Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On Health Care: For Democrats, The Glass Is Half-Full; For Republicans, 'The Glass Is Mine'

By Manifesto Joe

Two votes down, one to go. It now looks certain that the maximum-diluted, piss-poor Senate version of "health care reform" will pass, and that some sort of conference-approved bill will make it to Barack Obama's desk.

There's not much meaningful left in the bill -- but something is better than nothing. Despite unhappiness among people like me, those who would heartily favor national single-payer, there are now no dissenters among the 60 Senate votes in the Democrats' bloc. Even Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has described himself as a socialist, has apparently decided that this beats the status quo.

I'm not even a socialist; I'm a Keynesian. Yet my first instinct about this was to say, hell no. Then I thought some more.

There are some reasons why all 40 Senate Republicans are voting, as a bloc, against this. The denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, one of the most heinous of the insurance companies' practices, would be banned. An estimated 30 million Americans would be able to get shitty private health insurance, with subsidies for those who can't afford it. SOMEBODY with plenty of juice doesn't want this passed -- they're just thankful that it wasn't real, far-reaching reform.

The Republicans, typically disingenuous, are doing a lot of posturing and posing on what they depict as a moral high ground. In a rare moment of genuine wit, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the Medicaid deals that were perhaps cut for Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) vote "The Louisiana Purchase."

Good for a chuckle, but come now -- Republicans never cut any deals like that to get legislation passed? It was recalled among TV journalists, at least those who actually possess memories, that Texas' own Tom "Twinkle Toes" DeLay, back in his infamous days as The Hammer of the House, came under fire for cutting deals like that in order to get the necessary votes for passage of Medicare drug coverage.

Granted, we've had some stinky bloodwurst made here, but a certain number of human lives will be saved because of it.

And, the issue won't go away. Monopoly insurers and Big Pharm are still screwing millions upon millions of us, with big profits going to their stockholders. I've been through the mill with them at workplaces -- Aetna, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, United HealthCare, etc. -- ostensibly competitors, but they certainly don't do price competition. Your employer is typically under contract for a calendar year. And, if they go to the expense and hassle of switching providers, they get pretty much the same deal from the "competition." Take it or leave it, MFs.

Something is better than nothing. In 1965, Medicare was passed for the growing population 65 and older. It's in trouble now because people don't want to pay the taxes to support it, and because crooked providers often find ways to bilk the system. But my wife and I have both been caretakers for sick, elderly people. I say, go ahead and cuss that single-payer Medicare system all you want -- that is, until you need it. Then it becomes something you can't figure out how people ever did without. I've got a big hint for those folks -- look at U.S. life expectancy, pre-1965 and post-1965. (And we're not even one of the best countries in that department -- about 42nd. Want to guess why that is?)

I repeat, something is better than nothing. LBJ couldn't get single-payer for all Americans through Congress. So he and the Democrats of the time (hey, and even a few Republicans, back when that party had moderates) did what they could do.

The fight for real reform is some years away. I'd hoped that, amid what is being called The Great Recession, enough people had become uncomfortable enough to have an epiphany -- that throughout the rest of the developed world, even conservatives realize that health care shouldn't be dominated by the profit motive.

But not quite enough people became that uncomfortable, and even some who did interpreted their pain in a back-asswards way, deciding that their taxes are too high while remarkably oblivious about their premiums and co-payments. And of course, the lobbies for Big Pharm and Big Insurance are the best that money can buy.

Some 56 senators, plus four who apparently had to be bought, are apparently going to deliver something, as opposed to nothing. So, let's get on with it, and see what tomorrow brings. Happy holidays.

Some related links:

Economist Robert Reich pretty much sums up my sentiments about this health care debacle. We're definitely on the same page.

The most magnificent Keith Olbermann sums up my initial reaction to this outcome. My source of disagreement is that, at 53, my days of idealism are long past.

And finally, Big Pharm has opened up a whole new door to obscene profits by doping up little kids, as well as their parents, with psychiatric drugs.

Break out that eggnog -- the real stuff. That's a much older panacea, and it probably won't kill you any quicker. Season's greetings.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Jack Jodell said...

My friend, I'm with you.

"You can't always get want you want,
but if you try sometime,
you get PART of what you need."

It's up to us not to simply sigh a sigh of relief once this bill becomes law and then go about our merry ways, but to keep fighting and pushing and screaming and kicking until we eventually - down the line, get single-payer for all. D-Day did not win WWII, but it was a very important start, and so in a similar way is this.

Marc McDonald said...

I lean toward Keynesianism myself. But what really appeals to me the more I learn about it is the Japanese economic model.

It's a model that doesn't even have a name. It has been the subject of very little study in the West.

However, in East Asia, it has been widely copied, in nations ranging from South Korea to Taiwan to Singapore to mainland China.

In the Japanese economic model, the worker comes first. Then the customer. Then the shareholder.

The business press in the West gives the Japanese model short shrift because it looks at it via one narrow viewpoint (the stock market).

Yes, the Japanese stock market has been stagnant for two decades. But most ordinary Japanese don't own stocks.

In the measures that matter to Japanese leaders, the nation is doing very well. For example, Japan's current account surplus is vastly larger than it was in the 1980s (when the Western media was portraying Japan as an unstoppable economic juggernaut).

The aspect that appeals the most to me about Japan is its egalitarianism. CEOs only make about 10 times what the rank-and-file worker make.

Poverty is actually quite rare in Japan and child poverty is practically non-existent.

I've seen the East Asian economic model first-hand in my travels in Asia. I think it's a better system than the current U.S. economic model, which is clearly broken.

SJ said...

If all politicians put the people and future generations first, instead of the interests of lobbyists, this would've been the quickest and most comprehensive bill ever shepherded through the Capitol.
It's watered down, it has big gains for the Health Care Industry but it's not nothing.

We should get what can be gotten through now, in terms of reform because in another 15 years of the health care insurers gouging and ripping off Americans and big industry and the government will be forced to nationalize the health care system wholesale.

Ironically, it will be then and only then; -in that panicked rush- that all the paranoid Republican myths about rationing etc. will actually come true, and hypocrits that the GOP are, they'll hardly acknowledge that they brought it about by obstructing the current efforts.

Jack Jodell said...

Thank you VERY much for that enlightening information! I would agree with you on the Japanese model, and that our barbarous and undisciplined system is very warped!

Marc McDonald said...

Thanks Jack.

One other point about the Japanese model is that it has been subject to an enormous amount of misinformation in the Western media.

As a result, most Americans are hopelessly in the dark about the real state of Japan (and East Asia in general).

Japanese leaders have done little to correct these misconceptions. For a start, they are weary of America lecturing them on how they should supposedly "reform" their system. And secondly, they believe (correctly) that the less the West knows about the Japanese model, the better.

It wouldn't go down too well if Americans woke up one day and realized that the nations of East Asia, with whom we do most of our trade, aren't "capitalist" at all.