This post went in a different direction, but I'd be remiss if I didn't link to this blog post from the Center for American Progress on how the Senate's health care bill does nothing to address various unique ways in which the health care system lets LGBT people down.
The Senate hasn't actually passed the bill for health care reform, but we're getting closer to finding out what it'll include in its final form. Lots of other people have written more about it, and I haven't been blogging too much because all the news coming out of that process is so depressing.
Americans are getting fleeced when it comes to health care, and it seems like the Democrats aren't going to do anything about it. Drew Westen, a liberal who studies how centrists vote, has a longer, more coherent article up on the Huffington Post about the process that led us here, and how Obama's "no drama" leadership style is particularly to blame. As we all know, when one side of an argument decides that fighting is too decisive, the other side pretty much automatically wins.
But here's something that particularly stands out to me:
I don't honestly know what this president believes. But I believe if he doesn't figure it out soon, start enunciating it, and start fighting for it, he's not only going to give American families hungry for security a series of half-loaves where they could have had full ones, but he's going to set back the Democratic Party and the progressive movement by decades, because the average American is coming to believe that what they're seeing right now is "liberalism," and they don't like what they see. I don't, either.
Count me in there. I'm young, the only three presidents that I was conscious for were Clinton, GWB, and now Obama. And if this is what liberalism is, I don't want any part of it.
Part of the issue, of course, was my naive belief that even liberals (and I'm using that term to distinguish them from leftists) actually supported the various policy goals they campaigned and voted on. Obama's campaign promises, while not outlandishly great, painted a picture of an America that was in stark contrast to eight years of Bush.
Well, what's actually happened is far short of what could have happened, and on no issue is it more obvious than health care. We never started talking about single payer, Obama advocated a public option during the campaign, the public option got watered down, and then it got eliminated. And the main reason that happened, no matter the confusion all over the left these past few weeks, was because some people have a ton of money, which gives them a ton of influence, and they didn't want the government to get in the business of insuring the population generally.
The bill as constructed isn't anything resembling reform. It relies on its already weak regulations to be enforced, and if there's anything we know about the American government it's that it won't enforce its own regulations. On every issue from food safety to employment discrimination, from sexual harassment law to environmental regulation, the government has shown that it's small-c constitutionally incapable of enforcing regulations against large corporations. The enforcement mechanism for the various bans on health care discrimination will be lawsuits, lawsuits from people who were cheated and might be dying that will go through a court system that's more business-friendly than ever. It's not the best way to keep insurance companies honest.
The other major part of the bill, the subsidies, will eventually be phased out. They are the equivalent of welfare, and both Democrats and Republicans are vocally hostile to such programs. If they eventually get implemented (since we'll have to make it to 2014 to see them), they'll be eliminated within a decade or when the next recession hits. Americans will need a scapegoat, and the fiscal conservatives will look at those subsidies like a great way to prove their lean government creds.
And Americans will continue to get looted by a private industry that will only be given more power, money, and legitimacy as a result of this bill that will force people to buy their product. I was sick recently in France, and, as I posted, a full regimen of prescription antibiotics cost me eleven euro, and I'll be getting reimbursed for that. How much would that have cost in the US, even if you have good insurance?
But, this past week, the Dorgan Amendment, which would have allowed American companies to import drugs more freely and at lower costs, was defeated in an especially bipartisan vote. Dean Baker estimates that that amendment alone would have saved Americans $250 billion a year, yet it didn't happen for any reason other than the fact that over half of our Senate is beholden to those with money (their safety reasons notwithstanding; those reimported prescription antibiotics didn't kill me here).
All of which is rather disappointing. If the Democrats wanted to make themselves seem like the reasonable alternative to the Republican Party, well, they just didn't cut it.
Worse, though, than the politicians failing has been the confusion that I've seen from people who are nominally liberal, progressive, leftist, Democratic, or whatever meaningless term they choose. How many times have I read this past week that people should "stand behind" the president no matter what? How many times have I heard from leftwing activists that you're either with us or against us? How many pundits who claim to be on the left have said that there isn't a politically "realistic" alternative to this bill, that it's as far to the left as America can go?
Perhaps that's true, although I have much more faith in the American people than that. In fact, I have more faith in the politically unaware segments of the American population now than I do in those who claim to be working for an ideology, a set of policy goals, or for specific laws when it's now apparent that they were either voting or advocating for Democrats out of hatred for Republicans or personal identification with Blue State culture. If your political position is, literally, "X person is always right and everyone in our movement should agree with him," then you have no values.
And perhaps that was the problem with the motley coalition put together to get Obama elected: we all pretended to agree enough to work to get Bush out of office, but we were rather unclear and often dishonest about why we disliked him.
Sure, there is an argument to be made for the Senate's health care reform bill from the left. I'm not saying there isn't. But what I thought people would know, and acknowledge, is that the bill is severely compromised and that's because a small group of powerful people have far too much power, both in the White House and in the Congress.
So, yeah, liberalism, schmiberalism. I don't really care who's doing the screwing, I just want it to stop. But apparently there was a strong part of the coalition party that only cares about who's in charge at the expense of actual policy.
That sort of hatred of the other side has supplanted policy goals among liberals, so it's kinda hard to want those folks to be in charge, especially as they look down their noses at us, the "unrealistic" rabble who support policy that's far more popular than the bill they want (I'm sure a mandate to buy an expensive product people either don't want or can't afford from an dishonest, murderous private industry is going to be so popular). Liberals do own this bill, and the policy result is terrible.
So it'd be great to have an actual left in the US.