Monday, August 17, 2009

President Seems Ready to Cave to Corporatists and Hooligans

There are growing indications that in order to appease the town hall hooligans and small state anti-healthcare reform conservative senators, names like Republicans Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi and Democrats Kent Conrad and Ben Nelson, as well as Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, whose name the President uttered a gazillion times in his Montana town hall, the Obama administration is retreating from its insistence on a public option to ensure true healthcare reform competition, favoring instead a potential insurance company annual sweetheart giveaway of some $60 billion.

Doctor Howard Dean, who pioneered state-led comprehensive healthcare reform as governor of Vermont, and as chairman of the DNC presided over the Democratic Party's comeback, called a public option "indispensable." Democrats in Congress who favor a public option were quick to push back. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who is co-chairman of the Middle Class Caucus said: "Leaving private insurance companies the job of controlling the costs of health care is like making a pyromaniac the fire chief."

Whether or not the so-called co-op idea will fly remains to be seen. Many analysts say it is a toothless non-competitive false "alternative" to insurance industry control of the marketplace. The fact that opponents of healthcare reform are lining up behind this craven "compromise" should be reason enough to view it for what it is: a poison pill intended to kill meaningful healthcare reform.

When Kent Conrad says there aren't enough votes to pass healthcare reform in the Senate, he means 60 votes. That may be true, but he makes exaggerated claims that healthcare reform cannot be done "right" with 50 + 1 votes on reconciliation. Of course it can. Better to "do it right," as everyone agrees, by implementing it in stages -- with a public option -- over 5 years and return to finish the job after the President's re-election, than to be stuck with a bad industry reform bill that hands over control to the insurance companies, offers no competition, and does little to curb costs.

President Obama may yet get his co-insurance company victory that assures his re-election, but at what cost to the country? Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote:

It’s a measure of how out of touch G.O.P. leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are that they keep trying to scare voters by calling Obama a socialist. They have it backward. The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy.

Can you say "Pyrrhic victory," Mr. President?

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