Al Capone is awake in his grave in awe at the criminal racket promulgated by the health care industry: a murderous multi-billion dollar industry that keeps the world’s Superpower in the sociological Stone Age. A recent study upped the figure of Americans killed by this enterprise from 20,000 to about 45,000: that is fifteen 9-11’s a year of Americans facing a cruel, painful death at the hands of these prolific killers.
Some might say I sound like a demagogue. When you are used to insipid soundbytes and P.C.-fluff, the truth starts sounding like demagoguery. The fact of the matter is that the truth is extraordinarily painful in this country ruled by a peculiar Victorian fetish of the marketplace. Nowhere in the civilized world could one imagine civic leaders fear mongering the populace about the evils of “socialized medicine” without getting laughed out of the country. Unfortunately, these goons of capitalist oppression seem to have been collectively laughed out of the civilized world and into Land of the Free.
Nonetheless, the problem is not this visceral minority. The problem lies in those that pretend to befriend progress: that grand, archaic organ of political oppression called the Democratic Party. This increasingly irrelevant union of crooks, hucksters and swindlers has betrayed the American people beyond recognition. Their failure to enact meaningful health care reform must be the last straw.
From the beginning of the current “health reform” debacle, the game was rigged. Immediately, the only meaningful reform, “single payer,” was taken off the table, and progressives were told to rally behind a “strong public option” by Democratic front groups like Moveon.org and Health Care for America Now (HCAN). These two NGO’s organized numerous “rallies” in order to command a feeble subservience to the Democratic leadership ahead of their caving to corporate interests on the issue.
Meanwhile, single-payer activists were placed in the precarious position of having to advocate against the meaningless and amorphous “strong public option” and the tea-baggers all at once. In a country so dominated by trivial soundbytes, you have to be either “for or against” everything: no shades of gray, no third way. Unfortunately, many progressives got caught in the trap and started rallying behind a bill (Obama’s Health Care Bill HR 3200) that no one knew anything about. This clever catch all was meant to accomplish exactly that: institute no meaningful reform while tricking a significant portion of progressives into thinking that we were now seeing “The change we can believe in.”
Nonetheless, single-payer activists were thrown a couple bones. One was a promise of a vote on the “Weiner Amendment” on the house floor. This amendment would have replaced the current bill with HR 676: the single-payer bill. The other, more meaningful bone was the “Kucinich Amendment,” which would have lifted loopholes that prevent individual states from enacting single-payer legislation. This approach seemed more tactically sound than expecting much of an up-down vote on single-payer on the house floor. The Canadian health system was enacted province-by-province, and it seemed reasonable to expect the same here: the more “enlightened” states lead the way, attract a significant spike in businesses fleeing other states so as to cut health expenses, and gradually the states fall like dominoes.
Kucinich told a crowd in Aurora, IL this summer to focus on his amendment. He informed us that the Single-Payer vote (Weiner Amendment) was a smoke screen doomed to failure because of the lack of adequate time to organize sufficiently for the vote.
I then attended several organizing meetings and stressed the need to emphasize the Kucinich Amendment as the most tactically prescient step forward for single-payer activists. I suggested that people not bite the Weiner amendment bait. As a veteran of the NGO industrial complex, I saw the Weiner Amendment for what it was: a chance for progressive Democrats and single-payer NGO’s to claim victory (just by bringing the issue to a vote), and to thus muster some fund-raising. I could picture the fund-raising letter: “Dear Single-Payer Activist, today we scored a major victory in the House of Representatives by bringing Single Payer Health Care to a vote for the first time. But there remains a lot of work to be done in order to win the vote in the future. Please help us in this mission by donating today.”
Unfortunately, many activists bit the bait. Action alert after action alert instructed people to call their reps and urge them on the Weiner Amendment.
In the end, both the Kucinich and Weiner amendments were removed from consideration by house leadership this past week. Meanwhile, Democratic cheerleaders have been trumpeting the success at instituting a “public option” in both the House and Senate versions of the health reform bill. The proposed public option will cover about 3% of the population, while roughly 33% of Americans are un- or under-insured. Many progressive democrats inform me that this is the best we can realistically do given the conservative dynamics of the American populace. I don’t understand what American populace they are talking about. As someone who goes out to the bungalow belt of Chicago to knock on doors practically everyday, I can say with full confidence that only an insignificant wacko minority is repelled by the thought of “Medicare for all.” Perhaps we can figure out a way to leave those few people out when we finally do institute a single-payer system.
Progressive leaders have fallen to the right of the American people. Americans crave and need meaningful health care reform in line with the remainder of the civilized world. They crave and need leadership in Washington that stands for the interests of their constituents: leaders that aren’t fearful of lifting their heads above the fray, pounding their fists on the podium and declaring “It is time we shut this racket down. Let us throw the insurance companies into the dustbin of history once and for all, and end this domestic terrorism that kills 45,000 Americans a year!”
Unfortunately, to get to this point, we are going to have to purge the Congress of almost every last one of its members, and stop thinking that the Democrats or the NGO industrial complex will ever bring Americans their cherished Medicare-for-all.