A Deeply Corrupt Bill
Last July, in response to a campaign we launched the month before, 65 members of Congress pledged to vote against any bill that does not have a public option. At the suggestion of Rep. Donna Edwards, online supporters raised $430,000 to thank them. Dennis Kucinich was one of those members of Congress.
July was also the month that President Obama made a “quid pro quo deal” with the hospitals to exclude the public option from a final health care bill. Miles Mogulescu reports that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina confirmed the deal to David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times.
President Obama disingenuously confirmed his support for the public option in his September address to a joint session of Congress, but, behind the scenes, he was actively working to kill it. Obama wanted Harry Reid to be responsible for taking it out of the final health care bill so he, the president, could remain popular, according to Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo.
But Reid is facing a tough challenge of his own and didn’t want the honors, so — as predicted — Joe Lieberman was called upon to do the dirty work. Far from opposing the President, Lieberman was doing exactly what Obama wanted him to do so that the deal with the hospitals to kill the public option would be honored.
Tom Carper famously said that it was the Senate’s responsibility to honor the deal that Obama made with PhRMA, because after all, they paid for it with $150 million in political advertising for House Democrats. And although PhRMA was nervous about putting more money in until the President delivered on that deal, they have now agreed to another $6 million ad buy in the districts of 38 Democrats.
The objective of the White House with the health care bill has been from the beginning to secure donations of the medical industrial complex for Democrats and assure their re-election in 2010. But recently, they switched their battle plan. While Rahm Emanuel may have been protecting Blue Dogs from “fu&1ing r#%&rd” liberals who wanted to challenge them last fall, the Democratic establishment have now turned on Democrats in conservative-leaning districts for their unwillingness to take a vote that will no doubt cost them their seats. So much for the “big tent.”
The generals are firing on their own troops in the trenches for their unwillingness to go on a suicide mission. It is indeed like a scene from Paths of Glory.
There are currently 36 resolutions in states across the country to ban the mandate which forces people to buy private insurance, or face a penalty of up to 2% of their income that the IRS will collect — the very thing that Obama campaigned against. It will become a rallying cry for the right.
John Shaddegg gives a preview of what the GOP will be saying in the fall:
SHADEGG: You could better defend a public option than you could defend compelling me to buy a product from the people that have created the problem. America’s health insurance industry has wanted this bill and the individual mandate from the get go. That’s their idea. Their idea is “look, our product is so lousy, that lots of people don’t buy it. So we need the government to force people to buy our product. And stunningly, that’s what the Congress appears to be going along with. Why would they do that?
As Jon Walker noted, the President’s recent campaign wherein he railed against insurance companies for jacking up premiums was an exercise in incoherence. “If private insurance companies are evil, why are you forcing me to be their customer?”
The claims made by the administration about the virtues of the health care bill are outright fabrications. As Marcy Wheeler has documented in her post entitled “Health Care and the Road to Neufeudalism,” it does not control either insurance premiums or health care costs. Forcing 31 million people to buy a product they don’t want and can’t afford to use does not constitute health care reform. Once again, the poor get used as human shields so corporations can be the beneficiaries of massive government bailout.
Rather than actually helping the poor, this bill is a dangerous and unprecedented step on the road to domination of government by private corporate players who use it to suppress competition and secure their profits — the textbook definition of fascism.
When we launched the public option campaign in June of 2009, I made several assumptions. One, that the White House ultimately cared more about preserving the Democratic majority than they did about passing a corporate bailout and when forced to choose between the two they would pick the former. And two, that members of Congress have a base interest in keeping their seats and would not cast a vote that jeopardize them.
Both of those assumptions were wrong. Members of Congress are dealing their seats away, planning to retire after the vote is cast in exchange for appointments or other sinecures from the administration. The alternative, as Dennis Kucinich found out, was to be hounded from office by liberal interest groups whose job is now apparently to play enforcer on the left so the President can follow through with his PhRMA and AHIP deals.
This bill has already triggered an electoral crisis that will continue, not only for members of Congress in 2010 but for Democrats across the country.Polling indicates that Democrats plan to stay home just as they did after the passage of NAFTA in 1994. Down ticket races are at serious risk of the “Coakley effect” as independents flock to the GOP. While members of Congress in strong Democratic districts may feel safe from the repercussions, state legislatures that progressive activists have worked so hard to take over the past few years could become casualties of war.
I spoke with Dennis following his speech, and his campaign will return the money to those who have donated in support of his pledge to vote against any health care bill that does not have a public option. It’s the honorable thing to do. While he shouldn’t be expected to carry the weight of the health care bill on his back when the other 64 members of Congress have abandoned him, it is both disheartening and illuminating to realize that the progressives in Congress have no true commitment to anything but putting on a show. Rep. Edwards and her fellow members of Congress should follow Rep. Kucinich’s lead and return the $430,000 they collected from donors for their part in the House kabuki as well.
A PR blitz by the President may sway liberals to support this bill, but it won’t hold. You can’t fight for Medicare prescription drug price negotiation in 2008 when it has no chance of passing, and then fight against it when it actually can, and hope that nobody notices. This is a deeply corrupt bill that among other things puts lifesaving cancer drugs out of the financial reach of many cancer patients by keeping them from becoming available as generics, even after taxpayers footed the bill for their development.
Cokie Roberts said on This Week that the reason the health care bill is so unpopular is because the public option campaign dragged out its passage for so long. She’s right. By forcing the President and members of Congress to keep passing the public option hot potato and reporting on the corruption, lies and lack of affordability that were the hallmarks of the bill, it allowed the public to measure the gap between what Obama says and what he actually does.
That in itself has value, because without broad awareness of the bad faith with which the President engaged in the health care debate, it was difficult to get people to shake off the pixie dust of the 2008 election and deal with the reality of what progressives are up against. We also got to see that the veal pen institutions will be flooded with corporate money expressly for the purpose of neutralizing progressive organizing attempts against corporate control of government.
Few organizations resisted the urge to whip for the very bill they asked members of Congress to oppose last August during the fundraising drive for the public option. The entire progressive movement devolved into complete message incoherence as the unions announced their willingness to step outside of the Democratic party in order to enforce corporate deals within it. The PCCC deserves special mention for staying true to their word throughout.
If indeed this bill passes, people across the country will have to start examining the basic assumptions with which we have heretofore approached politics. The thing I have learned above all else in this campaign is that the corporate control of government is much more extensive than I ever imagined, and the tools we have to fight its influence are ineffective.
We need to develop new partners in the fight, because there is tremendous public will to resist and the old ones can’t be trusted. We also need a new language to describe it, because the old “right-left” paradigm is firing past the true opponent.
The effort to keep this bill from passing lives on after Dennis Kucinich’s defection, though it did indeed signal the death of the progressive resistance in Congress. In the end, what we learned is that we can’t count on members of Congress in either party to do anything but play their part in “villain rotation” — a game they can only play as long as we let them. It is up to each of us to challenge our old ideas and forge new ways to seek out those who are truly willing to oppose the corporate domination of our political system, and help them to do it.