Until the Pain Stops: America's Misplaced Outrage

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THE PUBLIC OPTION: REFRAMING THE HEALTHCARE DEBATE
by Jack Random
It appears that those of us who desire real and systemic healthcare reform may have lost the battle in the public forum and the ironies are as rich as the profits of the healthcare industry are obscene.  
 
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How do you argue with people who begin the debate with the premise that the government wants to kill old people and proceed to an impassioned denunciation of Socialism under Hitler’s Third Reich?  (For those who are confused, Hitler was a tyrant and a dictator whose political party captured power in part by trapping the German socialist party into a deal with the devil.  If Hitler was a Socialist then Reagan was an Anarchist.)  

You can’t argue with these people and that’s the point.  The outrage is real but it tragically misplaced.  The world is turned upside down and inside out.  These are the people who stand the most to gain from meaningful healthcare reform and the most to lose from its failure.  

 
 
JAZZMAN CHRONICLES.  DISSEMINATE FREELY.
 

You just can’t argue with them.  You can only observe as they go on banging their heads against the wall in the hope that one of them may stop to inquire why his head hurts.  

The richest irony of all is that it appears they have won.  When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius went on the Sunday talk shows to concede that the administration no longer considered the public option essential to reform she signaled that they were prepared to throw in the towel.  They might as well change the name to Health and Corporate Services.  

Let’s be clear:  The public option is the heart of healthcare reform.  Cut out the heart and the patient dies.  Any legislation that passes congress without the public option would not be worth the cost of passage for it would merely kick the can down the road for another ten to twenty years – time we cannot waste at a cost we cannot afford.  

This latest White House retreat comes on the heels of a town hall meeting where a member of the audience challenged the president on whether corporate healthcare could survive in competition with a government sponsored and administered nonprofit alternative.  The president gave assurances but it was the wrong question.  If corporations cannot compete with the public option it is because nonprofit healthcare is superior.  It is a lesson virtually every other advanced nation has already learned:  Healthcare should never be sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed.  

This is where the debate should have begun:  Would the nation be better served by government administered nonprofit universal healthcare system?  

We never got that debate because our president took National Healthcare (the infamous “single payer” system) off the table on day one.  He would not even allow single payer advocates to testify in congress.  Even if he had no intention of implementing a true National Healthcare System that is where the negotiations should have started.  If it had we might have compromised with a public option; instead we are on the verge of compromising with insurance company sponsored co-op that will end up being a dumping ground for the uninsurable (i.e., those with pre-existing conditions).  

Those are the kinds of political mistakes we did not expect the Obama team to make.  We started off with lofty expectations and as Obama has consistently failed to rise to that level his support has weakened.  Those of us who have grown accustomed to the failures of the political process have lowered our expectations but there is a point beyond which we will not go.  We will not support a prolonged engagement in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  We will not support a Latin American policy that fails to support democracy and human rights (see Honduras).  We will not support permanent military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan or Columbia.  We will not support Free Trade or a continuation of the No Child Left Behind travesty and we will not support healthcare reform absent the public option.  

We are the progressive left and the president has offered us up as a sacrificial lamb.  We were the ones who breathed life into his presidential campaign.  We were the ones who pounded the streets and promoted the politics of hope.  We were the ones who turned the electorate away from the old school politics of the Clintons and fought back the nightmare of continuing the Neocon, Free Trade policies under John McCain.  

Now we are beginning to wonder why.  

Of course John McCain would have been worse.  We might be in the midst of a Great Depression with wars and covert operations on all fronts.  But if the best we can say is that Obama is not as bad as Bush-McCain it is a dismal commentary.  

Obama has wandered through the first year of his presidency without defining his vision and without the courage of his convictions.  He has allowed the right to shape his policies to such an extent that we are losing faith.  

He has inherited a strong majority in both houses of congress yet he has failed to reign in the money interests that still control the workings of government.  He has refused to take on the Blue Dogs and obstructionists in the United States Senate.  

It is not too late but Obama has wasted time and opportunity for decisive action by constantly seeking an illusive consensus that will never come.  

The party of opposition has planted its staff.  They will not budge.  The Blue Dogs and obstructionists have had their moment.  Now it is time for the president to stand up for the future of his presidency and the well being of the nation.  If he does not, he will lose his majority at the midterm elections and his policy agenda (does he still have one?) will be lost to the musings of what might have been.  

If he does not fight back against the money interests and their agents in his own party, he may well become a one-term president and something of an historical oddity.  

Given the hope that his candidacy inspired and the boundless potential of his intellect and character that would be a tragedy.  

As I post this chronicle there are glimmers of hope in the lower branch of congress and the White House.  A group of sixty progressive Democrats have served notice that they will not vote for a bill that does not include the public option.  The White House is reportedly maneuvering to pass reform without Republican support.  These are promising signs but that still leaves the Democratic obstructionists in the Senate.  Obama needs to call them out and make them accountable for their actions.  

 
Jazz.  
 


JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS).  THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS.  SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.
   

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