By Paul Street
Fellow workers and citizens, how pure is your hatred? It’s easy to hate on openly authoritarian, loathsome, right-wing political personalities and institutions like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, Paul Ryan, the Republican Party, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Breitbart News, and FOX News. There’s no serious mystery over what those malicious people and entities are about: the ever upward distribution of wealth and power.
The bigger tests are supposedly liberal and progressive personalities and institutions like Barack Obama, the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Party, George Soros, the Brookings Institution, the Center for American Progress, the “Public” Broadcasting System (“P”BS), the Washington Post, MSNBC, and the New York Times.
These people and organizations are no less committed than the nation’s more transparently right-wing counterparts to the nation’s unelected deep state dictatorships of money, empire, and white-supremacy, but their allegiance and service to the nation’s reigning oppression structures and ideologies is cloaked by outwardly multicultural, liberal, and even progressive concern for the poor and nonwhite.
“What’s the Something Much Better?”
I was reminded of this distinction for the five thousandth time last Thursday while watching Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) member and PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff interview the longtime Senior Obama Advisor and intimate Obama family mentor and confidant Valerie Jarrett.
Judy Woodruff, CFR and “P”BS: Just last night, the United States Senate took another step toward repeal of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. There was a budget vote, which is going to lead to other steps, which will lead to repeal. Just yesterday, the president-elect called Obamacare a complete and total disaster.
Valerie Jarrett, White House: I think it’s very easy to say repeal and replace, but we have been encouraging the Republicans, since the president first started embarking on this effort, to put in place a plan for affordable care to come up with their best ideas. And they have had, what, 50, 60 votes to repeal, and not a single replacement plan. So…
Woodruff: Well, they say that’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to get rid of what’s there now and replace it with something much better.
Jarrett: Well, what’s the something much better? That’s my question. That’s the question the president has been asking for eight years right now. So, if there is a something better, let’s hear it. What’s the secret?
Obama, 2003: “What I’d Like to See”
After this exchange, Woodruff moved off the health care topic, with no follow up. That was a statement in itself. Surely any reasonably informed “public” media journalist would be aware that national Canadian-style single-payer health insurance – Improved Medicare for All – has long been backed by most Americans. Such a journalist would know that single-payer would provide comprehensive coverage to all the nation’s many millions of uninsured and under-insured while retaining free choice in doctor selection and being the most cost-effective way to go thanks to the elimination of private for-profit insurance corporations’ parasitic control over the system.
A knowledgeable “public” journalist might even know that then state senator Barack Obama endorsed single payer on these very grounds as late as the summer of 2003, when he said the following to the Illinois AFL-CIO:
“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see.”
Obama would quickly drop those sentiments in the interest of getting campaign backing from the nation’s giant insurance and drug companies and their Wall Street investors on his path to the U.S. Senate and the presidency.
Right after he entered the White House Obama set up a health care reform task force chock full of big insurance company representatives. Not one of the more than 80 U.S. House of Representative members who had endorsed single payer – not even the veteran Black Congressman John Conyers, author of a House single payer bill – was invited to participate.
A Sicko Game
The outcome was the so-called Affordable Care Act (later dubbed “Obamacare”), a complicated and corporatist bill based on a Republican plan drawn up by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. Since it left the price- and premium-gouging and profit-taking power of the big insurance and drug syndicates intact, the ACA condemned a vast swath of the nation to continuing inadequate and unaffordable coverage – this while the right-wing noise machine has absurdly railed against “socialized health care.”
Along the way, the new neoliberal president played a sicko (yes, Michael Moore) game to sell his Heritage Foundation bill, promising citizens that his plan would include a public option while having already traded that policy away to get for-profit hospitals to back the ACA. As Miles Moguiescu reported on Huffington Post and as the New York Times confirmed, “Obama made a backroom deal…with the for-profit hospital lobby that he would make sure there would be no national public option in the final health reform legislation…Even while President Obama was saying that he thought a public option was a good idea and encouraging supporters to believe his healthcare plan would include one,” Moguiescu noted, “he had promised for-profit hospital lobbyists that there would be no public option in the final bill.”
We can be certain that the veteran agent of neoliberal mendacity Valerie Jarrett advised Obama to take this deeply duplicitous path.
The Memory Hole
It’s quite remarkable how completely the dominant “mainstream” media-politics culture manages to throw majority-supported social-democratic policy proposals down George Orwell’s memory hole.
Listening to the Woodruff-Jarrett conversation, you’d think Bernie Sanders had never spoken to giant and enthusiastic crowds on behalf of single payer last year.
You’d think Conyers had never drafted single-payer legislation backed by a considerable number of U.S. Congressman.
You’d think that Canada and most of the industrialized world had never successfully implemented a widely popular nation-wide systems of universal governmental health insurance.
You’d think single-payer didn’t have millions of citizen backers – including many thousands of doctors and National Nurses United – from coast to coast.
You wouldn’t imagine that even Donald Trump has mused that single-payer might be the best way to fund health insurance for all.
“So, if there is a something better, let’s hear it. What’s the secret?”
It reminds me of Hillary Clinton’s response as head of newly elected U.S. President Bill Clinton’s health care task force when Dr. David Himmelstien, the head of Physicians for a National Health Program, told her about the incredible possibilities of a comprehensive, single payer “Canadian style” health plan, supported by more than two-thirds of the U.S. public and certified by the Congressional Budget Office as “the most cost-effective plan on offer.”
“David,” Hillary (Michael Moore’s heart throb) commented with fading patience before sending him away in 1993, “tell me something interesting.”
That’s right: tell me something interesting.
Along with the big insurance companies the Clintons deceptively railed against, the co-presidents Bill and Hill decided from the start to exclude the popular health care alternative – single payer – from the national health care “discussion.” What she advanced instead of the system that bored her was a hopelessly complex and secretly developed program called “managed competition.” Interesting. Obama would have more success with his Heritage Foundation-developed update in 2009 and 2010.
And they wonder why Trump won.