Monday, August 10, 2009
But there are exceptions. Jane Hamsher and the gang at firedoglake don't just put out a liberal line on issues like the wars in the Middle East and health care reform, they urge their allies to lobby and protest in support of those issues. Now, mind you, as a leftist, I have some significant disagreements with the people who post at firedoglake. After all, I'm a leftist, and they are liberals. However, I respect the fact that they are actively challenging the Democratic Party, as represented in the White House and Congress, to adopt their perspective. They don't play the game of talking liberal and then letting elected Democrats vote moderate to conservative. For example, they call out people who try to create the appearance of supporting progressive health care reform, while facilitating the opposite.
As you might have guessed, the people at firedoglake have selected health care reform as the make or break issue for the Obama presidency. They have organized a focused effort to pressure Democrats in the House to demand a strong public option as an essential component of any health care proposal that goes to the President. Now, they are encouraging people to attend town hall meetings this month to counteract the presence of right wing protesters. This is a critical issue, because a strong public option, one that gives people the opportunity to select a government operated plan instead of ones provided by the insurance industry, is necessary to pressure insurers and health care providers to keep costs down. Even opponents of the public option acknowledge it. Indeed, they believe that the government option would be so efficient as to result in the de facto creation of a single payer system.
Unfortunately, it's not going to happen, because the President doesn't want it to happen. Nor does his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. The consequences of this failure, as noted by Hamsher last Monday, are serious:
With the passage of a health care reform proposal that operates primarily at the level of forcing Americans to buy health insurance at rates established by the insurance industry, with funds diverted from Medicare to help subsidize it, we will experience the end of the Obama presidency in regard to any prospect of progressive social change. It is more important to exploit the urgent need for health care reform to provide another subsidization of financial institutions than to address the compelling need itself.
According to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, there are 52 million Americans currently without health insurance. We are a country in crisis. If the government cannot respond by delivering a public plan with a President who campaigned on creating one, a 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate, a Speaker of the House who has committed to doing so and majority support in both parties among the public, then we do not live in a representative democracy any more. The country is ungovernable.
For some reason, I see Obama signing the bill in the Rose Garden right around the time that he orders 20,000 to 45,000 more troops into Afghanistan. While not a liberal myself, an old school liberal victory on health care reform would help a lot of people who need it desperately. And that, it seems, is the problem. The provision of affordable health care would contribute to the liberation of people from the control of finance capital. It would give them a little extra money, a little extra personal independence. It would free them to think and act for themselves with less of the fear associated with economic dependence. It might even create momentum to push the country even farther left across a spectrum of domestic and international issues. Sadly, it's not going to happen.
UPDATE: An excellent summary of the importance of the health care reform struggle. Of course, as is typical with a lot of liberal analysis, the author overpersonalizes the nature of the conflict. But, overall, the bottom line is correct. If congressional Democrats return and promptly abandon the public option, there is nothing preventing them from subsequently abandoning other important consumer protection measures as well, leaving us with nothing more than an unadulterated industry subsidy.