Monday, September 21, 2009

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.

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