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The Bloody Health-Care Endgame

October 28th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s been a long, brutal battle that progressives in the United States have been fighting this year to get real, solid health-care reform enacted. These soldiers—the progressives—have fought battle after battle, backing up their commanders on the field—Democratic senators and congressmen—as well as the general himself—President Barack Obama—and in each instance the battle has ended with a cease-fire agreement—a compromise—that the soldiers did not like but decided they “could live with”. Now as we approach the end of the war the soldiers find themselves engaged in a final brawl between a commander they hardly respect—Harry Reid—and a treasonous weasel who should have been hanged long ago—Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticuit, who has vowed to join a Republican filibuster of the Health Care bill if it contains a public option. Lieberman, who has been secretly fighting on the side of the Enemy—private insurance companies—the entire time, can not be punished for his treason, as he knows he will never win back the support of Democrats no matter what he does, and when his term ends he can make his treason official by either earning a fat paycheck on the board of directors of one of these private insurance companies or simply switching sides to join their army—the Republicans, who will welcome him as the Hero who Killed Health Care Reform. The only option for the progressive army now seems to be an attempt to recruit a soldier from the other side—Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine—whom they can only get by making yet another concession, a trigger for the public option designed to never let it be triggered, a concession far too great for them to be willing to make.

And what hangs in the balance anyway? If the progressive army prevails against Lieberman even without recruiting Snowe, what exactly have they achieved? A public health insurance option available only to those currently without insurance and to those living in states in which the political leadership decides not to opt-out of the plan. That’s not what they’ve been fighting for, of course. Many have been fighting for a single-payer system, a health insurance industry free of a profit-motive altogether, in which the government pays for everyone’s medical expenses without regard for increasing the bottom line, satisfying the shareholders, or providing the C.E.O. with a high enough salary to purchase a few extra summer-homes. Most of the soldiers have long-since given up on that idea, and have instead been fighting tooth-and-nail over the past few months for a public option, a government-run insurance company, to merely exist in the marketplace and compete with the private-insurance companies, something available to everyone so that those unhappy with their profit-driven insurance company could switch to the non-profit public option and thus force the private companies to lower their prices in order to compete. These soldiers have one last commander in the field—Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon—who is proposing an amendment which would create just that—a public option available to everyone—but which hardly has a prayer of passing. Instead, the opposition has been so strong that what the progressives are fighting for now so desperately is a public option available to 5% or less of the population—something so watered-down and impotent as to be virtually ineffectual within the broken system they’ve been trying so hard to fix. If the Enemy, the private insurance companies, come out of this war with nothing more than 3% of the market to compete for, it will be almost akin to a victory for them.

The only thing about the Bullshit Public Option that everyone is now pushing so hard for that is the least bit satisfying to progressives is the potential it has to one day grow into something larger—and that’s the only reason the Enemy is still fighting it, now by unleashing Lieberman as the final obstacle in its path. If a government-run insurance company is created to cater to those without health insurance, and those who are lucky enough to be eligible for the public plan like what they have, then what’s to stop a future army of progressives from taking up arms again for the purpose of expanding this program to make it available to all Americans? The Enemy knows that it’s much easier to expand an already existing program than to enact a new one from scratch, which is why they’re fighting so hard to prevent even this compromise-to-end-all-compromises from seeing the light of day.

No, if those who have been fighting for real Health Care reform all year want to see a bill actually get to the floor and receive an up-or-down vote, they’re going to have to watch Commander Reid bend over for either Joe Lieberman or Olympia Snowe, and make yet another concession, this time to kill the public option altogether or impose a trigger-that-will-never-be-triggered, thus destroying the last remaining shred of anything resembling real reform and handing the Enemy a total, blow-out victory. Remember, one of the concessions that has already been made is an Individual Mandate, meaning the Enemy will receive millions of new victims (customers) who will now be required by law to buy their evil product. Without a government-run option available to people without insurance, they will have no choice but to buy their insurance from the private industry, who unfettered by competition will proceed to bleed them dry through insane premiums, and find any possible loophole to deny them coverage when they actually get sick.

How did it come to this? How is it that proponents of Health Care reform are fighting so hard now for this bullshit watered-down pussy-ass public option compromise? And how is it that they might not even get that? Exactly who or what is to blame for all of this? It’s not entirely Joe Lieberman’s responsibility, as if it weren’t him it would be someone else, and if any Republican at all were actually acting on good faith in the best interests of the American people, he wouldn’t even be an issue because then we’d have the 60 votes necessary to move the bill to a vote without him. It’s not all Harry Reid’s fault either because while he may suffer from a complete lack of testicular fortitude, he can’t do anything about these ridiculous rules that say although you only need a majority to pass a bill, you need a super-majority to allow that bill to be voted on in the first place. Nor is it entirely the fault of Max Baucus, the asshole who spent all summer watering-down the health-care reform bill in a faux effort to achieve “bi-partisanship”, nor is it the entirely the fault of Olympia Snow, who very cleverly flirted with the idea of voting for the bill just so that all of this watering-down for the sake of “bi-partisanship” could actually seem justified. Nor is it the fault of the corrupt and spineless Blue Dog Democrats like Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Blanche Lincoln, and Mary Landrieu, all of whom oppose the public option in spite of majority support among the people of their own states and overwhelming majority support among Democrats. These are just players in the system—a system that has always rewarded these kinds of players because they’re the ones who are able to sell their votes in behind-closed-doors negotiations, where all the real legislating in this country is done. This is just the way the system works, and no one person within the system has the power to change it.

So what about the general himself—Barack Obama—the man supposed to be leading the charge for real Health Care reform? Well, apparently “real” reform to him is whatever can pass—not necessarily anything that will actually make a difference. He’s been consistent throughout this whole debate in terms of his words—he believes that a public option is the best way to keep insurance companies honest—but his actions have consistently displayed his willingness to throw the public option overboard for the sake of the passage of a bill, any bill, that he could then point to and claim victory. “Look, I got Health Care reform passed!” he can say, and I suppose he genuinely expects to get credit for it.

What he doesn’t seem to realize is that the army that has been fighting his cause all year—with shockingly little actual leadership from him—is not full of blind sheep who worship him as a demi-god. Progressives are not Republicans who just line up behind a charismatic leader-figure and repeat whatever they’re told and excommunicate all who think differently. Progressives follow their ideals, not leaders, and when the leaders they supported for the sake of those ideals wind up betraying those very ideals, they find a new leader. Barack Obama raised a lot of hopes when he took office, particularly with regard to real change in the Health Care system, and if something passes without a public option which he then claims is a victory, those hopes will be dashed and Barack Obama can expect a very tough re-election campaign in 2012 as all his disillusioned followers stay at home, unable to summon the will to go out and cast a vote for this fraud a second time.

The war is almost over, and in its wake lies the blood and corpses of Hope and Change—the Hope that was born and cultivated last year when a young black man with a bold progressive agenda actually managed to rise to the rank of the President of the United States. The general of an army of progressives which had mobilized to put him in that position—a position from which he could continue the fight and make a real difference in the lives of Americans—he would finally bring about the Change the American people were starving for, the Change he promised they “could believe in.” But in taking on the Enemy, the general and his commanders turned and sold out the very soldiers who were fighting for them for the sake of a bullshit Peace Treaty they could call a “victory”.

If the public option passes, it will be a victory, but one so close to a defeat as to make very little difference in terms of the faith that progressives have already lost in Obama. If it fails, it will be a defeat, the progressives will know it’s a defeat, and the moment Obama rises to the podium to declare it a victory, as he inevitably will if any bill whatsoever gets passed, that will be the end of his presidency—the last and largest casualty of this long and bloody war.

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