lunes, 27 de julio de 2009


Baucus, Grassley and Co. stand up for the plutocrats
Photo Courtesy of

This is utterly despicable. Apparently the grand, bipartisan bargain being worked out in the Senate Finance Committee includes neither a public option nor an employer mandate. However, the pieces favored by the drug, medical supply, and insurance industries--most importantly, subsidies to buy private insurance and the individual mandate--are included. And to top it all off, the bill includes a tax on benefits for generous health care plans, which is basically a smack in the face to organized labor. In essence, any ounce of progressivism has basically been squeezed from the bill, while the major industry players get everything they want. I wonder if it has anything to do with lobbying and campaign contributions from the health care industry?

I realize that there are a lot of different versions of health care reform floating around. The Senate Finance Committee is just one of many committees in the House and Senate which are working on reform plans. Nevertheless, the craven capitulation to business interests exhibited by the Finance Committee is so grotesque that I had to comment on it.

There could be a silver lining, however. Perhaps sickening examples of corruption such as this one will further convince the public that the piecemeal reform efforts currently being advanced in Washington are hopeless and that the only solution is single payer, universal medicare.

martes, 14 de julio de 2009

Bernie Sanders on Public Health Care

Via Ezra Klein, please check out this fantastic clip of Bernie Sanders providing the United States Senate a little lesson on the U.S. health care system. I agree completely with Mr. Klein on this one, this clip shows the power of having legitimate progressive voices in Washington. I would go even further, though. Frankly, this little 3 minute speech is downright radical. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sanders exposes the profound gap between the views of the American people on health care and those of the folks whom we have elected to represent our interests. He also reveals that, gasp, America already has a single payer and fully socialized health care system, both of which are amazingly popular! Thank you, Mr. Sanders and thank you to the people of Vermont for electing him.

lunes, 6 de julio de 2009

"There’s very little truth to anything you’ve read about the coup in American newspapers"

Via Ken Silverstein of Harper's has a great piece on the coup in Honduras, as well as Obama's abysmal response. The title of this post is a quote from Silverstein's article. It's short, sweet, and to the point. Check it out.

viernes, 3 de julio de 2009

Terrific Piece on Healthcare

Jane Slaughter over at Labor Notes just wrote a great piece about Labor's role in the health care reform debate. I highly suggest you read it. In the article, Ms. Slaughter points out that, while the union rank-and-file largely supports universal medicare (hundreds of union locals, as well as several state federations and labor councils have endorsed it), the leadership of Change to Win and the AFL-CIO do not, and have instead come out in favor of public-private competition. At the closing of the article, Ms. Slaughter expressed, in the clearest and most concise language I have ever read, why this position is so truly puzzling (and maddening):
Say you’re a union bargainer who thinks her members deserve a dollar-an-hour raise, but believes that realistically the company won’t give more than 50 cents. Would you start out by asking for 50 cents? Yet that’s what union lobbyists are doing, in effect, around health care reform in D.C. this year. It’s how labor has been doing its politics for a while now: behaving as supplicants rather than as actors trying to define the game, consenting to the accepted wisdom.
Jane Slaughter, I could not agree with you more! I tried to make the same point back in March, though in a far more stumbling and far less persuasive manner.

Everyone who is following the health care debate knows that passing single payer in the current Congress is basically impossible. According to Ms. Slaughter, the sponsor of single payer legislation in the house, John Conyers, was asked “What would it take this Congress to pass single payer?” back in May. His response: "Nuclear weaponry”. Unfortunately, I don't think Mr. Conyers is too far off. The health care industry just has too much power. Our legislators are too dependent on health care campaign contributions and simply too corrupt to challenge the interests of the industry. It truly is a sad reflection on the health of our democracy when arguably the most popular health care reform proposal, supported by two thirds of the public and 60% of Physicians, is "off the table" and politically impossible. That's the reality we're living in. Nevertheless, if a strong public option which competes with private insurers is the best we could possibly get, as unfortunately I think is the case, then why come out for a public option right out of the box? Even if the labor movement does not universally agree that single payer is the best option (Andy Stern, for one, I'm sure is against it), it would nonetheless be a strong negotiating tactic for them all to come out in favor of single payer. Sure, labor is not what it once was. But unions still represent tens of millions of Americans. The unions also ought to have at least a little leverage over Obama, after they were central to his election victories in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio last year.

Imagine if the entire labor movement joined the movement for single payer, which is already growing and making waves without the support of the national union leadership. Imagine if the rally held last week, which drew 7,000 people, called for Medicare for all. In such circumstances, wouldn't the Congress have no choice but to at least have a public option included in the bill, rather than just subsidies and mandates for private insurance? Wouldn't it be harder for spineless, corporate hacks like my Senator, Joe Lieberman, to oppose a public option? Joe, incidentally, was backed by nearly the entire Connecticut labor movement in his 2006 primary race with Ned Lamont. The same criticism could also be levied at numerous liberal commentators, by the way, such as the entire staff of Open Left, who never say a single word about single payer. I honestly cannot see any circumstance in which aggressively advocating for single payer could hurt the progressive movement in terms of the final outcome of the legislation. And even within the confines of the broad framework adopted by labor in this debate, there's still more room for pressure. Instead of asking for a generic public option, for instance, why not specifically demand a public option with the power to negotiate rates, or demand that Medicare be opened up to all, instead of separating people into multiple, and therefore weaker plans?

Alas, Ms. Slaughter's call to push for the whole dollar, even though we know we'll probably just get 50 cents, is largely theoretical at this point. Labor, as well as much of the progressive movement, have already made their first move and that move is rather week. If we end up with a poor health plan with either a weak or nonexistent public option, Jane Slaughter will have diagnosed one of the main reasons why.