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Delaying Health Care Reform Into Oblivion

category_bug_politics.gif Republicans in Congress, some of their state governors, the chairman of the Republican National committee and a variety of pundits declared war this week, making it crystal clear that their goal is to bury health care reform.

It is a “cabal,” screeches one. “Socialism,” says another. “Reckless.” “A dangerous experiment.” “Too much, too fast, too soon.” “You should be scared to death.” “It will be [Obama's] Waterloo.” And finally, instructions from Bill Kristol to his conservative compatriots: “Go for the kill.”

Should shouting health care reform into oblivion fail, Alex Castellanos, who is a consultant to the RNC, offered a backup plan: "If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it."

The United States lags behind every other developed nation in the standard measures of health. Forty-seven million Americans are uninsured - more than at any time since before Medicare. No one knows how many are under-insured and we spend twice as much per person on health care as the second most expensive nation.

All this begs the question: why don't conservatives want their fellow Americans to have health care?

Why is the status quo acceptable to them? Why is it all right for anyone to go untreated for lack of coverage? Why is it okay that 62.1 percent of all personal bankruptcies (in 2007) were due primarily to medical bills?

Although it has been my observation over my 68 years that conservatives are just generally meaner than liberals and progressives, the reason is money.

The health care industry as a whole is the largest lobby group in Washington and just yesterday it was reported in the Washington Post and elsewhere that federal lawmakers, including Congressional committee members working on health care reform, have raked in $170 million from that lobby over the past couple of years and are continuing to do so as they write the reform bills. ($1.5 million to Democratic Senator Max Baucus alone.)

Should those lawmakers leave Congress for whatever reason (election defeat, sex scandal, greed), the Washington/corporate revolving door ensures that they are rewarded for their efforts to protect corporate interests with high-paying positions. So they have an enormous incentive to favor big business over the people of the United States whether it is health care, bank regulation or anything else.

When they are not shrieking scare words at us, Republicans and blue dog Democrats have been arguing that health care reform is too expensive. What no one I can find has pointed out yet is that while cost estimates for health care reform are between $1 and $2 trillion over ten years, the federal government would be on the hook for $23 trillion if none of the money already spent on or allocated to all the loans, rescues and bailouts were never recovered.

That makes health care reform sound like a bargain. And it is. The only difference between the two numbers to Republicans is that the larger one benefits mighty corporate interests and the smaller one, a pittance by comparison, benefits only the American people.

Unlike the humongous loans, rescues and bailouts, new taxes are being weighed to pay for health care reform. I have not seen an estimate of how much premiums for a public option would cover so we're swimming in murky waters to discuss this. But one suggestion is that a tax surcharge be levied on the largest earners, a idea we discussed here last week.

Predictably, there are howls from the Republican sector and even House leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, declared that if such a tax is imposed, the floor should be at the $1 million salary level rather than $280,000 in the House proposal.

Unfair, cry the opponents, to tax only the rich. Let's talk about fairness and justice for a moment. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, President Bush's tax cuts, which began in 2001, are still in force and benefit only the rich, had a direct cost to the government of $860 billion through 2005. Bush's promise when he lobbied for these reductions was that they would spur economic growth. We know now how well that worked out – they paid for the yachts and fourth and fifth homes that the rich are now trying to unload without much success.

During World War II and under President Eisenhower's tenure, the wealthiest Americans were taxed at 90 percent (well, much less after deductions), so there is precedent for taxing the rich. The poor have no money, middle-class is tapped out and it is time that the wealthy paid their fair share. There would be some small amount of justice in that for the non-wealthy among us and wouldn't hurt the wealthy.

If our country (and do remember that it is taxpayer money) can bail out banks who caused their own financial collapse while destroying the life savings of millions of Americans, costing them their homes along with five million jobs, we can afford health care for every American. Social justice, of which there has been none for many years, demands it.

As the war of words over health care reform escalates and the president's approval numbers dip slightly, Republicans are trying to kill it off and one way that can be done, as Mr. Castellanos notes, is through delay. The longer it takes, the less reform there will be. That's what scares me the most which Bob Franken, writing at PoliticsDaily, explained well:

"By the time our leaders cobble something together, the process of compromise will have created reform that really isn't. The pressure to do anything else will have run out of steam.

"Our leaders will leave us with something that is inadequate, at best, and possibly worse than before.

"Then, in their zeal to declare success and placate voters, they will trumpet a glossy success and gloss over the mind-numbing details that will really add up to failure."

I do believe we will get some kind of health care reform – perhaps only a weak one, but something. The one item the Republicans hate most in the debate and which we cannot do without, however, is the public option. They fear it will lead, in time, to a single-payer system and they are correct. And that is why we must win on health care reform.

At 8PM eastern time tonight, President Obama is holding a press conference largely devoted to health care reform. It will be carried on all three broadcast networks and the usual cable news channels.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior: Fun at the Carrie Underwood Show.


"Why is the status quo acceptable to [conservatives]?"

I have never seen a time or an issue upon which conservatives did not cling to the status quo. The only possible exception is 9/11—and they used that as an excuse to "protect" our freedom by truncating it.

Funny, I was just getting ready to blog on this issue as it relates to media coverage. Obama has worked harder on this and other issues in the barely 6 months he has been President then most prior Presidents all rolled into one.

Health care reform has been defeated before. I had hoped this time it wouldn't be so its up to us. I implore you to please contact your Congressional representatives and tell them we must have health care reform now. Please include both dems and republicans. And, don't be shy about letting your media outlets know also.

Keep on keepin' on, Ronni.

That 90-percent tax rate under Eisenhower is an eye-opener. I just interviewed one of our wealthy donors who was aghast at the possibility that she may be taxed at a 60-percent rate "due to Obama's spending."

I'm curious, too: Why *don't* conservatives want their fellow Americans to have health care? Not the rich ones -- the ones who are calling our local rightwing radio talk shows insisting that the "private sector" is the solution. (I'm wondering what the private sector is waiting for.)

"...our freedom by truncating it."

Other than the stupidity of requiring born-and-bred Yankees whose families predate the Revolution to go through airport security, I don't know what freedoms you feel were truncated. Could you explain? I wasn't aware of the government telling me to work/not-work/ to save or spend/ to vadcation in England but not Paris/ etc. Nor did the USA Army knock on our door and attempt to seize the hunting rifles -- as the British did in 1774.

Thanks for a great post!

"Why is the status quo acceptable to conservatives?"

I can only guess since my brother is a long time fan of Rush, Bill, and Glenn, but I think he feels that he worked damn hard to be able to afford health insurance and doesn't want to give anyone a "free ride". "Let them work like me and get it themselves"

He has sent me many mass emails to the effect: If people don't have health insurance or are underinsured it surely has to do with their lazy, liberal, free loading lifestyles.

I've learned to just not open his emails anymore. I don't need my blood pressure to go up any higher!

I've long thought the conservatives hate health care for average people so much because the current system is a kind of "jail" for a trapped workforce, who dare not quit lest they lose their "benefits." If the tie could be severed between health care and employment, average Americans would enjoy a quantum leap in freedom. Bad for the plutocrats.

Several days ago a former NY State Medical funcitonary, Betsy McCaughey,called into Fred Thompson's radio show and stated that written in the bill now being hammered out in Congress is language forcng every Medicare recipient to undergo evaluation every 5 years in order to counsel them how to end their lives. Here is an audio link:

Wonder why no one else has picked up on this? (Rhetorical question.) The point seems to be that the cost of the medical care bill will be taken out of Medicare. This is nothing I can remember hearing.

Does anyone know what this person is talking about? Am I right that this is nutty?

I like my health insurance and I do not want it to change. Whatever happens I hope they leave me alone and I continue to enjoy the access to excellent care. I just had emergency surgery and every minute counted--In Canada I would have had to wait because the script would have said wait and I'm so old they would have minimized my value to society. Should I not be afraid of Obama care?

"...I don't know what freedoms you feel were truncated. Could you explain?"

I was thinking about widespread, secret, warrantless wiretaps when I wrote my comment yesterday. Other areas of concern from the Bush years include:

  • Weakening the Civil Rights of American Workers
  • Eliminating Non-Discrimination Obligations for
    Recipients of Federal Funds
  • Threats to Educational Equity for Women and Girls
  • Regulatory Reversal of Asylum Policy on Battered Women
  • Rejection of Regulatory Changes to Address Racial Disparities in Federal Sentencing Rules
  • Expanding the Federal Death Penalty
  • Impeding Equal Opportunity in Education
  • Failing to Defend the Rights of Victims of Employment Discrimination
  • Undermining Equal Employment Opportunity for Women
  • Retreating on Racially Discriminatory Hiring Tests
  • Undermining the Rights of Individuals with Disabilities
  • Retreating from Enforcement of Civil Rights in Public Accommodations
  • Restricting the Franchise, and
  • Rolling Back Protections Against Police Misconduct

You may not have noticed these changes personally if you are white, heterosexual, middle- or upper middle-class, well educated, employed and free from disabilities (and you don't make telephone calls to people in other countries). Outside those narrow parameters, however, you may have found that you are being watched and your life has gotten harder since 9/11.

Yeah, let's hear it for socialized health care. If everyone could get temporary access to VA healthcare, try it for a while, then they would know exactly what socialized healthcare is all about. And, I guarantee they would not like it one bit. Just sayin'

Isn't medicare and medicaid socialized health care? Grant it, neither are perfect but everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, I've talked to was much happier with their health care when they aged into medicare from their employer's health insurance.

For a great comparison with Canada's system, check out this Canadian's personal view and experience with their health care system:

I am so sick of the misnomer "Socialized Medicine". First of all, Obama's plan is to utilize private industry as well as government industry. The doctors won't work for the government, so it is not Socialized.

The ones who have Socialized Medicine are our representatives; the ones who are screaming so loud that they don't want "Socialized" medicine for the rest of us. Such hypocrisy.

It is all too late for my husband who, along with me, planned and scrimped and saved all our years to have enough for our later needs. He died with no help from our health plan or Medicare for home health aides the last four years of his life that he lived at home.

We spent thousands on home health aides and equipment not entirely covered by Medicare which depleted our savings at the same time that the new depression was depleting our savings as well.

The new health care plan probably won't allow home health aides any more than Medicare did so when it comes my turn (I am turning 89 soon) I will be in the same boat as I intend to stay in my home forever.

I have a secret. I don't expect to die. I concentrate on living each day to the fullest and don't have time for planning a funeral any time soon.

Our "representatives" have elitist health care - not socialized. What Obama, Nancy Botoxy, and her side-kick Harry Reid and the tax evading administration want for us little people is socialized everything,
total control and higher and higher taxes.

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