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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

watch it: the 12/19/09 weekly address from President Barack Obama


And here’s another reason I’ve been mega depressed this week: the health care “reform” in Washington has entirely collapsed (not that it ever really had a chance in hell of achieving any true reform), and we’re ending up with something that’s worse than if nothing had been done. We’re all going to be forced to buy expensive but crappy insurance that we cannot afford, and without any genuine restraints being placed on the insurance companies.

Obama here makes it plain what’s really been going on: health insurance reform, not health care reform. Health insurance is the problem, not the answer, and the “reform” we’re supposedly going to get — along with that preposterous mandate — will do nothing to curb the crimes of the health insurance companies. There is no word of any way to enforce the supposed restrictions on the insurance companies, no mention of how they’d be punished for breaking the rules, and still no way for people to get out from under the bootheel of these bloodsuckers. There’s no competition. You don’t like the way your insurance company treats you? Tough shit. But don’t try to drop your insurance, because you’ll be fined for doing so. And you’ll still be up shit’s creek is you get sick or injured.

It may well be true that these bullshit bills “represent the toughest measures we’ve ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable”… but that’s only because the insurance companies have never truly been held accountable. For anything.

It’s ridiculous to suggest that what’s going on in Washington right now is a smack in the face to the “special interests” and the “corporate lobbyists.” This “reform” is a huge gift to the health insurance companies, mandating a direct transfer of wealth from working people to those very companies. A smack in the face to the health insurance assholes would be to remove them entirely from the equation because they are the fucking problem.

As Avedon Carol — an American who lives in the U.K. — notes at her wonderfully rageful blog Sideshow:

   Total spending on health care, per person, 2007:
   United States: $7290
   Switzerland: $4417
   France: $3601
   United Kingdom: $2992
   Average of OECD developed nations: $2964
   Italy: $2686
   Japan: $2581

And you are paying more in taxes to maintain our commercialized health care system than Brits pay for a fully socialized health care system that is free at the point of use.

That is, I pay less in taxes, and no one sends me a bill.

Full coverage for necessary treatment.

No pleading with insurance companies.

No denial of claims.

No co-pays.

No bill.

Oh, and you know what else? A pre-existing condition doesn’t mean I get less coverage, it means I get more.

What is Obama offering in exchange for not getting any of that?

Obama is offering nothing, of course. He’s hoping we’re all ignorant of how much better the health care situation is in every industrialized nation all over the fucking planet. And we must be ignorant. Because otherwise we the people would be demanding it. Loudly.

What’s more, in a world that was even only halfway sane, the Republicans would be out there screaming for NHS-style health care reform, because of all the money it would save. In a world that was even only halfway sane, Democrats would be out there screaming for NHS-style health care reform, because of all the people it would help.

But no one is screaming for this at all. All the rich miserable bastards in Washington this week made it perfectly plain — in case it wasn’t already plain — that they do not give a shit about anyone but themselves, and about the other rich miserable bastards who put money directly into their pockets.

You and I, ordinary Americans who work hard? We are less than nothing to these people. They simply do not care about us at all.

Why aren’t people rioting in the streets? I don’t understand this at all.

I think I have very good reason to be massively depressed.



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  • Nathan

    I’m surprised that progressives seem surprised. In what world was Obama going to show up and suddenly outlaw private health insurance? The obstacles to reform are tremendous and, really, there’s not a great public will to make massive changes to health care — just like there’s not a great public will to do a lot of rational things to make the future better.

    Sometimes the best thing you can do is fail forward. As messed up as this bill is, it has created an arena in which to do battle over health care reform. Repubs are going to fight the subsidies and regulations, while Dems are going to push for more. In the long run the situation might end up a lot better than it is now, but to do nothing because we can’t have the ideal system overnight is shortsighted, imo.

    I wish Obama had made this first year about real financial reform, rebuilding public infrastructure, and getting out of the Middle East instead of this health care fiasco. It would have been a lot harder for the right-wing hate media to turn those issues into a culture war.

    But who knows what’s going on behind the scenes. Trying to govern this country must be like putting a saddle on a T-Rex.

  • chuck

    And don’t forget that we get to start paying for it years before any benifit slowly begins to kick in. This running “head start” is in place only to mask the fact that it cost ultimatly become more than what anybody admitting to. But then the people responsible for this nightmare will be retired by then. Obama himself admitted this week that the current nationally run healthcare system, Medicare, will go bankrupt.

    It NEVER was about NHS. It NEVER was about reform. It has ALWAYS been about nationalizing Chicago politics. It’s change we can believe in.

    It will be worse than what we have now and there will be less that an individual can do about it.

  • Pollas

    I’m sorry, but bad legislation IS NOT better than no legislation. Once the government puts something into action, there is no going back. This whole reform thing is nothing but another way for the government to screw us over. But the Dems shouldn’t be so quick to declare victory. The Senate bill may pass by Christmas, but then Congress has to combine the House and Senate bills into one bill. And I don’t see that happening quickly.

  • Nathan

    No going back? Of course there is going back. This isn’t the end: ta da! there’s health care for the next 200 years. This is the beginning of a long process and it starts with the big step of dragging the issue of access to health care into the public domain. It’s a messy, ugly birth, but it’s a birth.

    In a corporate-run country in which a good chunk of the population is superstitious and close to illiterate and likes to imagine themselves as Davy Crockett, you take whatever first step you can.

  • chuck

    It’s a messy, ugly birth, but it’s a birth.

    – Victor Frankenstein

  • Nathan

    Hah. Well done.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m surprised that progressives seem surprised.

    I’m not surprised that Obama has disappointed us (I did, after all, liken him to Santa Claus after his first weekly address, before he was even inaugurated).

    In what world was Obama going to show up and suddenly outlaw private health insurance?

    So those are the only two options? Either things continue as they are, or private insurance is outlawed? How about some restrictions on private insurance that had real teeth? How about some goddamn honest competition like the so-called “free market” “conservatives” are always going on about?

    Somehow, FedEx and UPS manage to do okay even though they have to compete with the USPS. The U.S. has the cheapest postage in the Western world, and still private competition survives.

    (The first person who takes a cheap shot at the post office is getting a smack.)

    The obstacles to reform are tremendous and, really, there’s not a great public will to make massive changes to health care —

    You know what? Leaders are supposed to fucking *lead.* If there isn’t a great public will in this instance — and can you provide some evidence for that contention? — then our leaders should be explaining to us why it does need to be done, and how it will work, and why it will be better for everyone (except insurance company CEOs). There are very simple, very clear, very honest arguments to be made in favor of universal, single-payer health care. And NO ONE in a position to do anything about it is making those arguments.

    Once again, we come to the “stupid or evil” question. Is Obama stupid or evil for not taking the mandate for real change that got him into office and using it to make, you know, real change? Or is he just a fucking coward for not using the enormous political capital he entered office with to do the important things that needed to be done: prosecuting the war criminals in the Bush Administration; closing Guantanamo Bay; repealing the Patriot Act; ending the assinine Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; etc?

    Or is he just another corporate tool?

  • Nathan

    Okay, so Obama isn’t going to turn the US into liberal fantasy-land overnight. Hopefully things will get better once President Palin takes power.

    And the fact that there is no great public will behind health care reform is pretty self-evident: politicians are more worried about their corporate backers and right-wing scare tactics than they are of the voting public. Then when they try to do something at all, their base threatens to abandon them because it’s not everything at once.

    A $300-billion a year industry isn’t going to roll over and die or get skinned by a public option without putting up a tremendous fight, and if we get any bill passed that includes mandates and/or subsidies it draws the monster into the public arena and people are going to have to be more interested and will start applying more pressure for reform.

    Or because it’s not close to what we really want, we do nothing and see what happens in another fifteen years.

    I don’t like it either; I think it sucks. But I believe if an inch is all you can get, you take it. The Republicans sure as hell believe that. If they could outlaw abortion on Thursdays between the hours of 9 and 11am, they would take it and try to build on it. They wouldn’t turn it down because it wasn’t 24/7.

    Dragging this country into the 21st century isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be a constant process, and progressives can’t start giving up when it doesn’t happen overnight.

  • Paul

    I have to admit that watching the Obama Administration has me worried he’s swimming upriver against history. When I was a teen, I would read history books about the fall of civilizations and wonder why, if their best minds knew what the problems were (Adam Smith, Cicero, etc) why didn’t they fix their problems?

    Twenty years later, I believe it is because every civilization is built by people whose descendants become the entrenched interests that resist change to maintain their own status. When the entrenched interests lose, the civilization can renew itself. When the entrenched interests win, everyone loses, even them in the end. Except now I suspect a lot of rich guys are moving their money into the international ether so they can survive the fall of America their polices may cause.

    In “Collapse” Jared Diamond makes the argument that problems in societies are never solved as long as the elites can protect themselves from those problems. I would add that by the time the elites cannot protect themselves, it may be too late, which would also fit my previous observation.

  • Bluejay

    There are very simple, very clear, very honest arguments to be made in favor of universal, single-payer health care. And NO ONE in a position to do anything about it is making those arguments.

    I could be wrong, but I believe Congressman Anthony Weiner has been making those arguments; I think he’s stated in interviews that single-payer was his ideal option.

    Is Obama stupid or evil for not taking the mandate for real change that got him into office and using it to make, you know, real change?

    I think part of the frustration stems from the fact that in some cases (like health care; not in all cases) he needs the Senate to get things done. And the perception that the Dems can steamroll their agenda through because they have 60 votes is illusory; many are so-called “conservadems” who in the past might have been Republicans, before the Republican party veered hard to the right to please their constituents. So just because the Dems have the majority doesn’t mean the progressive agenda won; it means that the progressive vs. conservative debates are going on within the Democratic Party itself.

    Dragging this country into the 21st century isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be a constant process, and progressives can’t start giving up when it doesn’t happen overnight.

    I mentioned this link in the climate thread, and believe it’s relevant here as well.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/12/10/812722/-Aliens,-Elves,-and-the-Politics-of-Utopia

  • Pollas

    There would have been health care without this bull**** of a bill being passed. Yeah, okay, health insurance is a problem and I agree that things need to be changed regarding it. (Though I think many of you would be surprised to know that when it comes to private industry, insurance has some of the lowest profit margins with health insurance particularly being on the lower end). But the problem with U.S. health care isn’t the quality, it’s the cost. And nothing the government does will lower the cost of health care. It’s the nature of the beast that the (Federal) government consumes wealth and is incapable of creating or saving it. The cost of health care in the country will go up even with the government’s “best” intentions. Getting the government involved cannot and will not lower the cost of health care in this country. Just take Massachusetts’ health care system as an example.

  • Pollas

    God save us from the progressives.

  • Bluejay

    And nothing the government does will lower the cost of health care.

    I beg to differ.

    http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Columns/2009/December/122109Cohn.aspx

  • Paul

    The argument was made in the Atlantic Monthly that the solution is less insurance, not more. The author’s suggestion was that everyone have “disaster insurance” for life threatening issues, but for the rest pay out of pocket. This would force people to look for doctors with better care for the dollar, which would in turn force doctors to cut costs and provide better service. I also know from experience that disaster insurance is much, much cheaper than full insurance. I basically accepted a high deductable for a low yearly preminum.

    The same writer pointed out that the high technology is no excuse for high costs; computers have been becoming more and more powerful, and yet more and more widespread because competition is keeping the price down.

  • Chuff Laver

    Obama is…

    A. Stupid
    B. Evil
    C. A corporate tool

    I’d say “C” is most true, but that hints at a decent dose of “B.” Unlike the Bush supporters who supported their guy right or wrong over the years, I’ll be honest and say that I’m embarassed to have voted for the O.

  • Funny how Bill Clinton could get away with NAFTA, “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies, the DOMA act and many other items that undoubtedly irritated the hell out of many of his original supporters–and still be remembered as a relatively good president for all his flaws. Yet poor Obama is already being seen as being either stupid, evil or a corporate tool simply because he hasn’t totally fixed everything by his end of his first year in office–and because he has worked to pass legislation that many people here disagree with.

    If you’re going to disagree with him, then disagree with him. But don’t go speculating about his motives unless you want to assume that every Democratic politician who’s done something imperfect–Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, JFK, LBJ, RFK, Ted Kennedy, etc.–are also stupid, evil or a corporate tool.

    As it is, you’re starting to seem like the mirror image of the right-wing ideologues you profess to disdain. Everything your way now…and any hint at compromise being a necessary evil is a sign that the person advocating said compromise is a fiend from the pit who just isn’t worthy of the same benefit of a doubt you would want given to you if you ever made a mistake.

    I’m not happy with a lot of the actions that Obama are taking but then I wasn’t happy with a lot of the actions that Clinton took–and yet I voted for Clinton twice. Not because I thought that Clinton was the bestest president ever or because I was swept up by his charisma but because of all the available and realistic options given me on Election Day, he was the best one.

    I suspect history will judge Obama more harshly for his mistakes in office than any of us who post here but I also can’t help but wonder if it will also be as any less harsh towards his critics.

    After all, the history books are filled with American politicos who were much-criticized today yet today are seen as much-beloved statesmen. And I can’t help but haunted by an old letter to the editor I once read in an old back-issue of Newsweek. A letter that went on and on about how a certain Democratic politician was one of the worst scoundrels ever and how it was an absolute disaster for the country that said politician was running for high office. The letter was written in the early part of 1968 and the writer of said letter was admittedly liberal. And the politician he was writing about was Robert Francis Kennedy…

  • I suspect history will judge Obama more harshly for his mistakes in office than any of us who post here but I also can’t help but wonder if it will also be as any less harsh towards his critics.

    After all, the history books are filled with American politicos who were much-criticized today yet today are seen as much-beloved statesmen.

    What I meant, of course:

    I suspect history will judge Obama more harshly for his mistakes in office than any of us who post here but I also can’t help but wonder if it will also be any less harsh towards his critics.

    After all, the history books are filled with American politicos who were much-criticized in their day yet today are seen as much-beloved statesmen.

  • Bluejay

    Is Obama stupid or evil […] Or is he just a fucking coward

    Like Tonio, I really don’t think he’s any of these caricatures. I agree with some of his policies but not others; I think he’s doing the best he can and may be dealing with more complex situations than I know about; and I’m going to keep pressuring him to do the right thing, without demonizing him. One of the things I’ve gained from this site is an increased appreciation for films that treat women and men as real, complicated, not-holy-and-not-evil people, and I try to extend that courtesy to people in the real world as well, including our leaders. (It’s not always easy.)

    I think it’s tough to remember at times that this administration actually has made quite a few progressive achievements, which often fly under the radar because of our dissatisfaction with a few Big Issues. Here’s a partial list:

    http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/11/30/progressives_and_obama_are_doing_better_than_we_th/index.php

    Some of these items you may disagree with; some may seem inadequate; some I think truly are achievements to celebrate, which absolutely qualify as “real change.” My point is it’s easy to forget what’s been won when we focus on what we haven’t won. Yes, I’m frustrated too with the administration’s handling of certain critical issues, but I try to give credit where it’s due.

    I don’t understand what demonizing Obama (or the Dems, or government) accomplishes. Doubtless I’ll be seen by many here as a naive sap, but I try to do my civic duty by voting and writing to my congressperson and whatnot, trying to do my bit to bring about incremental change–because I believe our leaders are imperfect but basically trying to do their best, still open to their constituents, and still receptive to constructive criticism. If I thought Obama were evil I’d be completely demoralized and give up on the system entirely. But if we all give up on change because we paint everyone in power as hopelessly craven and corrupt, what good does that do?

  • Nathan

    Yeah, Obama is an evil, corporate tool for creating an environment in which health care reform passes both the House and Senate and we are on our way toward making health care officially a public matter.

    So we don’t have European, single-payer health care after less than two years… by all means, give up.

    It’s much easier to be the Party out of power, so we can sit around and whine and leave our ideals unsullied by pragmatism or the real political environment.

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