November 03, 2009

The "Triumph" of the Progressives

WIth regard to the "health care reform" debate, there is a single issue that must always be kept in the forefront of one's mind. I recently described that issue as follows:
I point you again to Chris Floyd's wonderfully brief and entirely accurate summary of what is going on in the health care reform debate. It's no debate at all: whatever happens, certain already immensely powerful and wealthy corporations closely allied with the State will become still more powerful and wealthy. Given the nature of the corporatist system that now throttles every aspect of life in the U.S., that is how the system works. That's how it's set up, and that's its purpose. The fact that insurance companies will reap huge rewards on the backs of "ordinary" taxpaying Americans is not a regrettable byproduct of an allegedly good but imperfect effort at reform, or a flaw that will be fixed at some unspecified future date. And as already powerful and wealthy interests become more powerful and wealthy, the State will also increase its already massive power over all our lives still more. None of that is incidental: it's the point.
Now consider these excerpts from David Swanson's analysis of recent developments:
At first the "public option" was to be a massive but less-than-universal healthcare plan that would prove so efficient and effective that over several years the public would all opt into it. It was a backdoor to a civilized system of Medicare for all. Now what's left of it? Now it's a public option for 2 percent of Americans, and in some states 0 percent, to be run by private corporations, with prices set to avoid any efficiency or competition for the wasteful health insurance companies.

Is that better than nothing? No, it's worse, because this pathetic scam of a healthcare plan is plastered like lipstick on a pig to a bailout for the health insurance corporations. ... And when the healthcare crisis continues to worsen in the coming years, the blame will be placed on the nearly nonexistent public option, thus justifying making things even worse, if possible.


Now, enough House Democrats have publicly committed to voting No on any bill this bad, that it could not pass. On July 30th 57 of them signed a letter saying that any bill without a public option based on Medicare rates would be unacceptable. And therefore, this bill would be dead, and we could go into round 2 with a stronger demand for a bill that might actually save a significant number of lives. And we could move ahead on easy steps, like busting monopoly protections, passing the Kucinich amendment, and passing reforms proposed by Senator Sanders. That is, we could imagine all such scenarios if you could trust a progressive member of Congress as far as you could throw one. ...

Sadly, these people's word is as trustworthy as the promises of a health insurance company. (And when they prove that yet again, you can forget about progressive legislation or action on any issue in the months and years to come.) And most so-called progressive and labor organizations don't even want to ask them to keep their word. So-called citizens' groups, now actually taking their directives from the very people they pretend to lobby, are so obsessed with passing any sort of bill, that the content of the bill is virtually irrelevant. I say virtually, because the collective decision is that it must contain something or other that can be mislabeled a "public option." Other than that, it could sentence millions of Americans to death, and it would still be fine and dandy. And that is exactly what it does.
Swanson has more.

If the progressives (including the online progressive movement) were genuinely intelligent and, more critically, if they actually cared about the issues they so insistently claim to care about, they would have done everything in their power to defeat a bill of the kind that is about to be vomited up by Congress and then signed by Obama, to the screeching accompaniment of hosannas, triumphal cries and endless, interminable bleats of self-congratulation. I tell you now, it will be stomach-churning, and all of it will be a deadly lie.

That the progressives never seriously considered such a course, much less genuinely committed to it, and that they will settle for "any sort of bill" (as Swanson notes), even the abomination that will now emerge, is the result of several complex, interrelated factors. Those dynamics are of special interest to me, and the "health care reform" debate is only one instance of their operation. The sources of those dynamics, together with a consideration of their wider implications, will be the subject of some upcoming essays. I hope to start publishing them in the next several days.