The Obama administration cracked a tough nut today in their relentless drive to sponsor a corporate restructuring of the American healthcare system. Dennis Kucinich, who had been one of the few voices of opposition to the faulty healthcare “reform,” announced today that he intends to vote “Yes” on the healthcare bill currently under consideration in the US House of Representatives. The announcement came after a high-pressure visit from President Barack Obama to the Cleveland district Kucinich represents.
For many in the movement for single-payer healthcare, the move is the final in a series of betrayals by Democratic Party politicians. First among these was Representative John Conyers from Michigan, the sponsor of House Resolution 676, a bill that would create a publicly funded National Health Program by eliminating private health insurers. Conyers caved-in quickly, voting yes on the proposal and providing little resistance outside of an interesting quip about having to read a 2,000-page bill in two days. Kucinich appeared as a dissident of a different type.
Kucinich railed against the House bill, claiming that it “…would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care.” This critique was backed up by a “No” vote in November 2009. In House deliberations, however, Kucinich had already moved off his single-payer position, first searching for a “robust” public option and then attempting to create a clause that would allow states to pursue single-payer programs. Today Kucinich went a step further, cowering to the will of a White House bankrolled by big pharma and the private health insurance lobby.
Kucinich called it “a detour” and claimed that all of his previous criticisms of the bill still stood. The healthcare bill had become, he proposed, a contest between the presidency and its far-right critics. More correctly, Kucinich caved to pressure from pro-Obama groups, such as Moveon.org who recently collected more than $1 million to pressure House Democrats who had voted no on the original bill. The extent of the pressure campaign was brought home when Obama appeared in Kucinich’s voting district this week and summoned him to a meeting on Airforce One. There, the terms of Kucinich’s sell-out were determined.
The one powerful voice that has been remarkably absent from the whole spectacular public discussion of healthcare reform is that of the private health insurance lobby. Why so quiet? Because they wrote significant portions of the bill currently under consideration in the House. Because they have purchased the support of Democratic and Republican representatives by spending an average of $609,000 a day on lobbying during the first six months of 2009. And, because Obama’s healthcare proposal will open up new opportunities to harvest taxpayer money by providing clunker healthcare plans to the uninsured. Kucinich knows this yet he will still provide his name to this damaging scheme.
Most of all, Kucinich’s betrayal points to the burning need for political activity, both electoral and social movement based, independent of the Democrats and Republicans. The political system is already so saturated with corporate money that Democrats and Republicans are structurally incapable of acting in the interests of working people in America. Now is the time for a green and red rebellion at the ballot box and on the streets. Only then can we can be done with the wavering Kucinichs of the world and get down to the task of creating a society that values human needs over corporate profits. We need a single-payer healthcare system now and only an uncompromising movement made up of everyday people will get us there.