A Great Achievement for a Decent, Civilized United States of America

America’s Democrats, under the inspirational leadership of President Barack Hussein Obama, have single handedly guaranteed that some 32 million additional Americans will become eligible for health insurance, beginning in 2014. Single handedly, Democrats have guaranteed that insurance companies no longer can deny coverage to children with pre-existing medical problems, a guarantee that will be extended to all adults in 2014. Single handedly, Democrats have guaranteed that the so-called “doughnut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug benefit will close.

Single handedly, Democrats have guaranteed that Medicaid will expand to cover incomes up to 133 percent of the national poverty level ($29,327). Single handedly, Democrats have guaranteed that, beginning in 2014, small businesses, the self-employed and the uninsured can select a plan from state insurance pools. Single handedly, the Democrats have pulled off the astounding feat of this increased coverage while reducing our federal deficit by $138 billion over the next decade.

Single handedly? Yes! President Obama will sign into law a Health-Care bill that failed to win even one supporting vote from the Republicans. As the history of the past decade has demonstrated, rather than help less fortunate Americans obtain health insurance, Republicans preferred to give their “yes” votes to legislation giving tax cuts to the rich and to resolutions supporting illegal, immoral wars of aggression, such as the one they heartily supported in Iraq. With no sense of shame, Republicans put forth a health-care plan that extended coverage to a mere 3 million Americans.

Republicans would have you believe that their objections to the new Health-Care law were matters of principled disagreement – too costly, too much government interference, et cetera. However, anyone inclined to believe such assertions should not only recall their support for the expensive war in Iraq and the budget busting tax cuts for the rich, but also the question raised repeatedly by Chris Matthews: If Republicans are, indeed, genuinely concerned about getting near universal health care right, why didn’t they offer and pass health care reform, when they controlled the both houses of congress and the presidency? They had total control for most of 2001 to 2006.

Equally damaging to Republican assertions is recent reporting by the New York Times: “Before the health care fight, before the economic stimulus package, before President Obama even took office, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, had a strategy for his party: use his extensive knowledge of Senate procedure to slow things down, take advantage of the difficulties Democrats would have in governing and deny Democrats any Republican support on big legislation.” Applying that strategy to health care, Republican Senator Jim DeMint claimed: “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo.” So much then, for Republicans’ claims about principled disagreements.

Even worse than the behavior of congressional Republicans was the ugly, crude and obnoxious behavior exhibited by libertarians and “Tea baggers.” We’ve all seen the raucous town hall meetings where the ignorance exhibited by health care opponents appeared to be directly related to their exaggerations, lies, hatred and racism. A word of warning: You might suspect you’re “white trash,” when you’ve resorted to calling civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis, a “nigger.” You also might be viewed as “white trash,” if you’ve chosen to spit on an African-American congressman, simply because he plans to vote for health care.

The best book I’ve read about these ugly Americans is: America Right or Wrong by Anatol Lieven. Explaining the reasons for such ugliness, Lieven writes: “As a result of economic, cultural and demographic change, in America, the supremely victorious nation of the modern age, large numbers of Americans feel defeated…. Over the years, the hatred generated by this sense of defeat and alienation has been extended to both domestic and foreign enemies.”

The greatest recession since the Great Depression (caused by greedy Wall Street bankers), the election of an African-American President and his attempt to fulfill his promise to enact near universal health care — which an irresponsible writer for Investor’s Business Daily derided as “affirmative action on steroids” — have further exacerbated their sense of defeat and hatred.

Although I’ve been sidelined by injury and surgery, I have no personal stake in health care reform, because I have the same excellent federal employee insurance coverage enjoyed by the President and all members of Congress. Were the 32 million Americans added to my government plan, I suspect my annual costs would go down. But, I’d be willing to pay more, if that was the price of insuring 32 million more Americans.

But, then, I’m a “liberal” and a patriot — someone who cares about large groups of Americans I’ll never meet. I’m also my brother’s keeper. Nevertheless, I still recall the upbraiding I received in 1995 from a Finnish woman, while visiting Helsinki: “What’s wrong with you Americans? You’re the richest country in the world and, yet, are unable to provide the free universal health care and free universal educational opportunities that we Finns take for granted.”

(By the way, although a few Republicans attempted to conflate and deride Obama’s health care plan with those in European welfare states, his plan actually brings 32 million new customers to America’s private enterprise health care system. Moreover, those derisive Republicans badly need to be educated about European welfare states. Were they educated, they might learn that European welfare states actually provide greater opportunities for social mobility than found in the U.S. They might learn that European welfare states offer a higher quality of life than found in the U.S. — with no overall loss in individual liberties. They might even learn, as economist Jeffrey Sachs recently observed, that the steadily deteriorating U.S. already has the lowest taxes of all major Western nations — which suggests that even lower taxes would lead to further deterioration.)

The Senate bill single handedly approved yesterday by Democrats in the House of Representatives represents a singular historic accomplishment for the Obama administration and the American people. American Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt through Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton have attempted but failed to accomplish such a feat. It represents a triumph for “Yes, we can” and the “change” that candidate Obama promised.

But it also marks a disastrous defeat for Republicans. Former Bush administration speech writer, David Frum, hit the nail on the head when he recently wrote: “Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s… We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat… it’s Waterloo all right, ours.”

Perhaps now they’ll wake up and smell the coffee — and decide to support the American people, not just the military industrial complex and the rich. Just don’t bet on it.

Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA). He can be reached at: waltuhler@aol.com. Read other articles by Walter C., or visit Walter C.'s website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. beverly said on March 23rd, 2010 at 6:38pm #

    Brother, you need to get a clue – or at least a cure for that kool-aid hangover from which you’re obviously still suffering.

    ObamaCare doesn’t even kick in fully until after 2012. How convenient that the mess won’t go down until AFTER the presidential election. Why the delay? To make sure the shit won’t hit the fan until Obummer takes his second oath of office? LBJ had most seniors signed up for Medicare within a year of signing the bill – this done in pre-high tech computer days.

    If people have no money to buy insurance, just where are they to get this money? Skip food? Don’t pay rent? Even if money is taken from Medicare or whatever other part of govt to provide subsidy to help with premiums, there are millions who still can’t come up with rest of money for premiums. The only entity who benefits from forced purchase of insurance is insurance industry who gains millions of new customers. The industry will offer cheap plans with high deductibles. As seen in Massachusetts, if people can’t afford to meet deductible, they will still be up excrement creek and in the emergency room when the pain gets too bad.

    Shifting money from Medicare to pay for subsidy for purchase of private insurance is just robbing Peter to pay Paul. This at a time when Medicare rolls are increasing as the population ages. If the govt can’t stand to do what’s really right and put us all on Medicare, why not put individuals and families earning 45k or less – and the unemployed – on Medicare?

    Fuck the doughnut hole. There will still be problems with high cost of meds if Medicare is unable to bargain with drug companies for better rates on medicine. In addition, those with private insurance will also have issues as drug costs rise.

    The biggest problem with US health insurance went untouched in Obama’s revolutionary reform. Employers shouldn’t be the ones responsible for health insurance. Workers are still tied to their jobs and scared shitless of losing employment for fear of having no insurance. Only a scant few people can afford to pay premiums w/o the an employer’s help. Further, employers have whined for decades that insurance costs are driving jobs offshore and stunting growth at home. Companies are already increasing premiums and/or increasing the % of coverage to be paid by workers. This occurs at a time when many are going w/o raises, have reduced work hours, and find the cost of living outpacing their paychecks.

    Given the craptastic job market and non-existent economic growth of the past few years, wouldn’t it have been more revolutionary and helpful to enact a single payer system to get companies out of the health care business? The insurance industry wouldn’t be history. It could still offer supplement insurance such as long term care, accidental death, life insurance, etc. How interesting it is that Obama and Congress worry about the death of the health insurance industry when they seem to relish the opportunity to drive the final stake into the auto industry when it came seeking a bailout.

    Those 30 some million you’re gaga about who supposedly will be covered under ObamaCare still leave that number and more uninsured and underinsured. Levying a penalty on those who simply can’t afford to buy insurance is just another punishing blow. And don’t forget the fatal blow of those who will die due to lack of money for health care before this masterpiece legislation kicks into full gear.

    As for Republicans suffering a blow, that’s bullshit. The right wing has been trying to kill Medicare for years. ObamaCare will bleed Medicare dry by transferring tax dollars normally allocated for this program to private industry via subsidies. This is the type of privatization Republicans have dreamed of but could never pull off. Up next: Social Security. Obama has already convened a “bi-partisan” committee to study ways to “reform” SS – another program Republicans love to hate.

    The Republicans are living the high life right now. They have the Democrats doing all those dirty deeds they’ve always wanted to do but could never pull off. The Repubs get to play the good guy in all this via the political theater of opposition. In the end, it’s the John and Jane Q. Publics who get the shit end of the stick – and most of them – including apparently the lobotomized writer of this article – don’t have sense enough to know it.

  2. Melissa said on March 23rd, 2010 at 6:49pm #

    Beverly for president. 2012.

  3. Danny Ray said on March 24th, 2010 at 4:01am #

    Beverly, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for speaking the truth. This bill is only a feel good measure so PBO can say he saved health care. We need single payer and we need it now!!!!

  4. timradioboy said on March 24th, 2010 at 4:42am #

    Beverly you nailed it. I am consistently disappointed w/ the unprincipled stance of those who call themselves “progressives” or “leftists” in this country, but somehow end up brainwashed just like all the rest of the sheep. It takes LITTLE objectivity to realize that this bill is just another Washington political charade. This bill steps us back by further entrenching the interests of health insurance companies (business) deciding whether you live or die. If it comes down to the ability to deny you or enrich themselves guess which side will win. Nothing has changed there. Nothing.

  5. Don Hawkins said on March 24th, 2010 at 5:32am #

    Beverly good one and next is.

  6. Deadbeat said on March 24th, 2010 at 11:13am #

    Beverly’s analysis is spot on! This is nothing but a wealth transfer to the insurance industry and it further weakens the public sphere by transferring dollars out of Medicare to the private sector. But what else would you expect from a capitalist government. The situation will continue to worsen.