When we started the effort to whip for the public option on June 23, we said:
If 40 Democrats in the House say they will not vote for any health care bill that does not have a strong public plan, then they have the same power that a Ben Nelson or an Evan Bayh has had in the Senate to determine the outcome–when every vote was needed to pass something. Every commitment we get in excess of that 40 makes the commitment even more powerful. We need to get progressive members of Congress to commit that they will not vote for any bill or conference report that does not have a robust public plan that is:
- available nationwide
- available on day one
- and accountable to Congress and the voters
Why did we set the bar there? Well, it wasn’t because a “public option” represented the perfect system. It was because Americans have been fed kabuki for so long that it has come time to shine a light on the process by which progressive values are consistently betrayed by those who earn their seats espousing them.
The fact is the President campaigned on a public option. There were 88 members of the House who had cosponsored H.R. 676, the “single payer” bill. Rep. Woolsey and Grijalva had sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi in April saying that the 77 member Progressive Caucus would not support a bill without a public option. Didn’t seem like too much to ask that the Democratic party live up to its campaign promises, right?
Instead, President Obama cut sweetheart deals with medical industry stakeholders (let’s stop pretending that Rahm doesn’t work for him) and insisted that all the power in the Democratic Congress be given to its most conservative members to deliver on it. Joe Lieberman didn’t get here by himself — the day Harry Reid said reconciliation was “off the table,” Joe had the keys to the kingdom.
The “public option” was a way to keep as much money as possible from being channeled into the “too big to fail” insurance companies, who continue to merge and consolidate and will use it to lobby to further empower themselves. It was a strike against a “shock doctrine” effort to mandate payment to private companies, and preemptively privatizes the system.
As Dave Johnson writes (via email):
Most other countries provide health care as a right – a core function of government. But here privateers have seized it for themselves for profit. So to maintain this, to keep taxes low for the rich and keep the profits privatized we are ordered to buy it from companies instead of having it provided as a government service. This is the battle between democracy and corporatization.
Instead of a public option, what does the Senate bill contain?
- A removal of the ban on annual limits that Reid slipped in at the last minute, in violation of the President’s promise in his September address to Congress
- An exemption from anti-trust law for insurance companies that will reduce competition
- Taxes that start up in January, but benefits that don’t start until 2014
- No ability to negotiate for Medicare drug prices (you know, that thing the Democrats passed in the “first hundred days” in 2006 when it didn’t matter)
- No cost controls, so health insurance premiums will continue to rise at a rate of $1000 a year
- A tax on middle class insurance plans that is designed to cut back insurance benefits, reduce coverage, and increase co-pays and deductibles.
That reduction in your insurance benefits is a feature, not a bug — it’s how they’re going to “bend the cost curve.”
And so here we are. And we’re going to get to see if the progressive members of the House will stand by their word to hold the line, or if — as always seems to happen — they are going to “dive” in sufficient numbers to make sure that the corporatist agenda gets fulfilled. Are they going to pretend that Joe Lieberman has all the power in the party, too, and that they have none?
Please call their offices and let them know that they are in safe Democratic seats, and you expect them to do what they have repeatedly promised to do — vote against any bill that does not have a public option.
Because if they won’t, we’ll get to see that “good intentions” are just the public face of deep criminality and they’re really just there to hold down safe Democratic seats in order to deliver what PhRMA wants in the end.
And then we’ll use this opportunity to do better.
Steny Hoyer says the House will pass this bill. Well, not unless almost everyone in the progressive caucus goes back on their word.