, Gibbs would only say that, "The president has thus far sided with the notion that that can best be done with a public option."
Startlingly, the clearest signal that the administration is preparing to jettison the public option came from Obama himself. Speaking at a town hall event in Colorado referred to the public plan as merely a "sliver" of his reform agenda and said: "The public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of healthcare reform."
On this, Obama is right.
The public option has already been so dumbed-down and neutered that it is little more than a sliver.
The problem is that it may be the only sliver of real reform in his program.
Even with a robust public option, the president's initiative looks a lot like a bailout for the insurance industry --in stark contrast to the a single-payer reform that would replace industry profiteering with a not-for-profit system like Medicare.
Without a public option, there is no real reform.
Dean argued in Pittsburgh that: "The public option is (incremental reform)... But there is no incrementalism without the public option."
In fact, without the public option, the Obama approach -- and that of compromise-prone Democrats in Congress -- looks increasingly like a step in the wrong direction.
That's because the "reforms" currently under consideration threaten to undermine Medicare and Medicaid -- with radical cost-cutting schemes -- while steering hundreds of billions in federal dollars into the accounts of for-profit insurers and the pharmaceutical industry.
This is not "change we can believe in."
This is change that serious reformers will find "very difficult" to support, as Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said Sunday on CNN.
Johnson explained that progressives would have a tough time backing legislation that did not include a public option.
"The only way we can be sure that very low-income people and persons who work for companies that don't offer insurance have access to it, is through an option that would give the private insurance companies a little competition," explained Johnson, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who once worked as the chief psychiatric nurse at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Dallas.
Without a robust public option, what the Obama administration and compromised Democrats in the House and Senate are talking about is not "healthcare reform."
It's "healthcare deform" that does not begin to address the crisis created by insurance industry profiteering -- and that could well make the "cure" worse than the disease.
It's Official: Healthcare Reform is Dead
The "transparent government" that President Obama guaranteed during his electoral campaign has become yet another broken promise. On August 14th, the Huffington Post revealed a memo containing details of "the deal" that Obama cut with health care mega-corporations in secret White House meetings. And although the White House denies the authenticity of the memo, the details are consistent with earlier reports from other national media outlets.
The White House deal essentially reduces some of the more egregious health care corporation swindling -- estimated to save $80 billion over ten years -- while Obama shamelessly promised that other irrational vehicles for health care mega-profits will remain untouched: any congressional health care plan will not attempt to negotiate for cheaper drugs, nor import them from other countries, Medicare will not be altered in a way that affects health care corporations' profits.
Creating new laws by backroom dealing with giant corporations is of course bad for democracy. Unfortunately, Obama had few other options, since he refused beforehand to directly confront the health care industry's power. He was thus reduced to bargaining with these entities, leaving any leverage at the door. The health care companies fully understood this and exploited the situation to the fullest.
The competing health care bills in Congress reflect this dynamic, since Congressmen have been similarly awed -- and bought -- by the health care industry. The different health care bills all agree that health care should be "mandated" -- like the car insurance you're required to buy (if you can afford it). All the bills also agree that Medicare payments to hospitals and other providers -- many directly affecting the most vulnerable -- will be cut drastically, leading to "...savings [that] would pay nearly 40 percent of the [health care] bills' cost." (New York Times, August 9, 2009). They're giving health care with the left hand and taking it with the right.
One disagreement between the competing plans was the highly controversial "public option." This was what the health care corporations hated most, since it was a way to directly take power out of their hands. Again, the White House backed off, "signal[ing] Sunday that it was willing to compromise and would consider a proposal for a nonprofit health cooperative being developed in the Senate." (New York Times, August 16, 2009). The "cooperative" idea is widely considered by health care advocates to be useless.
Such sellouts were the inevitable result of intensified health care industry bribery (so-called "lobbying"), which Business Week claims to be "... a record $133 million...in the second quarter of 2009 alone..." (August 6, 2009). The same article -- appropriately named The Health Insurers Have Already Won -- examines the health care lobby's successes and notes that no matter what health care bill emerges from Congress, the "insurance industry will emerge more profitable."
The same article also reveals -- unsurprisingly -- that health care corporations were responsible for destroying the public health care option, while "also achieving a secondary aim of constraining the new benefits that will become available to tens of millions of people who are currently uninsured. That will make the new customers more lucrative to the industry." This simply means that the taxpayer money that will be used to subsidize any health care plan will go straight towards health care company profits, while providing the same shoddy care they've always provided.
Heads they win, tails we lose.
The health care industry is so pleased with the deal they've struck with Obama, they're willing to put up $150 million toward an advertising campaign to insure the deal's passage.
This servitude to the health care corporations has strongly emboldened the rightwing, who are using the Democrat's obvious corruption to stir up hysteria and fanaticism through media and town halls. The rightwing attacks have driven many liberals to defend the Democrats, who deserve zero pity, let alone support.
The Republicans are placing safe bets that the Democrats will achieve absolutely nothing progressive in health care -- a gamble that will payoff tremendously in the next elections. The Republicans are also using the situation to massively propagandize against "socialism," a word wrongly attributed to any health care bill in Congress. The purpose, however, is to steer people away from any substitute to capitalism, a system that millions of Americans rightfully see as broken as health care.
The rightwing is also using the health care crisis to again focus its guns on immigrants. Instead of the giant health care corporations being responsible for the health care crisis, society's most vulnerable are painted as the culprits. The Wall Street journal complained that health care costs are being driven up due to "half of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. don't have health insurance". (August 15, 2009)
Of course the 6 million undocumented immigrants who lack health insurance have plenty of company: there are at least 47 million U.S. citizens without health insurance, a number that is growing drastically as unemployment skyrockets.
The same Wall Street journal article implies that anyone seeking emergency room help should be turned away unless they show proof of citizenship. Leaving aside the obvious moral issues of denying a human being emergency room medical treatment, another issue remains: millions of working and poor people do not have any "proof of citizenship," and would also be denied lifesaving emergency health care.
The Wall Street Journal would never focus on the fact that a large number of African Americans likewise use the emergency room for their primary source of medical treatment, since such a statement would be obviously racist, while racism against immigrants is widely accepted. Whipping up racist hysteria, however, is a tactic that is being employed on a broader basis as people rightfully blame mega-corporations for the economic crisis.
Another issue blamed on immigrants is Medicare's economic woes, while the real perpetrators -- the health care corporations -- escape responsibility. Every time Medicare is used to purchase overpriced medications, the pharmaceutical companies rake in huge profits. Medicare must also pay for over priced medical procedures, pricey hospital stays, etc. In fact, Medicare Part D was specially inserted by the Bush administration to drive up profits for the health care industry. In Part D's first six months, profits for pharmaceutical companies went up $8 billion, according to the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform. Part of Obama's deal with the health care industry says that Part D will remain untouched.
This fiscal ransacking of Medicare is being used as a reason to dump the program in its entirety, something that the Democrat's "health care plan" will be the first step towards achieving. (The most profitable parts will likely remain intact.)
Medicare must not only be saved, but extended to everybody. This obvious solution to America's health care disaster is "too radical" for Democrats and Republicans alike. Indeed, under the current system far too many of society's resources are being used towards the profits of the health care industry, bank bailouts, and foreign wars for such truly universal health care to exist.
To create health care for all, the socially-precious health care industry must be completely taken out of the hands of the mega-corporations who've ruined the lives of millions of people -- indeed directly responsible for the deaths of a staggering number of lives -- while helping bankrupt federal and state governments.
In an earlier article we wrote: "If Obama's health care plan leaves in place the same greedy shareholders and CEO's of the health care mega-corporations, while funneling them billions of taxpayer money, very little is likely to change. Likewise, if every American has health insurance, but insurance companies benefit from not paying for expensive surgeries or medications, or drug companies continue to benefit from having monopolies over medications, millions of people will continue to suffer." ( March, 9, 2009, The Emerging Health Care Sellout).
Obstacles to change must be removed, not bargained with or pandered to. The health care industry -- like the big banks -- is exerting a stranglehold over society that the Democrats and Republicans are unwilling to break, and indeed profit from. This cowardice will hopefully shed light on an old truth for millions of people: the Democrats -- like the Republicans -- are a party of big business and cannot be anything different. Workers must make a decisive break with the Democrats and politically organize themselves independently, so that another hope-wielding politician doesn't waste our time with promises of change while delivering health care profits, bank bailouts and wars. Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at email@example.com
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