Merry Christmas from the 'progressive' Obama administration is very merry for corporate America. So much for 'yes we can'.
Digest this brilliant post fellow progressives because it looks like the only difference between Obama and Bush is Obama lies more. Had his campaign slogan been truthful it would have said "Yes we can, but no I won't.
Glenn Greenwald, SALON, 16/16/09
Of all the posts I wrote this year, the one that produced the most vociferious email backlash -- easily -- was this one from August
, which examined substantial evidence showing that, contrary to Obama's occasional public statements in support of a public option, the White House clearly intended from the start that the final health care reform bill would contain no such provision and was actively and privately participating in efforts to shape a final bill without it. From the start, assuaging the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries was a central preoccupation of the White House
-- hence the deal negotiated in strict secrecy with Pharma
to ban bulk price negotiations and drug reimportation, a blatant violation of both Obama's campaign positions on those issues
and his promise to conduct all negotiations out in the open (on C-SPAN)
. Indeed, Democrats led the way yesterday in killing drug re-importation
, which they endlessly claimed to support back when they couldn't pass it. The administration wants not only to prevent industry money from funding an anti-health-care-reform campaign, but also wants to ensure that the Democratic Party -- rather than the GOP -- will continue to be the prime recipient of industry largesse. (Which means that for the Average American taxpayer it doesn't matter which party is in office.)
As was painfully predictable all along, the final bill will not have any form of public option, nor will it include the wildly popular expansion of Medicare coverage. Obama supporters are eager to depict the White House as nothing more than a helpless victim in all of this -- the President so deeply wanted a more progressive bill but was sadly thwarted in his noble efforts by those inhumane, corrupt Congressional "centrists." Right. The evidence was overwhelming from the start that the White House was not only indifferent, but opposed, to the provisions most important to progressives. The administration is getting the bill which they, more or less, wanted from the start -- the one that is a huge boon to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry.
And kudos to Russ Feingold for saying so
:Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), among the most vocal supporters of the public option, said it would be unfair to blame Lieberman for its apparent demise. Feingold said that responsibility ultimately rests with President Barack Obama and he could have insisted on a higher standard for the legislation
"This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don’t think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth," said Feingold. "I think they could have been higher. I certainly think a stronger bill would have been better in every respect."
Let's repeat that: "This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place." Indeed it does. There are rational, practical reasons why that might be so. If you're interested in preserving and expanding political power, then, all other things being equal, it's better to have the pharmaceutical and health insurance industry on your side than opposed to you. Or perhaps they calculated from the start that this was the best bill they could get. The wisdom of that rationale can be debated, but depicting Obama as the impotent progressive victim here of recalcitrant, corrupt centrists is really too much to bear.
Yet numerous Obama defenders -- such as Matt Yglesias
, Ezra Klein
and Steve Benen
-- have been insisting that there is just nothing the White House could have done and all of this shows that our political system is tragically "ungovernable." After all, Congress is a separate branch of government, Obama doesn't have a vote, and 60 votes are needed to do anything. How is it his fault if centrist Senators won't support what he wants to do? Apparently, this is the type of conversation we're to believe takes place in the Oval Office:
The President: I really want a public option and Medicare buy-in. What can we do to get it?
Rahm Emanuel: Unfortunately, nothing. We can just sit by and hope, but you're not in Congress any more and you don't have a vote. They're a separate branch of government and we have to respect that.
The President: So we have no role to play in what the Democratic Congress does?
Emanuel: No. Members of Congress make up their own minds and there's just nothing we can do to influence or pressure them.
The President: Gosh, that's too bad. Let's just keep our fingers crossed and see what happens then.
In an ideal world, Congress would be -- and should be -- an autonomous branch of government, exercising judgment independent of the White House's influence, but that's not the world we live in. Does anyone actually believe that Rahm Emanuel (who built his career on industry support for the Party and jamming "centrist" bills through Congress with the support of Blue Dogs) and Barack Obama (who attached himself to Joe Lieberman when arriving in the Senate, repeatedly proved himself receptive to "centrist" compromises, had a campaign funded by corporate interests, and is now the leader of a vast funding and political infrastructure) were the helpless victims of those same forces? Engineering these sorts of "centrist," industry-serving compromises has been the modus operandi of both Obama and, especially, Emanuel.
Indeed, we've seen before what the White House can do -- and does do -- when they actually care about pressuring members of Congress to support something they genuinely want passed. When FDL and other liberal blogs led an effort
to defeat Obama's war funding bill back in June, the White House became desperate for votes, and here is what they apparently did
(though they deny it):
The White House is playing hardball with Democrats who intend to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, threatening freshmen who oppose it that they won't get help with reelection and will be cut off from the White House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Friday. "We're not going to help you. You'll never hear from us again," Woolsey said the White House is telling freshmen. (Not surprising then that Obama's defense spending exceeds Bush's.)
That's what the White House can do when they actually care about pressuring someone to vote the way they want. Why didn't they do any of that to the "centrists" who were supposedly obstructing what they wanted on health care? Why didn't they tell Blanche Lincoln -- in a desperate fight for her political life -- that she would "never hear from them again," and would lose DNC and other Democratic institutional support, if she filibustered the public option? Why haven't they threatened to remove Joe Lieberman's cherished Homeland Security Chairmanship if he's been sabotaging the President's agenda? Why hasn't the President been rhetorically pressuring Senators to support the public option and Medicare buy-in, or taking any of the other steps outlined here by Adam Green? There's no guarantee that it would have worked -- Obama is not omnipotent and he can't always control Congressional outcomes -- but the lack of any such efforts is extremely telling about what the White House really wanted here.
Independent of the reasonable debate over whether this bill is a marginal improvement over the status quo, there are truly horrible elements to it. Two of the most popular provisions (both of which, not coincidentally, were highly adverse to industry interests) -- the public option and Medicare expansion -- are stripped out (a new Washington Post/ABC poll
out today shows that the public favors expansion of Medicare to age 55 by a 30-point margin
). What remains is a politically distastrous and highly coercive "mandate" gift to the health insurance industry, described perfectly by Digby
Obama can say that you're getting a lot, but also saying that it "covers everyone," as if there's a big new benefit is a big stretch. Nothing will have changed on that count except changing the law to force people to buy private insurance if they don't get it from their employer. I guess you can call that progressive, but that doesn't make it so. In fact, mandating that all people pay money to a private interest isn't even conservative, free market or otherwise. It's some kind of weird corporatism that's very hard to square with the common good philosophy that Democrats supposedly espouse.
Nobody's "getting covered" here. After all, people are already "free" to buy private insurance and one must assume they have reasons for not doing it already. Whether those reasons are good or bad won't make a difference when they are suddenly forced to write big checks to Aetna or Blue Cross that they previously had decided they couldn't or didn't want to write. Indeed, it actually looks like the worst caricature of liberals: taking people's money against their will, saying it's for their own good --- and doing it without even the cover that FDR wisely insisted upon with social security, by having it withdrawn from paychecks. People don't miss the money as much when they never see it.
In essence, this reinforces all of the worst dynamics of Washington. The insurance industry gets the biggest bonanza imaginable in the form of tens of millions of coerced new customers without any competition or other price controls. Progressive opinion-makers, as always, signaled that they can and should be ignored (don't worry about us -- we're announcing in advance that we'll support whatever you feed us no matter how little it contains of what we want and will never exercise raw political power to get what we want; make sure those other people are happy but ignore us). Most of this was negotiated and effectuated in complete secrecy, in the sleazy sewers populated by lobbyists, industry insiders, and their wholly-owned pawns in the Congress. And highly unpopular, industry-serving legislation is passed off as "centrist," the noblest Beltway value.
Looked at from the narrow lens of health care policy, there is a reasonable debate to be had among reform advocates over whether this bill is a net benefit or a net harm. But the idea that the White House did what it could to ensure the inclusion of progressive provisions -- or that they were powerless to do anything about it -- is absurd on its face. Whatever else is true, the overwhelming evidence points to exactly what Sen. Feingold said yesterday: "This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place."
The election of Barack Obama has shown America once and for all who really runs this country and just how little our voices matter. It doesn't matter if you are a progressive or a tea bagger, if you don't tow the corporate line, or they can't figure out a way to use you and your naive patriotism, you don't count. If I don't count, I don't see much reason to pay for that 'privledge'.
So in 21st century America, it's not just gays that don't count folks, straights don't either. Perhaps it's time the American electorate got off the abortion and gay issues and look at the very plain fact our current political stucture is now functioning to screw everyone except the top two percent in income, and there's nothing moral or innocent about that kind of screwing.
I had hope this last election would bring about change--how naive of me. So do I go to jail for not paying my insurance premiums? That I can't afford? A fine that I still can't afford isn't going to make a difference.ReplyDelete
The American Bishops are still trying to make sure the insurance bill that does nothing for the uninsured does not allow women their legal choice. And why do they want immigrants to be mandated to pay premiums that give them nothing too? And John Allen says the Catholic Bishops in Uganda are remaining silent because it is a cultural thing??
Why don't the Bishops go to work for the Insurance Companies and leave us alone??
I am reading this rather late. coolmom, I had hope too there might be some real change, but apparently it was a lie. I feel so terribly betrayed. Obama has essentially ruined the Democratic party, with help from his own party and created a great divide within it. He will be a one term President and the progressives will have a hard time convincing anyone to vote for their candidate, because look what has happened to our "yes we can" to no I won't President Obama: claiming to be for the American people and selling them out to big business corporate interest. A real damn shame!ReplyDelete
Is there a way to overturn a bill that is not in the interest of the common good? Will we be stuck with buying health care insurance from an industry that is corrupt with no other option? This is a crime, a terrible loss for the country.
As the situation is now people are going to foreign countries to get surgery because it is a lot cheaper, the amenities at foreign facilities are far superior too I hear.
So, if you are forced to buy their crappy private insurance they'll get paid a premium but you'll utilize the services in another country. It is a win-win for the insurance companies.
That's my problem too coolmom, do I go to jail for not paying insurance premiums. If I did at least I'd have more health care than I do now.ReplyDelete
Since most of this isn't supposed to go into effect until 2014 anyway maybe something real can still be done.
I don't think it's fair to say that "Obama has ruined the Democratic Party." It's no more business-oriented today than it was during the previous administration.
People think of the Democratic Party as the "liberal" party, but there is nothing liberal about them. They're just less conservative than the Republicans, and even that is only on social issues. When it comes to their relationship with big business, what's the difference?
Noam Chomsky likes to say that Democrats and the Republicans are not really two parties: they're two wings of a single business party. Given the way big business has thwarted the will of the public over health care, who could disagree with him about that?
I'm not sure what the answer is. It's difficult for third parties to gain any traction in the US, but even if it happened, you might get a situation like we have in Canada: a bunch of centre-left parties splitting the large majority of the vote, leaving the single conservative party in power -- despite their having only received the support of a little more than a third of the electorate.
"Noam Chomsky likes to say that Democrats and the Republicans are not really two parties: they're two wings of a single business party. Given the way big business has thwarted the will of the public over health care, who could disagree with him about that?"ReplyDelete
This is so true. The only hope left for a real difference in the parties might, I say might, be Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinic.
Prickliest Pear, maybe you are right. I really am disappointed in a lot of Democrats and I see your point, as well Chomsky's.ReplyDelete
Obama used a lot of words in his campaign to indicate we would have change, in particular with Health Care and the grip that insurance companies have. It seems if he or the Congress capitulate too much to the Republicans or to Lieberman, the insurance companies, that we will wind up with even a worse Health Care problem that to me is just reckless and irresponsible and lacking integrity or respect for the people in this country.
My son indicated that there is no way that he and his friends were in any position to pay for health care. If the Bill is passed that requires people to buy it a lot of young people just won't buy it. They can't. They do not have the money. The entire idea of fining people if they can't buy health insurance is just terrible. It is just another way for the government and insurance companies to make more money, squeeze it out of us in another way. They should fine the banks for what they did.
The Republicans and Democrats are really like two peas from the same pod. I'm pretty fed up with both parties right now.
People in this country don't seem to be ready to make the changes necessary to make this a great country and place to live. There's too much hardship by the policies of increasing cost and taxation on the people. The Health Care issue just pronounces the amount of greed by insurance companies. It gets me angry when I think of the millions of people they let fall through the cracks by their policies that are just all about taking more money. The military budget is obscene. I don't believe these people in politics know what the hell they are doing, except that they want to make money for their friends who put them in office. Corporations don't care how they get there money and who they hurt in the process to get it. They always find loopholes. Businesses are self-serving cults. They all seem corrupt and selfish. McCain with 8 houses from his wife's distribution business while their employees struggle. The large companies have bought or wiped out the little guys. Now all we have are large companies that are very wealthy and the government coming to their aid all the time.