Saturday, September 26, 2009

"The" Demotion

When Barack Obama began his improbable campaign to become president of the United States, I began referring to him as "the Obama."  He was sui generis, a singularity, a figure unique in American politics, and when against all odds, the Obama became the first African American, and one of the few intellectuals, to be elected president, he sealed the case.  His oratorical powers were superb.  He seemed to have the temperament for the monumental tasks confronting him.  I was even willing to grant that we weren't going to get much in terms of sound progressive policies, although each time I thought the moderate Democrat in him would win out, he proved me wrong--a moderate Democrat in 2009 is politically on a par with the 1968 vintage Richard Nixon--think about it.   Then came healthcare, and his abject surrender of a "public option" for health insurance, coupled with his embrace of the notion that people must be made to purchase private health insurance, a proposition antithetical to the notion that access to decent healthcare is a fundamental right. What makes this surrender so cowardly are the polls, like the one the New York Times reports on today, showing that close to two-thirds of the American people support a public option. He's got the people behind him; all he has to do is rally them.

Diehard Obamans will claim that he continues to support a "public option," but there is scant proof of that.  He has basically left the House of Representatives out to dry by declaring that although he personally would prefer a "public option," its absence will not trigger an automatic veto.  Obama's equivocation on this one issue, which, denials to the contrary, is essential to any successful health industry reform--and then only if it involves true coverage, say through expansion of Medicare--has confused the public precisely because it is so illogical.  Whether  Obama really wants to beef up the private insurance industry or for all his high rhetoric does not understand healthcare or is willing to settle for anything so he can claim success, I can't say.  I can say his wavering has earned him "the" demotion. He will not easily reclaim it.

There are times in the world's history when leaders emerge to meet a pressing need.  The time is now; the need is present and pressing;t the leader is awol.  We can only hope he returns.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dog Bytes has moved

Dog Bytes has relocated to redirect yourself.

The Story Line

The most interesting and disturbing thing about the "Baucus healthcare reform" proposals is the way the main stream media has closed ranks on the story line that it is the bill with best chance of advancing.  That the Baucus mark is the only one, apparently, without a public option should give them pause but does not for two reasons: 1. The Obamans have for weeks been signalling that the vaunted 'public option' was a ruse, a stalking horse to keep progressives at the table until they couldn't easily leave; and 2. The Obamans long ago declared that nothing would disrupt their drive for and ability to claim success in reform, even if they must redefine the universe in order to do so.  The Obamans and press toe the line, building each story around the same checklist--cost containment, efficiency, no exclusion for pre-existing conditions, individual mandates, electronic medical records, and so on.  In that way, the public option becomes just one of what Obama calls ideas or ways to get to the end of "universal coverage," a term that must henceforth be used advisedly.  The cost to the federal government is weighed.  Lost is any assessment of what it means to individuals beyond elaborate and frightening costs that government subsidies are to help meet.  Not included is any serious investigation of these insurance coops, which appear to be largely imaginative extensions from a small scale to one never tried before and thus are more experimental, more of a grafting of an alien life form onto the American healthcare system than would be expansion of Medicare to cover everyone. Why, for example, does it make any sense to subsidize people to purchase overpriced private insurance policies when it would be cheaper to have them buy directly into Medicare--employers would pay, as well?  Oh, but that would be "new" taxes!

As result, the Baucus bill is deemed to have the best chance of passage because it has dropped all of that nonsense about government programs and embraced the insurance industry.  It is too big and too powerful to fight, we're told, which should be all the more reason to smash it, except the world we inhabit is one is in which giant corporations are deemed too big to fail and bailed out at huge cost to the public treasure, while individuals are allowed to suffer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama's Big Surrender, or the Making of a Pop Song Presidency

It appears from accounts of this morning's talk shows that Barack Obama tried to put the face of a tough, practical leader on his abject surrender on healthcare reform. Sure, he tried to spin his self-administered defeat into victory and although people may accept his argument, the reality on the ground will be much different. After dismissing single-payer national medical  insurance--does he know the history of Medicare or what it is--apparently not since he's not even appointed an administrator for Medicare and Medicaid--saying he wasn't aiming "to graft" one onto America's dysfunctional healthcare system, he meekly tossed his 'public option' into the trash bin after it.  He did all of that by once again embracing the notion that people should be required to buy health insurance from private insurers either directly or from  insurance combines or coops, unless their employers provide it.  The signal point here is that Obama--'the' is hereby formally dropped because he has proved himself nothing more than a moderate Democrat--put the lie to his soaring rhetoric about the nation having a moral obligation to provide for its citizens' health.  Society's moral obligation will under Obama's medical revision become an individual's legal duty.  Not only that but we will have to buy from one of the insurance companies Obama and his forces correctly identified as the culprits.  Obama has bought the line that progressives will fall in line behind him as he marches into the void because the rightwingnuts have left no room for them to maneuver.  That line worked during the general election, just like it worked for Bill Clinton, and it appears to be working now, but they all should think seriously before signing on to this Baucus gift to the insurance industry.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Well Max Baucus of Montana has produced a joke of a healthcare bill, a massive gift to the insurance industry.  A bill at this stage is called a mark, but we are the marks if this thing slimes through the Congress.  Still, the Obama endorsed combines in his speech, so let him chew on this one.

Expanding Medicare is clearly the simplest, cleanest, most noncontroversial and comprehensive approach,  as George McGovern suggested in the Washington Post on Sunday.  What he neglected to say is that the rightwingnuts have worked themselves into a place from which they can't oppose such an expansion.  Reading the polls that say people are worried about cuts in Medicare, they position themselves as Medicare's great defenders, although they hate it.  Excellent, the numbers say the way to shore up Medicare and insure everyone equitably is to bring everyone into it, as originally conceived.  The rightwingnuts themselves believe that Medicare is not a government program, so they have no grounds to object to its expansion as a government take over of healthcare.

Everyone gets something; all get healthcare at an affordable price,  but is anyone listening in the Obama White House?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Single-Payer Plan

It is nice to see George McGovern lay out clearly and forcefully the case for expanding Medicare to cover all Americans in Sunday's Washington Post.  The Obama said he was willing to listen to all good ideas, but so far he has ignored the one that best meets the 'moral obligation,' as he calls it, to provide healthcare for all.  The Obama and many of the dead white guys running the healthcare fiasco don't seem to understand or even to care enough to try  to understand that forcing people to buy health insurance, especially from certifiably rapacious corporations is not equivalent to--in fact, is antithetical to--meeting that moral obligation.  The rightwingnuts crying over government interference in their Medicare or their lives don't seem to have thought for even a nanosecond that the far greater intrusion of government into their lives is the dictate that they purchase health insurance from a rapacious insurance company or face a steep fine--a plan backed by many of their own rightwingnut leaders and commentators.  The plans being put forth are needlessly complex because they are attempts to fix a busted system that increasingly exists to pad insurance company, not to guarantee a fundamental right or overhaul a dysfunctional system.  Distilled into another example of big bad government, that confusion feeds the racism of many of the opponents of the Obama.  Moreover, the Obama's failure to follow the inevitable logic of his own oratorical brilliance transforms him in the eyes even of his own supporters into an ordinary politician--bombastic, imperious, out of touch, and unntrustworthy.  And why not?  The Obama is basically backing an idea, insurance coops, that is on its face doomed to disaster, unless you're an insurance company. On the talk shows Sunday morning, the 'public option' in the form of a new government run health program took a beating as it should.   The real point, as George McGovern says, is simply to provide Medicare for all.  Ain't hard. It's what the creators of Medicare hoped to do all along.

Friday, September 11, 2009

option that public

Reterieverman makes a good point in his comments on the last post to the effect that a public option were one to be included in any healthcare overhaul emerging from the current scrum would be full of holes, equipped with a trigger that can't be pulled and generally inadequate.  Indeed, such an option would probably be designed to fail or at least dysfunctional enough to set the cause of true reform back a generation, and if the Republicans were smart,  rather than infantile, they would work to make sure that happened.  

For now, the best Republican proposal, which the Obama has ignored, is to roll back the clock and start over with a clean slate.  I like that because the most economical plan stands a far better chance of being enacted than it does under current circumstances.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Surprise--Sort Of

The Obama never ceases to amaze me with the power of his oratory if not the boldness of his programs.  He gave the speech I had thought he should give--me and an army of others, which is to say that I have no fantasies that the Obama's web crawlers detected, retrieved, and shared anything from this blog--with that one glaring exception.  He could not voice the inevitable conclusion--that a single-payer program is the only reasonable solution to this mess....  I think he knows that insurance combines, coops, or whatnots won't work because the insurance companies are not going to reform, not going to change their ways and offer simple, affordable comprehensive health insurance when they can get together and offer scores of plans with suites of options and prices longer and more complex than the great chain of being or an airline reservation system.  I think the Obama has made the calculation that the system has to be given one last chance at self-reform before Congress will vote for a single-payer plan.

In any event, whether he anticipates it or not, that's likely to happen. Let's hope that it happens before the insurance industry can inflict too much more harm on people.

For now I'll just admire the speech. He turned the tables on the Republican lunatics.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

ain't complicated

Jackie Calmes is reporting in the New York Times that the veterans of the Clinton healthcare fiasco have convinced themselves and the Obamans that doing nothing is worse than creating something half-assed.  That just goes to show why the Obamans are in the sorry state they're in.  The Clintonoids made healthcare reform difficult and complex, just as the Obamans have today because they refuse to recognize how easy it is--in five easy pieces:

  1. state the fundamental principle--everyone deserves healthcare, and it is our obligation to provide it for ourselves, our families and our fellow citizens.
  2. review the current state of affairs--dismal, we pay too much for too little and too many of us have nothing at all.  we face full system failure and bankruptcy.  insurance, when available, is too expensive and inadequate to the task at hand.  We are lucky if half of every dollar paid and insurance company actually goes to a doctor for providing medical care.  We have rationing.
  3.  present the solution--insure everyone through expanded medicare.
  4.  demonstrate why that is good--lower costs, everyone receives quality care.  present the comparative numbers.
  5. lay down the challenge to anyone who can do the same or better for less to present their plan.  They can't they won't.
  6. the time is now.  seize the time.
ain't complicated. ain't hard. just takes some cajones.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Obama's Bomb

The  New York Times is reporting on-line that the Obama's vaunted public option is DOA, and that is in the context of his speech to Congress next Wednesday.  That would be wonderful political theatre, for sure: The Obama, the candidate of hope and aspiration, crawls to Capitol Hill and tells a joint session of Congress, "I wasn't really serious about that public option stuff.  We can leave it to the insurance companies who have driven us to this sorry state to drive us out again--as long we are nice to them and provide them with guidelines we'll let them write.   In the meantime, we'll cut Medicare spending through technology. " 

I've been muttering for a few weeks that the Obama is an inspiration, not a leader. Without pleasure, I can say it increasingly appears I was right.  He still has the ability to surprise, to deliver a forceful, clear statement of principle: Everyone is entitled to healthcare.  A bold, simple, comprehensive program: Here's how we will expand Medicare to cover all.  A guarantee of treatment.  A cost comparison to prove the economy of his program.  And then say, if the Republicans have a better plan in all regards, let them put it forward now, knowing full well that they don't have a plan and won't.