At this point it's all we've got

A funny thing happened to me the other day. I walked into a conversation at work about the health care reform bill, and without any provocation from me i got to hear an interesting view on the matter from a thoughtful, intelligent man who’s every bit a capitalist. He attends church regularly and describes himself as a right-leaning libertarian. He’s from a staunchly Republican family. He likes Rush Limbaugh. In other words, he’s a far cry from a bleeding heart, dirty-fucking-hippie liberal as you’re likely to find. You know what this man said? He said that he’s in favor of universal coverage, but that the bill being voted on looks like hell and that he can’t see how it will fix any of our health care problems.

Now tell me that this bill is the best we can hope for, and do it without blaming what we’re getting on evil conservatives. This bill is not the best we can get, but it is exactly what Obama and the DLC types wanted…because they’re not on your side.

This is a bill that the insurance industry, for-profit hospitals and pharmaceutical companies will accept. They’re willing to accept it because without the sorts of “reforms” contained in this bill they will experience catastrophic failure and massive amounts of popular ill will in the not too distant future. That’s why it’s accurate to call this a preemptive bailout rather than reform.

At this point, the bill does not regulate insurance rates. It stipulates that you can’t be denied coverage or limited in your use of insurance, but it does not regulate how much you’ll pay for that coverage. It only says that you’re required to purchase coverage. The end effect then is to entrench the current system so deeply that further reforms are unlikely to be successful…actual reform that is. Politicians may fiddle around the edges, but the system that delivers sub-optimal care at great cost is here to stay.

Theoretically, the federal government will subsidize those who cannot afford the insurance they’re mandated to purchase, but note that these subsidies will have a fair amount skimmed off the top before they pay for any actual health care.

Never mind the happy talk about how people without coverage will soon be transported to a magical land of possessing health insurance. This bill privatizes the profits and socializes the losses, funneling tax dollars to insurance companies rather than using them to provide health care.

Mr. Obama and his party have found a way to subsidize a value subtracting industry and do so on your dime, all while telling you that this is the best they can do and that it all comes from their great love for you, the peasants.

They’re liars, and they’ll continue putting the screws to you for as long as you keep believing their lies.

It takes a great deal of gullibility to swallow the idea that this is the very best possible. It requires willful ignorance of the proceedings. Did they mobilize the activist base to push hard for the best possible options with the knowledge that some compromise would be necessary? Nope. They took all that off the table before beginning negotiations. Did they look around the world for all the different ways to address this issue and present them to the American people for debate? Nope. They held secret meetings with the industry they’re supposedly reforming before the process started. (Shades of the Bush-Cheney energy policy, but we don’t want to draw those types of comparisons, do we?)

Did a new president with a strong mandate, a deep pool of eager activists and fine oratorical skills ever make a pitch to convince the majority of Americans – of all political affiliations – that we can…and we must…do something about this issue that will put us on a strong social and economic future for the long term. Nope. He pretty much crafted this bill behind the curtain and then pretends that his hands are tied by recalcitrant Congresspeople from the GOP and the necessity of bipartisan warm fuzzies. And please note that when it comes down to the actual action, he’s now willing to pass the bill on party lines…after twisting the arms of all the dissenters in his party, but only his party.

As my opening, anecdotal evidence suggests, Obama could have end run the GOP and appealed directly to the American people. With a good plan he probably could have gotten the support necessary for real reform. He didn’t because he never wanted anything that resembles real reform. He’d rather sell us a ramshackle “starter home” sitting on an unsound foundation with an APR mortgage that will probably be underwater before we can even make a dent in the principal. That’s right, the “richest country in the world” can only afford a shithole house in a crappy neighborhood. Be happy with it, America, because it’s the best we can get.

59 replies »

  1. At this point, I’m having a hard time imagining what it would take for me to vote for Obama again. I’m used to voting for the lesser of evils, and I have passionately argued that the GOP and Dems are not the same. But Obama … sweet Jebus, what a fucking whore. I mean, I KNEW he was a corporation’s best friend before I voted against McCain the last time, but I may have underestimated even at that.

    Change I can believe in? I got your “change” right here, buddy…

  2. I’m with ya, and while i’ve gone the lesser of two evils route more times than i’m proud of, i’m D.O.N.E with it. I’m done with the rationalizing and the hoping and the horrible let down of being screwed yet again.

    And if i’m reading the most recent news on the HCR shenanigans, it looks like Obama and Co. are more than willing to trow the rights of women out the window to achieve their legislative “victory”. It won’t even be evil Stupak’s fault, but the Party.


    • This is another reason for a parliamentary system. At least I could vote FOR something and know that win, lose or draw the people in “my” party behaved in a way more or less consistent with their promises. What we have is so distorted because, as I’ve said before, it’s really at least two parties masquerading as one. And the intramural arcana is beyond anything a free society should have to tolerate.

  3. Not what you said, but your actions of voting for him were contradictory and irrational. However, you, like a majority of the people were seduced, and drank the kool-aid. I see this as a learning lesson for you.

    • I’m sorry, you must not have been listening closely. You may have conflated what I was saying with your expectations about me – that’s probably common enough. But I never thought Obama was a progressive. You can’t find me saying it because all I said was the opposite. There was no doubt about voting for him when the “choice” was a third term for Bush, of course. And THAT part I was certainly passionate about. Heck, I had an argument with JS O’Brien before the DNC over this very issue. He was suggesting that Obama was fundamentally a progressive and I was arguing, fairly vehemently, that he was no such thing. You’re confusing a massive hatred of X for a massive love of Y, and even if that’s an understandable mistake, it’s still a mistake.

      If you think I was “seduced” or “drank the kool-aid,” then what it mainly proves is that you heard what you were predisposed to hear. My record is all right here, ready to be searched. Feel free to SHOW me any evidence whatsoever that your assertions are somehow based in fact.

      What I may be guilty of, and you’re free to make this argument, was in not being suspicious enough…

  4. Jeff,

    What I think Sam, Lex, and I can all agree on is this – whichever way we voted, we had SOME expectation, however small, that Obama would actually be responsible and responsive to the electorate. Instead, he’s done what every politician over the last 35 years has done – made himself ever more beholden to special interests of one form or another.

    Doesn’t matter whether it’s the energy industry as in the case of Bush/Cheney or the insurance/pharmaceuticals industry as with Obama (I’d include Biden, but he seems so marginalized at this point that he’s reverted the vice presidency to the importance it had in the days of Schuyler Colfax – that’s right, who?), I don’t think we can expect our elected leaders to treat the will of the people as anything other than an annoyance to get around as they do their best to serve the interests of whichever industry/Business/profession is paying their campaign costs….

  5. I won’t speak for anyone else, but i never drank any koolaid. I’ve said it numerous times but i’ll say it one more. I voted for Obama only because the GOP had the temerity to nominated Sarah Palin. That was a mistake on my part, but it never mattered (my vote that is), because Obama won my state by a decent margin. It’s not like i ever gave Obama or the Dems any money; put a bumper sticker on my car; stuck a sign in my lawn; or tried to convince anyone i knew to vote Obama.

    And there’s been a pretty steady stream of complaint about him from my keyboard since the beginning. I’ve also never been a registered Democrat. So i’m not sure what this kool aid statement is all about, Jeff. How many times did you vote for Bush?

  6. Hey, you guys got conned. Happens to the best of us, and there’s no reason to be ashamed. Just because you are highly educated doesn’t mean you are not going to get conned. Just suck it up, don’t defend yourselves with weak arguments, macho posturing, and feeble calls for citations, Yo9u’ve been had, pure and simple so try to get the crooks that have taken over your party to fix it, if you can. I really feel your pain, as now you understand what I felt for 6 years. I wasn’t had, but you were.

    • Jeff, I apologize. Clearly I misunderstood you. Because if you’re telling me the truth right now, if you are in fact entitled to tell me that “I told you so,” it means that your objections to Obama were always that he wasn’t progressive enough.

      I didn’t realize that’s what “socialist” meant.

  7. Did a new president with a strong mandate, a deep pool of eager activists and fine oratorical skills ever make a pitch to convince the majority of Americans – of all political affiliations – that we can…and we must…do something

    Outstanding — one of the best pieces I’ve read on the subject and I’ve read a lot.

  8. i’m D.O.N.E with it.

    Likewise, Lex. Back to third-party candidates for me. I don’t care if voting for a Ralph Nader supposedly sabotages the election of an Al Gore.

  9. This is a terrific piece.

    And I too am tired of the drank the kool aid” argument. Partisans on both sides have been good at this for years, reveling in the failures of the person in office, as if that proves the other choice would have been better. I voted for Bush twice becuase and to this day don’t feel that Kerry or Gore would have been better for the country, voted for Obama this go ’round and still don’t think McCain/Palin was the answer.

    I am with Lex in that the choice of Palin turned me off that ticket. To me, it reinforced McCain being beholden to The Party.

    I am a registered independent, very disappointed in Obama. I think he has much more to offer.

  10. Indeed, Bob, the partisanship is, in my opinion, just a method that the parties use to divide this nation against itself. I’m at a loss to understand how we can put party affiliation over the common good and let a handful of people who do not have anything close to the best intentions run our nation into the ground. But we do.

    I also agree that Obama could have been something special, but i’m no longer sure if he ever intended to be. I look at how he dropped the organizing effort his campaign had built like a hot potato after the election.

    What the Dems don’t know is that after building up the hopes of a lot of young people (not me, i’m too old and way to cynical for that), they’ve now produced a kind of angry apathy that’s worse than the simple apathy that existed before 2008.

    I’m not sure how they figure to win elections by throwing everyone who’s likely to vote for them under the bus.

  11. Sorry, I have to take issue with quite a bit of this. Not that Obama hasn’t been disappointing, and there’s an interesting discussion to be had on whether or not it’s him or the fact that there are a substantial number of Democrats who may as well be Republicans, the way they’re behaving. Rather, I want to go after the “it doesn’t make any difference” meme that keeps cropping up. It makes a hell of a difference, frankly. Let’s just consider two areas: environmental enforcement and the SEC. After eight years of having the EPA gutted by people put in staff positions who believed in neither the government’s right to solve envronmental problems, which resulted in the worst record of enforcement in decades, or, for that matter, the actual science, the EPA is now working again–witness the decisions on CO2 being a pollutant, which paves the way to Greenhouse Gas controls, and the more recent rulings on mercury and coal, which will likely result in the closure of a whole raft of poisonous coal plants, Would this have happened under McCain? And would the EPA have been similarly gutted under Gore of Kerry? Pah. Then let’s consider the SEC, notable by its complete lack of enforcement of virtually any of the laws and regulations it’s supposed to enforce during the Bush administration. Some of you may have noticed that we’ve been having some financial problems recently. A strong case can be made that these are the direct result of a whole lot of inaction by the SEC and other folks who are supposed to enforce rules and regulations–that’s their damn job. You guys want to believe it makes no difference? Go ahead. But it does.

    • Let me begin by agreeing that that the “all the same” meme is troublesome. Dr. Sid’s shootout at the DC Corral post recently articulates the problem with it.

      And there’s no doubt that much of the issue has to do with Democrats who aren’t Democrats at all. Well, maybe that’s not right. The people who control what an organization does pretty much are the org, aren’t they? So maybe it’s better to say that the progs aren’t Democrats at all.

      Whatever rhetorical games we play, the fact is that your Nelsons and Lincolns and Stupaks aren’t the same, in any fundamental way, as your Graysons. So electing a Dem majority is in some ways akin to electing a majority of Croods – that’d be Crips and Bloods. So even if Obama were Washington and Lincoln and FDR rolled into one, he’d be up against it. Seriously.

      So my frustration isn’t borne of starry-eyed idealism. Instead, it has a lot to do with the fact that Obama didn’t lose the battle. He forfeited. He cut a backroom deal with the insurance industry before the battle started. That is, he THREW the fight. He’s a remarkable player himself and has proven he can sway the public to his way of thinking, but on this, the issue he chose to make his signature battle, he did none of that. He twisted the progs’ arms off while blowing Joe Lieberman on the Capitol steps. He catered to the right while ignoring the progressive-leaning surge that was so instrumental in winning him the White House.

      In other words, he’s more or less what I thought he was, although perhaps even moreso than I expected.

      So none of my ranting means I wish McCain had won. It doesn’t mean I wish the GOP controlled both houses. I ain’t stupid. Even if Obama had just knifed me, I’d be smart enough to understand that McCain would have knifed me twice as bad, or maybe even shot me.

      I worry, though, because a lot of people are looking at “HOPE” and “Change You Can Believe In” and feeling very betrayed. As in stay at home this year and in 2012 betrayed, or worse.

      In sum, I’m not mad and concluding that it doesn’t matter. I’m mad because it matters SO DAMNED MUCH. When all is said and done, I don’t believe it had to be this way. I believe Obama threw a fight he could have won. That doesn’t mean you’re going to see me out stumping for Palin/Failorina, though…

  12. I do agree w/ rufnik that Kerry or Gore would have been better in those areas, but I think they would have been worse in other areas. That is why so many end up with the lesser of two evils choices. I was hoping that Obama would have been better able to stand up to his party, which in this case would have meant standing against Congress at times.

    As a more moderate guy than most who post here, I am not upset that Obama abandoned his most progressive principles. I am more disappointed in his inability to break through the partisanship. I still think he can do that better than McCain/Palin would have been able to.

  13. “I don’t care if voting for a Ralph Nader supposedly sabotages the election of an Al Gore.”

    You sure about that? I got pilloried, nad-punched, eviscerated and shat on for my Nader vote in ’00, which I still don’t regret. He has always been right about our country being beholden to the two-party duopoly of greedheads, as he outlined in his speech at the Open the Debates presser from the ’08 Convention (interestingly, I finally transcribed his remarks at my old S&R post this weekend. Definitely worth the read!)

    As for Obama, yeah, I got conned I guess, but he was my 5th choice for president (after Kucinich, Feingold, Nader and Dodd, in that order, and I passed on Nader because I was optimistic about Obama). Nobody voted for my #1 choice by a mile, because he’s short, has bad hair, and is into that peace nonsense–you know, all the superficial bullshit that sways dumbasses just before they enter the voting booth. The others dropped out one by one as it became clear they had little support. And I would never in a billion years have voted to put a tool like Palin one step away from the Oval Office, despite my like for McCain. I went with Obama largely by default, but I was excited about him.

    So yeah, we’ve ended up with a figurehead and the powerful Clinton clique, with all its countless Jeff-like minion$ whose primary focu$ is maintaining the $tatu$ quo. But as disappointing as Obama has been, the bulk of the blame lies with the absolutely useless gang of corrupt, criminal assholes known as Congress. I wouldn’t trust Harry Reid to manage a Taco Bell, much less half the legislative branch of the government. And don’t get me started on the Senate… if you want proof that the devil is real and has servants walking the earth, you need go no further. Kyl, Lieberman, Chambliss, McConnell, Vitter, Ensign, Inhofe, DeMint, Cornyn, et cetera… truly vile, reprehensible bastards.

    At this point though, and for the first time in my life, I will not be voting. It truly is, sad to say, a waste of fucking time. The American experiment is largely over at this point, just as Ben Franklin prophesied at its start: “I believe … that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.”

  14. Oh sure, it makes a difference…just not enough of a difference. And the real problem is that politicians have no reason to be responsive to the needs of voters.

    I’ll keep voting with regularity, i just won’t be voting for Democrats or Republicans because the “lesser of two evils” argument is a trap. And it lets, especially, the Democratic Party get away with some heinous bullshit. And then they’ll plaster it over with such grand achievements as believing in science. Living under Republican rule would be worse, no doubt…especially considering how the GOP has done such a good job of purging all of its moderates. But we’re talking about degrees here. And i won’t be counting any eggs coming from the Democratic roost after watching the Party throw at least half of its supposed constituents under the bus to get this HCR bill passed.

    So while i might hope that Dems beat Reps in elections, i’ll be voting my conscience rather than attempting anything “pragmatic” that’s likely to lead to electing people like the current crop of Dems…who are only too happy to spy on me, enlarge pointless wars, throw money at compulsive gamblers and corporations while letting friends and neighbors fight/beg for table scraps, and all the rest.

    They’re supposed to represent me (us) to some degree, and so long as they feel like they can have our support no matter what they do, they’ll keep screwing us. I just can’t be a part of enabling that any more.

    • In reading all these comments, it seems like most of us agree on what the world we live in looks like. We’re disgusted with the system and the people inhabiting it. The question is where we draw the line. Mike and his Nader vote are not fundamentally different from me and my Obama vote – in truth we don’t disagree on much at all. It’s just a question of where we give up. A matter of degrees.

      I can bitch about the Nader vote from a practical perspective, perhaps, but can I tell him he’s wrong to see the game the way he does? Not by a long shot.

      He makes a comment that meshes with something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: The American experiment is largely over at this point, just as Ben Franklin prophesied at its start: “I believe … that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.”

      Try as I might, I’m having a hard time figuring out how he’s wrong.

  15. looking back at my votes, I think must be taken as my thinking in that snapshot of time.
    I voted for Bush over Gore becuase I felt that Washington was becoming too much of a Clinton town. That vote was essentially me voting against any entrenched power. Bush vs Kerry was definately the lesser of two evils, I was completely not impressed with Kerry and felt that he was tied way too much to the “Angry Democrats” still focused on the chad hanging 2000 election. By 2008, I was completely fed up with Bush…..felt that Cheney pulled the strings, but even more so, I felt there were powerful interests even deeper than the VP gaming the system as well.

    I was very happy to McCain vs Obama becuase I felt they both showed the ability to go against party when they felt it was needed.

    I am not a single issue voter guy, and I distrust both parties. So I guess most of my votes are against what I call “entrenched power”. I think Congress is the biggest cesspool of this, but Presidential elections get far more press.

    So, that’s what I meant by the post above, I don’t pretend to tell people that I was definately right or definately wrong, it’s what I thought at that particular time. I will never have a bumper sticker that says “Don’y blame me I voted for _________!” Nor will I beat my chest when they person I voted for does well. Hope this helps explain the post above.

  16. He’s not wrong. The gig’s up if we’re going to define the American experiment as a constitutional republic. And the problem is that we limit ourselves to two political parties which are both only too happy to support and perpetuate a plutocracy.

    And this isn’t about putting a fist in the air and singing the Internationale.

    This is about the allegiance of elected leaders. Do they serve the Republic, the people who make it up, the laws which define it…and most importantly, the intent of those laws? Or do they serve a group who believes itself to be above the law because it can buy the elected leaders and have laws crafted to fit the group’s desires?

    The problem is one that Marx correctly predicted about the development of Capitalism, a development that was held in check by various forces in the United States that have been extremely eroded over the last three decades. Left to its own devices, extreme Capitalism will devour itself…or more particularly that which it exists on.

    How near or far that point is for the US is hard to determine, but it sits on the horizon. The real despotism (hard rather than the current soft despotism practiced by both sides of the American political coin) will come when the majority of people have been ground down to the point where they’re ready to fight back. When they cannot be soothed by advertising campaigns any more. The powers that be would rather avoid that situation because serious despotism is difficult and expensive.

    The American people have descended into ignorance. Not because they vote the wrong way, but because we’ve been confused. We equate economic systems with political systems. We accept that we only have two choices to govern us within our political system. And others.

    And the worst part is that We the People have all the power we need to save the Republic. We can do it peacefully. We don’t need to swing to Communism or mob rule. Yet we don’t. We keep doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for different results. And our reward will be the despotism that Franklin warned about.

  17. Just out of curiosity, how many here have ever run for elective office? You know, School Board, Tax Board, County Supervisor, whatever. And if not, why not? Because it doesn’t make a difference?

    • I’ve pondered it. I once gave serous thought to running for the CU Board of Regents. I abandoned the idea, and at this stage the idea of running for anything, for two reasons. One, the money it takes to do so, and two, it’s impossible to imagine myself being electable. Never mind the fact that I believe all kinds of unelectable things (let’s start with my thoughts on religion) but I’ve pretty much gone on record with all of it. So it would be hard for me to even lie about it if I chose.

  18. And apropos of all this, I happen to be working on a new Tony Judt post, sparked by an interview in this week’s London Review of Books, particularly around this quote:

    “Courage is always missing in politicians. It is like saying basketball players aren’t normally short. It isn’t a useful attribute. To be morally courageous is to say something different, which reduces your chances of winning an election. Courage is in a funny way more common in an old-fashioned sort of enlightened dictatorship than it is in a democracy. However, there is another factor. My generation has been catastrophic. I was born in 1948 so I am more or less the same age as George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Gerhard Schröder, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – a pretty crappy generation, when you come to think of it, and many names could be added.”

    This is my generation too (being the old fart around here and all), and he’s absolutely right–how come the best educated generation in the history of the world produced some of the worst politicians ever? Good question. And the even better question is, how do we get better politicians? I’m not sure, but I’m pretty certain it’s not by giving up.

  19. I haven’t yet…but mostly because i’m unelectable. But don’t get me wrong, Wuf, the sort of politics you mention is the most important in my estimation. And that the majority of us don’t pay much attention to local politics is the biggest reason why we can be screwed by the legacy parties at the national level.

    At the local level even a few voices can be heard and matter. My fear is that political apathy (which benefits the legacy parties) trickles down so easily. Like i said, i’m not going to stop voting. And like always i’ll put the most thought and attention into local elections, with explicit support for third party and independent candidates…cause they can win at local and state levels. But i won’t stop voting. It’s not a right or a privilege; it’s a responsibility. Sure, i might start writing in Huey Long for president…but i’ve cast a presidential vote for the World Workers Party in the past and written in Frank Zappa. But i’ll be damned sure to be there every election day, because i refuse to forfeit the game.

  20. Continued…and in response to Wuf @27. We get better politicians by taking control at the levels we can exert control over. Local, local, local. And we build up from there.

  21. Just an update. The provision to regulate insurance rates has been dropped from the bill for parliamentary reasons. Word is that Obama “hopes” to get something like that passed later on.

    So now we’ve got no rate regulation and American women have been thrown under the bus. What a victory! This is exactly the kind of change i was hoping for…

  22. I’m sorry, there is no such thing in America as being unelectable. I mean, my God, look who gets elected. Money can be an issue, yes, but that’s what organizing is all about–getting people to contribute time, effort, and, yes, sometimes a couple of bucks. People will do that, though–you’d be surprised. I ran for School Board when we lived in New Jersey (a state with more school districts than New York and Pennsylvania combined, btw), against a slate of incumbents, and ended up getting enough votes to win, in spite of promising to raise taxes through a bond issue to fund spending on school buildings. It was a real shock, I have to say, but worth it.

  23. I have thought about running for local office…possibly school board once I retire from the military. It depends on where we retire. It would be difficult to run for local office in an area we had just moved into.

  24. Why is Lex unelectable? Why is Sam? Or more to the point, why do they both assume they are?

    • I might – might – be electable in some very local spots. But – and this is key – any such context is probably such that they have pretty good people already. The kinds of places where I feel like I’d be needed are that way because the electorate keeps electing idiots.

      Oh, dear. Now I’m talking about the system again. This is sort of an analogue to Rodney Dangerfield’s joke about I wouldn’t be a member of any club that would have someone like me as a member, only in a double-reverse kind of way. Or was that WC Fields?

      In any case, I hear the point, and yes, I can easily imagine serving in some capacity. I’d still like to do the Regents thing, for instance, although any job involving education in this state would be so damned fucked already that I’d go batshit by the end of the first meeting. Probably something education-focused would be best for me, since it’s what I care about, but again, Colorado has done everything short of flat outlawing education that I feel helpless.

      I tell you who’d be a GREAT elected official, though, and everyone would vote for him: Denny.

    • Everyone who’s ever blogged here at S&R is unelectable. The problem is that people who have real opinions and aren’t afraid of speaking them aloud can’t be elected to anything BESIDES school board or, maybe, if you’re fantastically lucky, city council.

      I’m just as unelectable as Sam or Lex, and for similar reasons. I’m polytheistic, have written that logic disproves the existence of the Christian god, believe that many Christians (but not all) are actively evil hypocrites, I think that the government is necessary, taxes are too low to enable government to be effective (and if the Christian thing didn’t lose me the election, THAT sure as hell did), that capitalism works wonders but only when properly regulated, among a great many things. I’m also not going to say something just because it’s “good politics” and I’m not going to lie about what I believe or what I’ll do when I get into office.

      In addition, there’s not a doubt in my mind that a) I could run things better than 99% of the people who are actually running things and b) that the country needs people like me to actually step up and run things, because the country is being run into the ground right now.

      But I can’t compete in the money game, and frankly, without money NO ONE gets elected in the US anymore. I’m unwilling to sacrifice my family for a political career even if I could play the money game. And everything I listed above means that, however pragmatic I am prepared to be as an elected representative in some public office, almost no-one would work with me. And so even if I could somehow find a massive pool of money, if I could figure out some way to balance politics and my personal life, I still wouldn’t be elected because my opponent could claim, quite accurately, that I couldn’t actually accomplish anything I wanted to.

      I’m trying to recall who said this, but the gist of it is that anyone who’s made it into politics is the blandest, most useless person to actually BE in politics because the system is set up to screen out anyone who actually gives a flying fuck about anything and is prepared to admit that they, in fact, do give a flying fuck about something.

  25. You’ve read the things i write. I tone it down from what i speak to be presentable to the general public. Robin’s pet name for me is “asshole”. But who knows, in this town a socialist-libertarian with a propensity for vicious rants might be electable.

  26. Obummer’s a complete lying DEM reneger on His PROMISE for SINGLE-PAYER health care coverage when We the People provided DEM majorities in Both HOUSES and (HIS) presidency! We DID; he didn’t and served US this shingle-serving, INSTEAD!! Well, we should serve DEM a big helping of SINGLE TERMination in 2010 AND 2012!!! Take No INCUMBENTS.

  27. Mike – Amen on your comments on the Congress. I’d call them whores – but that would be an insult to whores….

    Sam – a minor correction – it was a much greater mind, Groucho Marx, who responded with that famous quote about not joining any club that would have someone like him as a member in response to a protests against a Beverly Hills CC that wouldn’t admit – Jews (including Groucho and his brothers)…when another CC offered Groucho admission, he uttered those famous words…and that’s the rest of the story….

    A buddy of mine who served as a Green Beret in Vietnam responded this way when I asked him if he’d be voting for Nixon or McGovern in 1972 – “Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em all….” He went to his grave feeling that way. I swore I didn’t want to go to mine feeling like that….

    And I don’t go a day anymore without remembering that wonderful quote from GB Shaw: “The more I see of men, the better I like dogs….”

    And Jeff, it’s not about being conned – it’s about trying to make America work – and feeling frustrated that one’s best efforts at good, responsible citizenship are seen inside the Beltway as gullibility and stupidity. I understand why it’s made Lex, Sam, et al, as skeptical, even cynical, as they are.

    I hear America singing – and it is not a pretty song….

  28. Does it matter at all that health care has finally become an issue pressing enough for the majority of average people to expend at least a tiny bit of energy to think about? Talk about? Consider acting upon? That the shift from muttering to shouting happened – was allowed to happen – now and not before? Is something imperfect and fragile and ugly in many ways really so much worse than nothing?

    That’s not rhetorical. I’d really like to know what you think.

  29. And one more thing – I would rather err on the side of cautious optimism, I would rather hope and be disappointed, I would rather try and fail and learn and try again than spend my entire life so terrified of being “wrong” that my fear became my illness, became the shriveled and petty and pathetic way I dealt with the world.

  30. Is something imperfect and fragile and ugly in many ways really so much worse than nothing?

    No, but that doesn’t mean i won’t be mad as hell at the mother for giving the poor thing fetal alcohol syndrome to start life with.

  31. So much territory–so little time.

    I can appreciate the feeling of being unelectable. The closest I’ve come is working for a mayoral campaign as a full-time staffer. Local politics are SERIOUSLY ugly and any skeletons (real, imaginary, or Photoshopped) will be exhumed by private investigators and supporters of the opposition and paraded in public. I wouldn’t put my family or friends through that. And my skeletons aren’t that bad (but guilt by association or marriage can be just as damaging).

    I’m with Ann on this–I’d rather be optimistic. It’s not universal, single-payer healthcare, but we’ve got to do something. Of course, we’ll be just as tarred and feathered for this quarter-measure as we would have been for a real government takeover, so maybe we should have just gone for the big brass ring (but few people in DC have the guts for that fight).

    So here’s the real question: if we’re all fed up with the status quo in terms of inaction, wrong action, poor choices, etc. WHAT DO WE DO? Not voting is NOT an option–it’s NOT DOING.

  32. And, sorry, but a bit of a history lesson is called for here, and we’ll turn that over to Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money. Money quote:

    “The fact is, compromises with venality and/or evil are almost always necessary in the American political system; it’s virtually impossible to accomplish anything without buying off powerful interests. Getting anything like universal health coverage is going to require giving protection money to insurance interests. This is nothing to be happy about, but arguments that fail to recognize this aren’t going to be very useful.”

    And, you know, I was around during the passage of the Civil Rights Bill that Johnson got through Congress. There was a whole lot of ugliness that attached to that as well, including a whole bunch of deal-making that would be vaguely reminiscent of what’s gone on here. Just keep in mind that while this might not be as revolutionary as either the Civil Rights bill or Medicare, there are millions of people who will benefit in various and important ways from the bill that just got passed. Of course it’s not what many of us wanted–my wife is just as upset as some of the people here–but, yes, you take what you can get. Obama counted up the votes he could get, then had to figure out how to get them, and did what he had to do. Two things you should never watch being made, as the saying goes–sausage and laws.

    I’m sure that if people here have suggestions on how to get rid to the Blue Dog Democrats and people like Lieberman or Nelson, Obama would appreciate hearing them. As far as I can tell, the only way to do that is to beat them in primaries or elections.

  33. oh, and by the way, for those who are still persuaded that it “makes no difference,” here’s greenboy:

    “Regardless of how lame the Obama Administration has been, the recent and upcoming SCOTUS rulings on gun control should be a wake-up call about how wrong the Naderites were about how there is ”no difference between the Democrats and Republicans.’ Shrubya had 8 years to replace retiring liberal and moderate justices with reactionary activists. The result? Sometime this summer you are going to wake up one morning in a country where all gun control laws have been abolished.”


  34. Which will be absolutely wonderful. As long as the crooks who are caught with guns are swiftly punished with no mercy, they can dismantle the laws that get in the way of the second amendment anyways.

  35. Lex, I completely understand the anger – even more so because that makes you one of the guys who fucked a drunk without a condom, doesn’t it?

    Sorry, it was too much to resist. But I don’t admit the validity of the metaphor in the first place. Most of the effects of FAS are not, to put it a bit too simply, fixable. A bill, a law, a system can be changed. Microencephalitis cannot.

    And thank goodness Wufnik chimed in… just how does anyone over the age of twelve think change in a huge system happens? Smoothly? Elegantly? With moral certitude and choirs from on high? You’ve been shouting for years now that he’s not the Messiah. WE KNOW.

    First it’s “he’s just a man, we don’t expect miracles, he’s the best choice we’ve got left” (which is perfectly legitimate and very good to remember) and then it’s “he’s flawed, he’s not performing the Immaculate Conception of Health Care Reform, oh my sainted aunt he’s a POLITICIAN.” Yes, he is, and a very adept one, and just how much of that ineffable commodity called political capital do you think he had to spend to even get the issue up for a vote? Don’t you understand that this particular politician has now given up the only political goal left for someone who’s been elected President? Do you believe that he believes he’ll be re-elected? Show me someone, anyone, at the level of national influence who’s been willing to do that… and don’t start by looking around in the last thirty years or so.

    Finally, if anyone here has ever tried to get urgently-needed health care for a completely incapacitated and totally indigent person, and I mean someone who is DYING and has NO other resources, then go ahead. Talk to me at length about how much this sucks without offering any suggestions for improvement. Maybe I’ll listen. Probably not. I’ll probably be thinking about beating Medicare and Medicaid deadlines, navigating the overlapping and hugely overworked city, county, state and federal mishmash of harassed and exhausted caregivers, charming my way to the top of a hundred-and-fifty-person waiting list again, filing paperwork in triplicate, quadruplicate, online, in person, by mail, coordinating doctors’ reports with regulations from agencies which use completely different terms for the same already abstruse medical concepts, spending ten hours a day driving, calling, sitting, waiting and all the time knowing that I’m able to do this only because I DON’T have a full-time job, I DO have my own private health insurance, I DO have all the privileges and social advantages of an upper-middle-class existence plus being able to afford my own much-needed meds and if I didn’t, as most people don’t, the person I love would be DEAD by now… I’m sorry, what were you saying? This change isn’t perfect?

    In other words, I’ll be getting the fuck on with things.

    • I respect the perspectives here, but I notice that so far nobody has bitten off an important question I raised: to wit, Obama cut a secret backroom deal with the insurance industry before the dance began.

      Now, maybe this means it was the only way to get a deal done. Maybe it means he’s a sold-out whore. Maybe it means something in between. I’d love it if someone here, preferably someone in the camp that’s more or less arguing the Pro-Obama point in the debate, would tell me what they think it means.

  36. Slammy,

    It means a door that has been shut tight as a clam for ninety years has now been wedged open by a tiny crack. When progressives can elect more than 50% of the Democratic Caucus to the House and more than 1 and a half progressive Senators, maybe we’ll see something better. Abandoning the path because the first uncertain step does not complete the journey is an affront to the millions who have died without seeing much real progress in their entire lifetimes. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good. I think Voltaire said that.

  37. Oh hell, i have never suggested that this should have been single payer or nothing.

    And this really pisses me off about this debate. The “pro-Obama” (for lack of a better phrase) people keep saying things like it’s unrealistic to have gotten better or think how much worse it would be without what we got. And blah, blah, motherfucking blah.

    Look. NOBODY got health care out of this, they get to buy insurance…which may, or may not, actually provide the health care they need when they need it without bankrupting them. A great many of the medical expense related bankruptcies in this nation happen to people who have insurance. Let me know when our leaders deem it wise to include rate regulation in the bill mandating that we purchase insurance. See who’s getting regulated here?

    I get that the political process is messy, venal and ugly beyond comparison. I never expected perfect. What i did expect is that a Democratic president with majorities in both houses wouldn’t spend the whole run-up and debate time quashing every last good idea put forward. This isn’t Civil Rights legislation. This is corporate regulation, and once again, a corporate sector went into being “reformed” coming out smelling like roses. How’d those insurance stocks do today? 30 million mandated customers couldn’t have hurt, eh?

    The point is that Obama is either nefarious or incompetent, because he didn’t bother leveraging his power for the best bill possible. Which arms did he twist? Who did he threaten? Man, the original House bill wasn’t too shabby, but that’s not what we got.

    I’ve never thought that single-payer had an ice cube’s chance in hell of being enacted now or in the near future (and now, never). But as i’ve said more than a few times, there are proven, market based models out there that were ignored. The Swiss, the Dutch, the Koreans (and maybe more, but those are off the top of my head) all have market based systems that work…the Korean system is more mixed than simply market based, but i know first-hand that it works.

    Sure this could be improved in the future. The PATRIOT Act could be repealed too…multiple pointless wars could be ended…the banks could be regulated…the economy could be put on a realistic footing. Give me some odds that any of these things will happen under this president.

    Hopium addiction is dangerous. These people aren’t going to do the right thing without being pushed and pushed hard, but we’re not supposed to push…we’re supposed to be thankful for whatever they give us and hope that they’ll give us some more?

    And as for me getting a drunk pregnant. It wouldn’t have been a problem, but the Democrats are doing their best to make sure we can’t abort the poor thing.

  38. Why look at that…who could have ever predicted that health care stocks would lead a market rally today?

  39. (comment on Eschaton)


    let the trading in mandated-health-insurance- premiums-backed derivatives begin.”

    Once millions of uninsured start signing up, billions in taxpayer money will flood the bank accounts of the health insurers. Will they then repackage this money as derivatives, get bond-rating agencies to rate them as AAA, and sell these derivatives packages on the financial markets?

    Sound familiar?

    The only difference is that taxpayers are “bailing out” the health insurers, and the uninsured, on the front end, while in the case of sub-prime mortgage-based derivatives packages, taxpayers did the “bailing out” on the tail end.

    And while the health insurers and their investors hardly need to be “bailed out” (they’re hardly dying like Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns did during the sub-prime mortgage derivatives meltdown), the uninsured do (because 44,000 actually keep dying each year, thrown under the for-profit bus).

    But wouldn’t a robust public option have saved the lives of these people (the uninsured and their children), too, and dramatically brought down rising health costs as well? Aaaah, but this taxpayer-backed, government-run public option would have cut out the middle-men, the health insurers, and some people in Washington and on Wall Street could not allow this to happen. No “bail outs” would be allowed unless those “bail outs” passed through the hands of the health insurers first.

    In the mandate, a whole lot of money will land in the hands of the health insurers and their bankers, making it possible for a huge slush fund to arise to cover insurance premiums for the uninsured. It will sit there, paying out occasionally for medical expenses. What to do with the rest? Derivatives packages, anyone? But this time taxpayer-assured at the front end? What a neat trick. I wonder which health industry lobbyist came up with this idea, an idea that was incorporated in the final health care “reform” package, in place of any public option or universal single-payer being included? Someone who also added the IRS as the enforcement arm of the mandate?

    On the electoral front, do any Democrats in Washington realize how the Republicans will use this before the November elections? We saw an example in the Brown versus Coakley contest in Massachusetts late last year, in which Brown ran campaign commercials blasting the mandate, after it was included but long before it was signed into law…with Brown squeaking out a win. I get the feeling that the same thing is about to happen in November.

  40. who could have ever predicted that health care stocks would lead a market rally today?

    Actually, lots of analysts predicted that healthcare stocks would rally once a bill was passed. There are two reasons for this. First, passage of the bill finally removes uncertainty over what would be put into place. The thing markets hate most is uncertainty, and that’s now gone. So while health insurers and pharma companies will see more earnings here, from the 32 million potential patients coming into their world, their costs will also be going up as well. But market analysts can now make some reasonable guesses about costs and benefits. Second, pharma stocks, by the way, have been trading at historically low multiples, so about the only way they could go is up, anyway. So don’t read too much into this.

    I respect the perspectives here, but I notice that so far nobody has bitten off an important question I raised: to wit, Obama cut a secret backroom deal with the insurance industry before the dance began.

    So what? We weren’t going to get single payer with a bunch of Blue Dogs running around, and clowns like Lieberman blocking everything in sight. Sausages and laws, as I said earlier.

    We saw an example in the Brown versus Coakley contest in Massachusetts late last year, in which Brown ran campaign commercials blasting the mandate, after it was included but long before it was signed into law…with Brown squeaking out a win. I get the feeling that the same thing is about to happen in November.

    Strongly disagree. Brown won simply because everyone loathed Coakley, who ran probably the worst campaign in modern memory, and managed to insult fans of both the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins–actually, quite an achievement, if you think about it.. I know everyone reads ol lots of positive tea party spin into his win–these people will certainly be disappointed. In two years whjen Brown runs for re-relection, he will undoubtedly lose to pretty much any Democrat who actually bothers to campaign.

    The point is that Obama is either nefarious or incompetent, because he didn’t bother leveraging his power for the best bill possible. Which arms did he twist? Who did he threaten? Man, the original House bill wasn’t too shabby, but that’s not what we got.

    You know, I don’t disagree here. I think we could have gotten a better bill too. Maybe. But I don’t know what that would have cost in terms of re-election prospects, individual deal-making, and other aspects of the political calculus of this. I have numberous disappointments with Obama–appointing Summers and Geithner in particular, but also the squiishy Justice Department rulings on John Yoo etc, the shafting of Howard Dean, the fact that Guantanamo hasn’t been closed, and a whole raft of other things, incuding the potential prospect of a never-ending war in Afghanistan.. So that’s a pretty good list of reasons to not trust the guy. I don’t dispute that. I voted for Edwards, who had a much better healthcare platform than either Obama or Hilary, and look what heppened with him. Talk about self-immolation. So what do I know?

    But here’s where I come from. I didn’t vote in the 1968 presidential elections, mainly because I, like many others, was indignant over the Chicago convention, how Humphrey’s nomination was pushed through and McCarthy got screwed, the behavior of the Chicago police (yes, it was, in fact, a police riot) and the rest of it. I was outraged, and I fully bought into the “no difference” meme then. It’s not new, you know. And there were enough people like me to make a difference in the election.

    So what we got instead was Richard Nixon, the Southern Strategy and the Republican re-alignment in the South, the the transformation of the Republican party from conservatism to corporatism, and everything that led to Ronald Reagan and the dismantling of the Americn dream, the results of which we are still witnessing in the wreckage of our cities, the increasing economic polarization of our population, and the increeasingly virulent racism of a major American political party. And Bush, with his legions of appointments of people whose sole purpose was to dismantle goverment while making themselves rich at the same time. Oh, and being Christians.

    So I take the long view here. Do I want Obama and his people to be better? Of course. But will I take a disappointing Obama over any Republican? Absolutely. I mean, just look at them–Mitt Romney? Tim Pawlenty? Mike Pence? Eric Cantor? Palin? You’ve got a combined IQ of about 100 here, and any of them could become president. But the only way we’re going to make Obama and the Democratic leadership better and more responsive is to make our representatives better. Which means remaining actively involved, not withdrawing. I firmly believe that. Which is why I have voted in every election since 1968, even those where I figured it probably didn’t affect the outcome. It’s what you do.

  41. sorry about the typos–editor still not working properly. And not deleting either–I tried to delete one of the above comments, and it didn’t take.

  42. It’s late here and I don’t agree with this health care reform. Just a short note:

    Never underestimate the power of the people in government to screw the people. That’s why libertarians say we should limit the power of government.

    By the way, if an insurance company is run right and use the premiums like they’re supposed to, they don’t need the government to “force people to buy their insurance”. They don’t have to drop people or deny them coverage and they still make profits by providing real health insurance.

    If you don’t recognize what this health care bill is, it’s called a CARTEL. Not a cartel that provides valuable products that people want but one that scams money out of the hands of consumers enforced by government.

    Another example of a cartel is the Federal Reserve System with it’s head corporations J.P. Morgan/Chase and the other criminal gang.

  43. Sorry if I’m repetitious but I didn’t read all of the comments above.

    He had to start somewhere in reforming healthcare. There was a tremendous backlash with even the mention of a public option. Do you think it would’ve been possible in one fell swoop to completely shutter the current system. I read articles like this and wonder what reality the author is living in at times. This is the beginning minute of a 12 round fight and you sound as though you want to throw in the towel already because of a bumpy start. What are your options, name a candidate that would be popular enough to be voted into office that reflects your platform (doesn’t sound like you’d support Kucinich either). Just relax it’ll be up to all of us and our kids to make this the system it should be. Sounds as though you might have overdone it with the koolaid during the campaign and you got stuck with a nasty lingering hangover. You thought you were electing Super Man and all you got was a kick-ass President… sorry…

  44. Mmm, Kool aid. Sounds like F-Bomb has been drinking it heavily. There was no “huge backlash” against the public option (as hazy and undefined as that was). Polls consistently showed a surprising amount of support for it, especially considering that the the WH spent all its time pooh-poohing the idea.

    “Progressives” now stand behind the notion that the best we can do is to privatize the profits and socialize the losses. That’s where this bill falls short. If it included strict regulation (and enforcement of that regulation) of the insurance industry it would be the good start that all the president’s men (and women) proclaim it to be.

    “Kick ass President”…as the Kool-Aid man would say, “Oh Yeah!” No, sorry, by the time the general election rolled around i was just voting against Sarah Palin…and not even against John McCain.