Here & There on US Health Care

From Hillbilly Report:

After months of healthcare debate a bill has been passed in the Senate. A bill that stripped basically all that was good for working Americans out, and has become very unpopular among a majority of Americans. A bill that mandates millions of Americans at the mercy of the insurance industry, and allows them to continue to discriminate against folks with pre-existing conditions. Quite simply, a bill that was written for Corporate Welfare complete with backroom bribes to get it passed. And for many Progressives, the fact that we had not a champion in the Democratic caucus to stand up for us and vote against these junk reforms was painful enough, Harry Reid added insult to injury.  [more]

Wendell Potter at Huffington:

Although the effort to achieve health care reform has been arduous and ugly, progressives can’t merely brush off their hands, move on to other issues and hope the stars will align again for “real” reform. When you stop and think about the bottomless pot of money that health insurance companies constantly replenish by diverting part of our premium dollars away from paying for medical care, it is in some ways remarkable that we have accomplished as much as we have with this legislation.  [more]

David Sirota, also at Huff:

For those caught up in the obsequiously triumphalist bullshit coming from the DC elite – you know the crap about the Senate allegedly passing the most important piece of progressive legislation in American history today (an analysis I completely reject) – it’s important for us all to remember that the health care battle isn’t over – and specifically, the battle over the public option isn’t over.  [more, of course]

Ronald Brownstein at The National Journal:

The new Internet-based left, because it is so heavily reliant on college-educated whites generally less exposed to the economy’s storms, also has a blind spot on kitchen table issues. According to the Census Bureau, just 6 percent of college-educated whites lack health insurance, for instance, compared to 19 percent of African-Americans and 31 percent of Hispanics. But the idea that Democrats should just press restart after the grueling struggle to reach this point carries an air of fatal abstraction: If health reform fails now, the next chance for big change probably wouldn’t come for years, if not decades. “The universal rule of health care — there are no exceptions — is you get what you can,” says Brown University political scientist James Morone, co-author of The Heart of Power, a recent history of health care politics.  [more]

Letter to David Sirota at Open Left:

This is an excellent example of the “satisfying purity of indignation.” Millions will benefit from a compromise plan. Zero would do so from a more ambitious but unachieveable plan. I’ve no patience for this kind of impractical and bloodless stance. Please take me off your list.

Sent from my iPhone
Stephen Davis
Executive Director
Millstein Center
Yale School of Management

Sirota’s response

From Dan Sweeney, Huff again:

What the past several months have revealed, far more than the power of lobbyists (which we already knew) or the ability of senators to toss their ideology out the window for fun and profit (ditto), is the complete and total inability of the government to govern. Whatever your opinion of this health-care bill, whatever your opinion of Democrats or Republicans, put that aside for a moment and consider this: A charismatic president with a supposedly filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a large majority in the House is completely incapable of enacting massively popular reform.  [he goes on]

Michael J. W. Stickings, the Huff goes on:

reality is reality, and politics are politics, and, given the Senate’s ridiculous rules and procedures that effectively require a supermajority of 60 to pass legislation, the votes just aren’t there even for a Medicare buy-in, let alone for a public option, let alone for a robust one, let alone for anything even more substantial.Like it or not, that’s just the way it is, and while I wish there had been a stronger push by progressives and liberals for concessions from right-leaning reform-skeptic Democrats like Nelson, Lieberman, and Baucus, specifically regarding subsidies for those who simply will not be able to afford the insurance they would be required to buy, and while I wish Obama, and the White House generally, had pushed for more substantial and transformative legislation (it’s still not clear to me what Obama is actually for, if he is for anything other than the Senate bill as is, which he may not be), we are left with a stark choice: pass the bill or kill the bill.

I think the choice is clear: PASS THE BILL.  [a bit more]

From Reed Abelson at the good ole Globe and Mail:

For many people, the result of the long, angry health care debate in Washington may be little more than more of the same.As President Obama once promised, “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan.”

That may be true even if you don’t like your health plan. And no one seems to agree on whether the legislation will do much to reduce workers’ continually rising out-of-pocket costs.  [more]

Paul Krugman:

Now, in a hostage situation there are times when you have to just say no — when giving in, by encouraging future hostage-takers, would be worse than letting the hostages perish. So the question has to be, is this one of those times? I don’t think so, given the history: as Kevin Drum points out, health reform has come back weaker after each defeat. I’d also point out that highly imperfect insurance reforms, like Social Security and Medicare in their initial incarnations, have gotten more comprehensive over time. This suggests that the priority is to get something passed.

But what’s happening, I think, goes beyond health care; what we’re seeing is disillusionment with Obama among some of the people who were his most enthusiastic supporters. A lot of people seem shocked to find that he’s not the transformative figure of their imaginations. Can I say I told you so? If you paid attention to what he said, not how he said it, it was obvious from the beginning — and I’m talking about 2007 — that he was going to be much less aggressive about change than one could have hoped. And this has done a lot of damage: I believe he could have taken a tougher line on economic policy and the banks, and was tearing my hair out over his caution early this year. I also believe that if he had been tougher on those issues, he’d be better able to weather disappointment over his health care compromises.

So there’s a lot of bitterness out there. But please, keep your priorities straight.  [more]

Jon Walker at FireDogLake:

Today’s vote in the Senate to pass their health care reform bill was a big win for many people. It was a big win for the drug companies, the biologics industry, the hospital companies, and the for-profit health insurance corporations. They will all get billions of government dollars piled on to their ledgers, and and millions of Americans now forced to buy their products. The vote was also a huge win for the lobbyists who just saw their profits jump thanks to this great opportunity to show their clients just how powerful their hold on Washington really is.

This vote was also a political win. It was a big deal for politicians–like Barack Obama, Max Baucus, Rahm Emanuel, and Harry Reid–who cared more about putting up a “W” on the scoreboard than about the policy. It was also a big day for senators like Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, and Joe Lieberman. The incredibly broken rules of the Senate gave them an absurd amount of anti-constitutional power that allowed them to hold reform hostage for pork and industry favors.

It was loss for the country. Our broken health care system will remain broken and costs will continue to rise at an alarming rate. Things like drug re-importation and a robust public option, which would have helped bring down prices for millions of Americans, were stripped from the bill at the request of powerful industry lobbyists.

It was also a big loss for the progressive movement. We were out-gunned by industry lobbyists, and many of our movement “allies” failed us. A woman’s right to choose was thrown under the bus just to get something passed. The supposed “progressives” in the Senate refused to go all-out and use every tool to achieve the most progressive reform. Lawrence O’Donnell is right, most importantly, this bill will give liberalism a very bad name.

This is not progressive reform. This is a perverse Democratic version of Reagan style trickle down economics. Hundreds of billions will be given to poorly regulated private health insurance companies in the hope that they spend roughly 80% of that money on actually providing people with health care. It forces millions of people to buy very expensive insurance that they cannot afford to get actual health care, so that Democrats can proudly say millions more people are “covered.” Private health insurance companies are what have ruined our current system and are dramatically less efficient than public insurance programs, yet Democrats will use them almost exclusively. It is a massive reward for a history of terrible performance. Instead of reining in the insurance companies, it only enriches, empowers, and entrenches them further. The only “check” on the industry will be new regulations, but with extremely weak to practically non-existent enforcement, it is basically no check at all.

[there’s lots more over there]

So much to think about.  Likely I’m on the side of the lefty abstractionist naysayers.  Overall I’m just sad.  Though I was never a believer in the hopey-changey President.  I’m frustrated with those lefty abstractionists who were.  In any case, the American system of government and its flaws has been exposed in all its vain-glorious ingloriousness.  That’s what people should be paying attention to, whatever they think about health care “reform”.  Perhaps the problem is with the notion of reform itself.  Now there’s a revolutionary idea.

“Progressive” Gaslighting

President Obama rejected in an interview Tuesday the criticism that he has compromised too much in order to secure health-care reform legislation, challenging his critics to identify any “gap” between what he campaigned on last year and what Congress is on the verge of passing.

“Nowhere has there been a bigger gap between the perceptions of compromise and the realities of compromise than in the health-care bill,” Obama said in an Oval Office interview with The Washington Post about his legislative record this year. “Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill.”  [more]

Hmmm.  Let’s see.

Candidate Obama:

The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies. And you know what, the chairman of the committee who pushed the law through went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million a year. Imagine that. That’s an example of the same old game-playing in Washington. I don’t want to learn how to play the game better. I want to put an end to the game-playing.  [here]

Nevertheless, BigPharma’s superstar lobbyist Billy Tauzin says the President has promised not to pressure the drug companies to negotiate with the government for lower drug prices and has agreed not to allow cheaper drugs to be imported from Canada or Europe.

Candidate Obama also argued with Hillary Clinton about the virtues, or rather the lack thereof, of mandated health insurance which the health reform bill currently adopts.

… the head of this Administration pointedly attacking his opponent’s position on health insurance mandates during the primary campaign. In an effort to differentiate himself, candidate Obama attacked the Clinton plan of requiring citizens to purchase health insurance stating that people do not have health insurance not because they don’t want it, but because they can’t afford it. Mandating health insurance, in his view, would further burden the individual with fines and in the end the person would still not have health insurance. He called it a “substantive difference” with Clinton on the issue and made that point very clear.  [there’s more – video even!]

Candidate Obama addressed the issue of mandated health insurance more than once.

If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house,” he said on a CNN morning show on Super Tuesday during the election. “The reason they don’t have a house is they don’t have the money. So our focus has been on reducing costs, making it available. I am confident that if people have a chance to buy high quality health care that is affordable, they will do so. And that’s what our plan does, and nobody disputes that.

[there’s video here too!]

I guess we can expect mandated house-buying next.

Now here’s an article from April 2008 that explicitly takes on the comparison between health care reform plans outline by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.  It points out that there wasn’t much difference between them.  Except for this:

But the major difference between the two plans involves requiring people to have health insurance, the “individual mandate,” as it’s called.  Clinton’s plan, with an estimated $110 billion annual price tag for the government, would require everyone to have coverage. Obama would make coverage mandatory only for children.  [here]

Hmmmmm.  Let’s move on to the “public option”.  President Obama claims he didn’t campaign on the issue.  Aleks Koppelman points out that his claim is “at best on shaky ground”.

Obama’s summary of his healthcare plan was, “I have pledged to sign a universal health bill into law by the end of my first term in office. My plan will ensure that all Americans have health care coverage through their employers, private health plans, the federal government or the states. For those without health insurance I will establish a new public insurance program.”

Then there’s the Candidate Obama brochure that said this:

The Obama plan both builds upon and improves our current insurance system, upon which most Americans continue to rely, and leaves Medicare intact for older and disabled Americans. The Obama plan also addresses the large gaps in coverage that leave 45 million Americans uninsured. Specifically, the Obama plan will: (1) establish a new public insurance program available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees.

It is true that Candidate Obama expressed a willingness to consider giving up the public option later in his campaign but it could be argued that he never pressed for the option and gave it up all too willingly.  In any case, there’s not much doubt that a big slice of President Obama’s base are experiencing an all too familiar sense of betrayal from their former candidate.  So much so that President Obama felt pressed to defend himself today.

I don’t share the sense of betrayal.  For one thing, I would have voted for Hillary Clinton.  For another, even during and after the world historical event that was the election of a black American to the highest office of the United States I thought the jubilation was unrealistic politically, even if necessary culturally, and I never bought in to the notion that Candidate Obama (or Hillary Clinton) was the great progressive saviour.

On the other hand, it really pisses me off that President Obama has decided to lie to his base and to the people who voted him into office.  Oh well.  They’re all doing a great job of calling out the gaslight.

NOTE:  I can’t seem to do anything about that blank space in the second quote, above.  If you want to see the whole thing I guess you’ll have to follow the link.  That is, if it works.  😦  NOTE II:  So now it’s fixed.  🙂

UPDATE:  I really really like this.

Holy Clusterfucktastrophe!

Yet another gift to Republicans.

The Obama administration on Tuesday, in a letter to congressional leaders, announced its intention to move forward with a massive free trade agreement that would be the largest since the North American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a letter that the U.S. plans to begin negotiations to enter into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The TPP is currently comprised of Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. Vietnam and Australia are in negotiations to enter the free trade zone. In addition, Kirk said that he would eventually like to see Japan, Malaysia, Peru and South Korea enter the fold as well.

“U.S. participation in the TPP agreement is predicated on the shared objective of expanding this initial group to additional countries,” Kirk wrote.

More.  Far too much more …

OopsieUPDATE:  Candidate Obama —

I voted against CAFTA, never supported NAFTA, and will not support NAFTA-style trade agreements in the future. NAFTA’s shortcomings were evident when signed and we must now amend the agreement to fix them. While NAFTA gave broad rights to investors, it paid only lip service to the rights of labor and the importance of environmental protection.

February 28, 2008 – Such a long time ago.

I wonder if Obama will reform NAFTA before entering into TPP?  Or is this another one of those problems that he would prefer to resolve badly while promising to fix it later?  That seems to work.

Is Something ALWAYS Better Than Nothing?

What are progressive Americans to do about the health care reform bill?

For the Left, healthcare reform might just become a Pyrrhic victory if it gets passed.After defeating the Romans in the battles of Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC, King Pyrrhus of Epirus is reported to have said, “one more such victory would utterly undo him.” Pyrrhus’s armies were in ruins and most of his principal military leaders killed. Conversely the Romans–having garnered more losses–had the necessary reliefs, will, and supplies to continue fighting. Pyrrhus’s victories had cost him too much to continue.

If this bill, in whatever mutated form they deliver it, passes, it will drain the fever-swamp of the Democratic camp. Ideology will have triumphed necessity. This makes for a very good possibility of the Democrats wandering a political wasteland of their own design for decades too come.

There’s always more.

I’m glad it’s not my health care reform bill!

UPDATE:  From someone who never fell all the way in love with Barack —

As Congress stumbles toward some parody of health care reform, and the White House sends its talking heads out to parrot that this is the delivery of Obama’s promises, those who once provided the grassroots manpower for the President’s presidential campaign have finally started to voice their mass dissatisfaction.

[…]

Obama has taken no leadership and instead passed off reform to Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Joe Lieberman, corporate centrists who shill to the same insurance and pharmaceutical interests who have caused the staggering rate of uninsured Americans — 40 million! — today. What use is a majority in both houses of Congress if you can’t pass the biggest social reform on which you based your candidacy?

I commend the SEIU and the deflated Obama campaign staffers for what they’re saying now. But shoddy health care reform is being signed into law before Christmas. These appeals, which I believe could have had great resonance, have come too late.

Daniela Perdomo has more to say at AlterNet.

What If?

My capacity to wonder has been damaged recently.  Good thing Rebecca Solnit is still up for it.  Of course, I am a lot older than her.

What if Obama would say what he has to know, what they all have to know, that saving the planet from our slo-mo, unevenly distributed version of Judgment Day requires destroying the status quo and maybe changing everything? What if he’d just learn from Schwarzenegger that you can do quite a lot and still survive politically?

Yes Rebecca.  What if?

There’s much more.

Voice from the (Not So Distant) Past

Judith Butler on the election of Barack Obama:

The election of Obama means that the terrain for debate and struggle has shifted, and it is a better terrain, to be sure. But it is not the end of struggle, and we would be very unwise to regard it that way, even provisionally. We will doubtless agree and disagree with various actions he takes and fails to take. But if the initial expectation is that he is and will be “redemption” itself, then we will punish him mercilessly when he fails us (or we will find ways to deny or suppress that disappointment in order to keep alive the experience of unity and unambivalent love).

If a consequential and dramatic disappointment is to be averted, he will have to act quickly and well. Perhaps the only way to avert a “crash” – a disappointment of serious proportions that would turn political will against him – will be to take decisive actions within the first two months of his presidency. The first would be to close Guantanamo and find ways to transfer the cases of detainees to legitimate courts; the second would be to forge a plan for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and to begin to implement that plan. The third would be to retract his bellicose remarks about escalating war in Afghanistan and pursue diplomatic, multilateral solutions in that arena. If he fails to take these steps, his support on the left will clearly deteriorate, and we will see the reconfiguration of the split between liberal hawks and the anti-war left. If he appoints the likes of Lawrence Summers to key cabinet positions, or continues the failed economic polices of Clinton and Bush, then at some point the messiah will be scorned as a false prophet. In the place of an impossible promise, we need a series of concrete actions that can begin to reverse the terrible abrogation of justice committed by the Bush regime; anything less will lead to a dramatic and consequential disillusionment. The question is what measure of dis-illusion is necessary in order to retrieve a critical politics, and what more dramatic form of dis-illusionment will return us to the intense political cynicism of the last years. Some relief from illusion is necessary, so that we might remember that politics is less about the person and the impossible and beautiful promise he represents than it is about the concrete changes in policy that might begin, over time, and with difficulty, bring about conditions of greater justice.

Time to rejuvenate that “critical politics”.  Past time really but better late than …

Yes, there’s more from Butler.  It comes via wood s lot.