Friday, January 22, 2010

You Think the Health Care "Debate" Was Bad ... Just Wait

There was not a single progressive, liberal, and/or Democrat in this country who did not wake up Wednesday morning with a WTF?! Moment staring them straight in the face. As we all know, the night before the People's Republic of Massachusetts did the unthinkable and elected a Republican, Scott Brown, to fill Ted Kennedy's vacant seat in the US Senate.

Since one of the major keys to his election was Brown's staunch opposition to health care reform (which he seems to be backpedaling on a little already), everybody's pretty much thrown in the towel on health care reform. Obama's said that he didn't want Congress to ram anything through before Brown's seated; Reid halted all proceedings in the Senate; and yesterday, Pelosi declared that she didn't have the votes to pass the Senate version of the bill in the House to pull an effective end-around and get the legislation through. Sure, Republicans are disingenuously claiming that they simply want to start over--but how can they possibly further water down such an amazingly ersatz bill and still call the end result "reform"?

So, one must assume that this health care legislation which has tied up our government for almost a year has gone down in flames.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but this loss will ultimately be his to swallow. But hey, every Icarus has his Sun. As many have often pointed out, no American President had ever been able to pull off significant health care reform. But what I think is more important is something I heard on the radio on Wednesday: no significant piece of progressive legislation has been passed into law since the Nixon administration.

Now, Nixon's presidency was what I consider to be the logical conclusion of the New Deal/Great Great Society era in American governance--where Uncle really thought he could solve everyone's daily problems. Nixon's dabbling with price and wage controls in the face of stag- and inflation sounded the era's death knell. Watergate simply confirmed it. Ford and Carter were the wake. And then, in 1980 the US woke to "Morning in America" and the Reagan era.

Of course, no major, progressive legislation would be passed when even the sole Democratic president proclaimed that "The era of Big Government is over."

But Obama's election was supposed to spell the end to all that. After all, the Bush Babee administration took us to Reaganism's logical conclusion: repeated tax cuts despite massive government spending gave us record-shattering deficits; a "Government is the problem" mentality became all too true when the FDA couldn't even protect us from poisoned broccoli and dog food; no one was around to protect us from toxic children's toys; EMA was nowhere to be found during Katrina; cowboy militarism and the "Imperial President" have given us two wars, "extraordinary rendition," and torture; we've eroded our manufacturing base to the point that China actually manufactures our smart bombs; and large-scale deregulation led to the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression.

In the face of all this, we elected Democrats to, we hoped, right the ship. Finally, we'd get people in there who actually believed in governance, who could run FEMA, end the wars, fix this Wall Street debacle, and get us back on the right track.

Health care was to be the first, shining example of this new age. After all, the Dems had the White House and unprecedented majorities in both houses of Congress. The Republicans simply didn't have the power and votes to stop them.

So, we imagined Pelosi or Reid coming out, saying something like, "We've been studying this problem for the last 20 years. Here are the pros and cons of our system. These are the things we'll be cherry-picking from those countries with universal coverage. And we're going with _________________." Thereby ending one of the many grievous matters that is crippling this country and its citizenry.

Sure, we knew that no American president had ever been able to pull this off before. But what we didn't realize that, as I stated before, no piece of progressive legislation has become law since the friggin' Nixon administration.

Yes, Reagan happened in the interim. But so had Bill Clinton. His liberal-conservative-Democrat "triangulation," where he talked about lending a helping hand to "the people" while really constantly having his hand out to take corporations' money and constantly scratching their backs, has been the prevailing model for most of these Dem pols for almost 20 years now. You might as well call him the Patron Saint of the Blue Dog.

But, more importantly, the nature and expense of political campaigns has changed dramatically. Presidential campaigns run into the hundreds of millions; Senate and House races run in the tens of millions; and even local contests around the country cost seven figures.

And it seems, in order to raise millions, you've got to already have millions. We simply don't have too many working- and/or middle-class politicians in either house in either party fighting the good fight for the "little man." Oh, they give good lip service. They certainly "feel your pain." But they are so far removed from any of the suffering. These "pains" they speak of are no more than abstract concepts--you know, like Calculus 2--in their minds.

Even if this weren't the case and Archie Bunker, Fred Sanford, Chico and the Man were running things alongside Maud, we'd still have to look at the money flooding into their campaigns and who's providing those funds. We know you can't raise all that dough at a couple of bake sales. We know that our nation's political leaders have to constantly spoon our nation's business leaders for all them cookies.

After all, people get you votes, but money gets you elected. These two camps don't necessarily have to be at odds with each other, but they almost always are. This can only lead to conflict. And in almost every conflict, those with the biggest guns constantly win the war.

This is especially true with the health care debate and its apparent demise. No, the Republicans didn't have the Dems cowering in the Senate with their impotent 40 votes. No, the Teabaggers didn't have them quaking in their boots. Glenn Beck's insane ass wasn't riding roughshod over Congress. The American people weren't storming the barricades demanding anyone's head.

In fact, even through all the madness, the American people showed unwavering support for health care reform through most of '09. It wasn't until recent months that people had finally become disgusted with the process. Senator-Elect Brown claims that voters were turned off by the "sausage-making" of legislation.

I disagree. It wasn't the sausage-making at all. I'm a fan of Italian sausage and German bratwurst. If we would've gotten something like that--a perfect piece of spicy pork perfection--we would've been satisfied. Instead, the Dems were trying to cram a tasteless lump of lard in intestinal casings that promised to leave us fat, bloated, broke, and still in need of serious health care.

No, it was the obvious buckling the Dems did in the face of their corporate donors. It was Obama's meeting with the insurance companies, and saying, "Single-payer's off the table," before serious debate had even begun. How Big Pharma left the White House bragging that they were still going to be able to charge us whatever they wanted for their drugs. It was Max Baucus dismissing the public option because way too many private interests contribute to his campaign slush funds.

It was finding out that every delay, every compromise, every setback, every challenge the Dems faced was being thrown up by fellow Dems who were somehow on the health care industry's payroll.

(And don't even get me started on how the Democrats were leading the charge to roll back reproductive rights!!!)

It was becoming all-too-clear that the Democrats now serve two masters--corporate donors and real, live people--and that we people were clearly losing the battle. We expect that shit from Republicans. That's why we voted them out of office. We weren't expecting it from the Democrats. They're liberal! They're progressive! They serve the people! The common man!

But how long has that not been the case. Remember, no progressive legislation since Nixon. What have Democrats considered "progressive" since then? The Great Society? No. How about the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Sure, you can leave your job and return to it if you happen to have a six-week emergency. But you won't get paid in the interim (perhaps causing a minor financial emergency in one's family). And what happens when your emergency runs into the seventh week?

How about COBRA? Sure, if you lose your job, you can keep your medical insurance ... and pay 10 times more than your employer ever paid for the same benefits. And how are you supposed to pay for it when you're un ... em ... ployed?!!!

The Democrats' brand of Progressivism never really seems to address the problem, seems to oddly benefit the employer, and, if used, ends up costing us commoners more than if the law had never been passed in the first place.

The same was probably going to be true with their health care "reform" legislation. They were going to cram mandates down our throats, force us all to buy insurance, and never, ever cap what insurers could charge us. They were going to force insurers to take us if we had pre-existing conditions, but they were going to let those insurers still bankrupt us for those pre-existing conditions. And we were going to be legally bound to keep that insurance ... all the way to the poor house.

Who would that bit of "Progress" really have benefited? We commoners or the Democrats' corporate donors?

But that's what the Corporate Democratic Party offers in the form of relief these days. Their brand of Progressivism leaves their corporate donors relatively unscathed and sometimes even flush, while they dump bags of shit on our heads and call it sunshine. Then they charge us exorbitant rates for the privilege and expect us to praise them for their generosity. After all, it's not every day you get to go to bankruptcy court covered in shit.

That's why this health care debate was so long and convoluted and painful: they just hadn't figured out a way to turn shit to sunshine.

But what's even sadder about this charade is that it may just be the last time Dems even try to pull it off in the foreseeable future. With yesterday's Supreme Court decision to destroy the caps on corporate campaign spending, one can only assume that corporations and their bottomless coffers will be the deciding factor in any election in which they choose to participate (read: "every election").

They will simply have the power to contribute as much as they want to the candidate of their choosing, flood any local market with favorable ads for that candidate and attack ads against their opponent. They'll be able to reward politicians with untold campaign riches if they vote their way and rain down fire and brimstone on any heretic who dares to oppose their will.

Last year, the health care industry spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying against reform. Just imagine what they'll spend if the issue's brought up again. If a bill promising them 30 million new, captive customers was too "radical," one can only scream in horror at the health care "reform" they'd actually approve.

And what about other issues? Climate change? Any kind of environmental legislation? Transportation bills? What about ending the wars? Will Halliburton protect its billions it's making by spending millions saying, "The terrorists will win!!!" if we pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Bank re-regulation? Obama finally FINALLY!!! came out yesterday talking about re-regulating the banks, breaking them up, separating commercial banking from investment banking, in order to protect the American public and our tax dollars from another financial meltdown. Yet, we've already heard the pundits saying that those reforms are already dead in the water in Congress.

In light of this sweeping Supreme Court decision, you've gotta think they're right. If anybody has the money (our money, you sons-of-bitches!!!) to influence the way Congress votes, it's most definitely the banks. What politicians will have the moxie to stand in the face of the billions of dollars of wrath the banks can rain down on them?

So, you best be ready to kiss bank re-regulation good-bye.

Kiss health care reform good-bye.

Kiss any progressive legislation in the near future good-bye.

Oh yeah, and Roberts, Thomas, "Scalito," and Kennedy ...



modik said...

Wow, it doesn't look good does it? I know it's kind of a naive thought, but what's the point of having a president if every plan he has is "dead in the water" in Congress. I know, the alternatives aren't better, but still just leaves me shaking my head.

jadedj said...

Well my ass isn't black, but they can kiss it as well. Unfortunately, they are not the kissing kind. Fuck 'em and leave 'em (the 'em being US, ME, YOU!!!!!)

Here's the upside...we can call this decision, Government In The Sunshine, because there's nothing the lying bastards need to hide now, is there?

The new, all inclusive corporate/legislative motto...Uncle Inc Loves You.

Paula said...

-Am I still welcome here, even if I'm from Massachusetts? This has been a tough week, and may change everything, including the direction of my own blog.
Bill, this may be your finest post, full of so much wisdom and insight.
I would like to add this thought to the discussion of the abominable SCOTUS decision:
We don't allow non-citizens to vote in elections, so why would we allow them to fund campaigns? Think of all the US companies with international ties/investors, not to mention the oil cartels, Rupert Murdoch et al, Japanese automakers, European food product manufacturers. Through corporate alliances,these very rich folks will have no restrictions on how much $$$ they can throw behind candidates who promise to give them whatever they need to make their businesses grow in the US. In addition to buying candidates/elections, the big spenders give themselves a competitive edge in our marketplace. All they need is cash. I bet you or I couldn't pay for ads in France to back candidates who would represent our interests in that country at the expense of French businesses. Not only are we opening a whole new front for controlling the outcome of elections, we'll be making it even easier for non-citizens to undermine the US economy/jobs market at the same time. We're screwed.

Clifton said...

Excellent Post...

The thing that has confused me the most the first year of President Obama's term is that no one seemed to realize that the Democrats had a majority in Congress before he was elected and their approval rating was just as low as George Bush. People voted for him because he was supposed to be change from the way business is done in both parties.

If he truly wants financial he has to be prepared to do battle with Republicans and some in his own party. If he doesn't the same thing is going to happen just like you said. He should craft the bill himself based on what the American people want and let politicians in both parties explain why they won't support it. If he does that he will actually bring change like he said he would.

If he sits back and let's Congress figure things out on their own he's doomed.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

it IS an excellent post. I come here often, comment little. but this its always worth the travel... :-)

boukman70 said...

@Modik -- I wonder the same exact thing.

@Jadedj -- You're right. I guess I really shouldn't be offering my ass up so readily.

@Paula -- Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. I actually hadn't even given foreign corporations any thought. I wonder how they're going to resolve that or if they even can. SCOTUS is so off their nut, they'll probably strike down any law curbing their speech as well.

@Clifton -- I don't know. You might be right. I think we have to figure out a way to get politicians in there who aren't so beholden to corporate interests. I just don't know how we can accomplish that.

@Gwendolyn -- Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Please don't be a stranger. Just say "Hi" every once in awhile. So I won't feel so alone. :(