12/10/2009 (6:49 pm)
It’s not every day that Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake and I even appear to agree on anything, so we should mark this occasion somehow.
Jane posted an email that she sent to subscribers to FDL’s Action Memos regarding her opinion that President Obama has utterly failed to address the pressing needs of health care reform, opting instead to satisfy the desires of huge corporations and cronies. And I agree, that’s exactly what he’s done, and the bill is a failure. Read:
When Barack Obama announced his health care plan in 2007, he said insurance premiums for a family of 4 would be cut by $2500. This plan will see premiums increase $1000 each year.
Obama said “coverage without cost containment will only shift our burdens, not relieve them.” This plan does nothing to meaningfully contain spiraling health care costs.
Obama said “it’s time to let the drug and insurance industries know that while they’ll get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair.” This plan includes a deal between the White House and PhRMA that guarantees there will be no negotiation for Medicare prescription drug prices.
Obama said he’d go after the drug companies who “sell the same exact drugs here in America for double the price of what they charge in Europe and Canada.” But the White House deal not only doesn’t do that, it bans the reimportation of cheaper drugs from Canada.
What does this deal do? It forces Americans to buy the products of large corporations, then the IRS penalizes them if they refuse.
Now, Jane’s object was to get people to sign a petition demanding a true public option. This, of course, I won’t support, because the public option is nothing but a Trojan Horse to produce a full-blown, government-run health system, which will bankrupt the nation, shrink the US health system to 2nd-world size, and leave even more Americans without health care.
But I find it encouraging that Ms. Hamsher at least may be beginning to realize that she’s been a useful idiot in the construction of an oligarchy that includes the largest corporate players, along with the unions and permanent, “Democratic” party oligarchs like The One.
I was surprised at first by Obama’s willingness to include the most powerful corporations in his power grab, but I should not have been. Remember the image of Obama teaching an ACORN class that I scared up during the campaign, the one that appears at the top of this column? He was lecturing on power relationships. I’ve never attended any of his classes, but based on what I know of Saul Alinsky and the tactics of community organizers, I can imagine that he’s actually teaching how the greed of various players can be tapped to get them to cooperate in schemes that you might think they’d avoid like the plague.
This seems to be a powerful part of Mr. Obama’s power strategy. He’s been negotiating with the largest corporate players all along, not to get them to agree to their own demolition, but to ensure monopoly power for them within the new, permanent power regime. In return, they apparently promise to support his power grab, and they fail to engage their marketing muscle into the sort of publicity that might defeat the administration’s proposals in public.
Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner noted from the right what Jane Hamsher noted from the left: that Obama’s commitment seems to be to a permanent power position for the largest players:
But this facade of Democrats-versus-industry is crumbling now that the final bill is being crafted. The measure still contains the insurers’ grand prize, the individual mandate — a federal requirement that every individual buy sufficiently comprehensive health insurance.
By late Tuesday, all signs pointed to Democratic abandonment of the one major “reform” policy that the insurers’ hated: a government-run insurer, known as the “public option.” Sen. Joe Lieberman said that in Senate negotiations, Obama didn’t even bring up the public option as a bargaining point, which shows it’s not a White House priority.
Liberal and moderate Democrats early this week were lining up behind an alternative “public option” that is not public at all, but just another government program to funnel Americans into private health insurance. As the Associated Press put it, “instead of Medicare-for-the-masses, it would be Blue Cross Blue Shield or Kaiser Permanente, albeit with a government seal of approval.”
And the drug makers? They cut their deal with the White House early. Obama promised not to go after their government favors such as the ban on reimportation of drugs and high Medicare payments and, in exchange, the drug makers offered $150 million in “Harry & Louise” ads rallying the public behind “reform” together with some discounts for Medicare patients.
Even outside of this deal between White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and top drug lobbyist Billy Tauzin, the drug companies stand to profit from Obama’s plan, which subsidizes prescription drug purchases and will likely mandate prescription drug insurance.
The heads of the largest corporations are not stupid men. I’m sure they realize that President Obama is not their friend. However, I’m sure they also see that economic liberty is no longer part of the landscape, and they see their best available deal as becoming corporate partners to Big Brother. If democracy will not protect their right to engage in business freely, they will serve whatever master permits them the best return for the longest time, regardless of the ism represented by that master. They may favor liberty personally, but their corporations will not become martyrs.
In addition to striking deals with the largest corporations, the Obama administration has also been extremely friendly to unions, and in particular the Service Employees International Union (SEIU.) SEIU President Andy Stern was the most frequent visitor to the White House during the Obama administration’s first 6 months, and the SEIU perpetuates President Obama’s intention to incorporate ACORN into American government somehow. Administration policy has rolled back union disclosure guidelines, slashed budget for the union watchdog arm of the Dept of Labor, and written pro-union guidelines into the stimulus bill and the auto industry bailout. Union representatives (and other major contributors to Obama’s perpetual campaign) continue to get seated at the head of the table at official White House functions. And one of the most obvious beneficiaries of national health care reform would be those unions whose retiree pension plans are approaching bankruptcy.
So the Obama administration is no better for progressives, ultimately, than it is for conservatives. We were wrong to assert that Obama is a pure socialist. He’s far more cynical than that, and seems to be operating more along the lines of the Soviet Communist Party, which was anything but communist. He apparently intends to establish an oligarchy of mutual interest, merging the common aims of the unions, the largest businesses, and the heads of the Democratic party. And have no doubt: we know by the persistent stacking of the deck that he fully intends for this oligarchy to become permanent.
A final word to ardent capitalists and free marketeers: huge corporations are not your friend, and never have been. The market thrives on competition, and the largest players tend to operate anti-competitively. The real losers in the coming permanent oligarchy will be small businessmen, whose insignificance is being guaranteed by the new rules favoring the largest players. And, of course, those citizens whose personal fortunes might have been secured by engaging in successful small businesses are the losers as well, as are those hourly wage-earners those businesses might have hired. In fact, the entire economy will shrink as a result of the oligarchic power of the largest players. But Obama will have formed his power circle, and that’s what matters. The good of The One is the good of the nation. Don’t you know that?