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Jan 25 2010

The end of politics-4: Obama and health care reform

(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here. You can also listen to the podcast of the interview on WCPN 90.3 about the book.)

For the previous posts in this series, see here.

Many of Obama’s liberal supporters are deeply disappointed. After one year in office, they have almost nothing to show for all their efforts to give their party big majorities in both houses of congress. What they have instead received is a non-stop nauseating spectacle of whining and handwringing by the Democrats about how hard it is to overcome the filibuster threats of the Republican senators and how they must compromise away everything as a result, even though they have a huge 256-178 majority in the House (with one vacancy) and a 59-41 majority in the Senate.

It is interesting that George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan had nowhere near the majorities that the Democrats and Obama have and yet they managed to get almost everything they wanted on both domestic and foreign policies. That alone should expose the one party nature of politics. Bush and Reagan were open about the fact that they wanted wars of aggression and policies that favored the rich, and they easily got them with Democratic support.

While Obama supporters may feel let down, they should have seen this coming. The political strategy of Democrats is designed around how to carry out the same pro-war/pro-business/pro-rich policies of the Republicans while acting like they have the interests of ordinary people in mind. The Democrats say they want different policies but always find reasons to not be able to carry out their promises. They always need an excuse as to why they cannot deliver on their campaign promises and the filibuster has merely been the latest one. The Democrats actually hate having large majorities because then their excuses become seen as increasingly threadbare.

The one signature effort, health care reform, is a textbook example of how the Democrats operate. The party, even more so than the Republicans, is completely beholden to the health insurance and the medical industry lobbies and so was never interested in any meaningful reform that would threaten those interests that give them so much money. So while single payer and other forms of universal public health care (such as Medicare for all) or a public option were very popular ideas in getting votes during the election season, once they were elected they had to find ways to make sure that those were never legislated into law, all the while seeming to be thwarted in their efforts to achieve them. And Obama was a ringleader in that effort to gut any meaningful efforts at reform.

If the Democrats were serious about health care reform, they would have done what one does in any negotiation, which is start out with your maximum demands and then negotiate down. This is what one does when purchasing a car or house or anything else, if you are serious about getting a good deal. But from the beginning, the Democrats negotiated as if they were the weaker party, the losers in the election, trying to salvage what they could.

It was clear from the beginning that the Democratic strategy to make sure no meaningful reform was achieved was planned around the Senate. First Obama declared that the single-payer option was not even to be discussed. Then he said that what he wanted most of all was a ‘bipartisan’ bill. That gave him the excuse to jettison any attempts at a true reform since that would lose potential Republican support. This call for bipartisanship for its own sake was what convinced me that the fix was in and that Obama had completely sold out. After all, surely the goal should be a good bill that can gain the popular support of the people because then the elected representatives feel pressure to support it. When you say that bipartisanship is your main goal, you are signaling to the other party in the Kabuki play (the Republicans) that you want them to be as oppositional as possible so that you can be seen as reluctantly caving in. And both sides dutifully played their roles. It was truly sickening to see the way that any meaningful reform was compromised away in order to supposedly get even one Republican vote.

Obama then essentially gave the final say on health reform to the Senate Finance Committee to come up with the draft Senate version of the bill. Why, of all the committees that have jurisdiction on this issue, did he choose this one? Shouldn’t the Health and Human Services Committee be the natural body that leads on this issue? Yes, if one was thinking logically or wanted meaningful reform. But that was never the goal.

The Finance committee has certain advantages if your plan is to sell out your supporters and satisfy your real constituents, the health industry. For starters, its Democratic chairman Max Baucus is completely in the pockets of the health industry. So he could be depended upon to not even allow the single-payer option to be discussed in the public hearings and to oppose any attempt to introduce any form of public option. To stack the deck against the public interest even more, Baucus bypassed the entire committee (which had a Democratic majority and some members who had more progressive outlooks) and instead created a six-member group of three members of each party, knowing that the Republicans would veto any reasonable plan that harmed the health industry in any way. Thus the fix was in from the very beginning.

Of course, there had to be more Kabuki theater in order to fool the Democratic base that the party really was interested in meaningful reform. So along the way a public option was proposed and then withdrawn because it could not get any Republican support. Then the option to buy into Medicare for those between the ages of 55 to 64 was proposed and then withdrawn for the same reason. The reason for these maneuvers was to give the public some hope that some true reform was on the horizon so as to keep them involved and supportive, while all the while intending to take these prizes away at the end. It was Lucy with the football, and the public, like Charlie Brown, kept getting suckered over and over again.

Next in this series: More on the health care sell-out

POST SCRIPT: Jon Stewart on how the media will flip out over the New York terror trials

Are people really this stupidly scared about having trials of alleged terrorists in the US?

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3 comments

  1. 1
    pilkada ponorogo

    I really like the style of leadership of a Barack Obama very distinctive and authoritative.

  2. 2
    How To Live Long

    Wow, I’ve never been a democrat but I was pleased to see them win with Obama but I have to disagree a little bit at least. I know that the democrats should be accomplishing more with their amazing majority but I really think they don’t have the time to do much of anything with the mess they’ve been trying to clean up last year. To some extent I think health care reform should be expanded but I don’t think there is even consensus within the political parties on how to do that. I bet if the Republicans held the majority they would be bickering about how to get it done too. What we really need is a plan that focuses on long term health which fosters human longevity through simple health maintenance. Offer a basic level of care and then let insurance companies fight over the rest of the dollars.

  3. 3
    ringtones

    Wow, I’ve never been a democrat but I was pleased to see them win with Obama but I have to disagree a little bit at least. I know that the democrats should be accomplishing more with their amazing majority but I really think they don’t have the time to do much of anything with the mess they’ve been trying to clean up last year. To some extent I think health care reform should be expanded but I don’t think there is even consensus within the political parties on how to do that.

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