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Why the Republicans Want to Kill Health Care Reform

July 25th, 2009

Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly, as always, has a good handle on the issue. The essence: if the bill passes, then as many as 100,000 people per congressional district who now are not covered would get coverage–and if Obama and the Democrats get credit, there will be a lot of grateful people out there.

This puts the Republicans in a risky position: if they defeat the bill, then they gain a victory similar to the one they realized in 1993. But if the bill passes, then not only do Obama and the Dems get credit, but there is the added dimension that the Republicans tried their hardest to kill it–and worse, they were too weak to stop it despite putting their full weight into it.

So the Republicans have a lot on the line, but in the end, the sad thing is that they have pitted themselves against the best interests of the American people. Not a great position to be in, but in some respects, seeing as how for them the greatest issue is power, they didn’t have too much of a choice. Their only hope to avoid disaster here is to sell the American people on the idea that Obama’s health care reform bill is dangerous–which, of course, is their current message. That sales pitch will get harder to make if the bill passes and millions of Americans find they are fully covered where they were not before, and millions of others find themselves with more choices and, if it works, lower costs overall.

The state of health care in the U.S. is so abysmal that it would be hard to believe that almost any well-intentioned plan, even a bad one, would not look good in comparison. The hitch: Republicans have shown that they are fully willing to label any Democratic success a “disaster” and work 24/7 to sabotage it. Note how they have been straining like mad to block stimulus money from getting through.

So Republicans, in addition to fighting Obama’s plan, may also have to work to destroy any chance of it working if it passes. And they’re good at that–destroying effective government agencies and then saying, “See?! Government can’t do anything right!”

Fortunately for them, they have a powerful media machine in place to sell the fictions that serve them–at least 30% of the nation will drink the Kool-aid regardless, and those people will make lots of noise, just like the Birthers now do.

The GOP is no longer just the “Party of No”; they are now the Party of “Destroy America First in Order to Save Our Political Asses.” Sad, sad; you can grant them with being strong-willed and unafraid to fight, but you cannot grant them any measure of love of country. Love of party, absolutely; but their definition of country is their party and nothing else; their definition of patriotism is to gut the country if anyone else is in charge.

  1. Tim Kane
    July 25th, 2009 at 03:13 | #1

    Actually I think the case if much understated here.

    The Republicans are always in the position of not wanting to help the country, just to help a few very rich and/or powerful to become more so.

    Back around December 2004, January 2005, right after Bush won re-election and announced that he was using his new found political to destroy social security, through the half measure of privatization – an idea that looks absurd now, Krugman pointed out (citing the thoughts and words of Bill Krystal) that the goal of movement Republicans was to destroy social security because that was the bedrock of the New Deal and the philosophies behind the new deal, as a ruling instrument.

    Without New Deal legislation, and it’s desendents, there is no middle class in the United States of any size.

    On the other hand Krugman has also pointed out, what Krystal pointed out back in 1993 when Clinton tried to implement his own healthcare platform, that if government run healthcare insurance passes then FDR has won, once and for all, and liberals will have proven that Government can be relied upon to perform a host of services.

    Miracle of miracles, social security survived. If Bush had succeeded, even a little, America would be sliding into an abyss even faster than it is now.

    The U.S. then is thus, stuck in a middle ground – where we have social security and some successful government programs, but no rational health insurance system. As long as it is between those two points then the battle is in full furry.

    Just as Bush tried to implement a half measure that would ultimately lead to the collapse of social security and the victory for the conservatives, now Obama is attempting to implement a half measure “public option” that all the combatants know will ultimately lead to the victory of universal single payer, non-profit public based health care.

    I find the whole thing a bit absurd. One half of all money spent on health care is spent by the government, and the U.S. spends double what all other nations spend, so if we had Canada’s or Englands, or France
    ‘s system, we would have universal coverage and government expenditure might actually go down. The fact is, the government could flip a switch to France’s system, and cut a tax rebate. Which is why I think Obama should have been arguing for “private option” instead of “public option” because the real savings comes with a tight and tidy universal system – which I think is much easier to argue: you like your private health care, keep it – but it will be redundant, in the mean time the government can save money and the resulting efficiencies will end the depression – I think that’s a better argument. But, like every other liberal, I’m willing to settle for Obama’s half measure as a down payment towards a full measure later on.

    All of this, however is circumscribed by the fact that wealth and power have already become way too concentrate – and may be unbreakable and unbeatable.

    I personally think that Clinton had an easier battle. Wealth wasn’t as concentrated, and he didn’t have to contend with a wall of conservative media – Fox news was still not invented yet. On the other hand, the failure of the conservative model has left the conservatives bereft of any ideas, and so they can only argue “no”. It doesn’t matter – they have such a hold on the media that Obama is losing the argument.

    The press conference he had the other day clearly showed to me that he was off his game – he was talking fast and I detected he wasn’t his normal self. Frankly I have never seen him like this. He’s never really been caught in a purely tactical situation where he didn’t have the help of strategic thinking to pull him out – and this is not the best terrain for him to be fighting in. Then he jumped the shark by talking about the arrest of the Harvard professor.

    I think Obama is losing this – and doing so big time. I thought the strategy on this was all thought out and in place, requiring only marginal finesse, now it looks like he’s strategically in a bad place and perhaps doesn’t have the finesse to pull this off. However, every battle has to and throes, and I’m seeing it through the eyes of an uninformed obvserve – I have little idea of what’s going on behind the scenes.

    What I’m hoping for, that if he has to concede this battle, that he will be able to sign an executive order allowing medicare to sell policies at cost to the public on an as is, ad hoc basis, and that the Republicans will be too hung over from celebrating their victory to get in the way of this. This will have about the same effect as “public option”. Individuals will purchase it, then perhaps some unions, and then perhaps some companies will push their employees into purchasing it, and perhaps we’ll get some legislation allowing private (and public – like states, municipalities, school districts and the like) to pay half the cost and employees to pay the other half. That would take us to just about what South Korea has – which I think amounts to about $75 a month).

    As a concession, the Government could allow ‘private health insurance’ companies to be “the banks” where the revenue is stored – allowing them to make some profit while having only a passive role. You send your money to the insurance company which deposits it in a sort of bank account held in medicare’s name thatonly Medicare cab withdraw from to pay out for services at it’s own will. My understanding is that’s about how Korea’s system works. (I could be wrong, this is my deduction).

    This battle is huge. If Republicans win, it may be all over except for the crying, wailing, screetching and the lamenting of whatever happened to America and the American dream. Because of the collapse of the economy and concentrated wealth (the latter causing the former) the existence of a middle class in the United States is now, unquestionably, in doubt, and very likely might not survive, and with it, the nation. Meaning George Bush achieved everything he wanted without destroying Social Security – instead the general bankrupting of America’s once vaulted middle class will have bankrupted social security (where as he was attempting the reverse).

    Health care reform is one of the few things that is big enough that it could reverse, or at least hault, America’s slide into a banana republic. Card check would be another step in the right direction. Other things needed would be massive reform to corporate governance, and walls street, the imposition of a new fairness doctrine, and constitutional amendments that eliminate the ability of lobbyist to buy public officials.

    (My choice would be constitutional amendments that allow campaign spending caps and contributions caps, a popular sovereignty amendment that explicitly stated that sovereignty resides in the people manifested in the vote and any act or attempt to ‘buy’ a public officials through aid, comfort or enemy and any act to receive such are both acts of treason against the nation’s sovereigns and subject to the most draconian penalties, including death – manifestation of intent (not act and intent) is all that would be required to be found guilty. Lobbyist would be confined to providing only information to senators and congressmen and public officials – no money, no aid, not comfort, right down to no free lunches.)

    The Republicans, then, don’t want to, nor have they ever, in the last 90 years, wanted what was best for the U.S. – only the best for the rich and powerful. This has allowed for a whole range of dissenting groups to latch onto their constituency. Southerns, emotionally, feel their nation lost the civil war. Deep down inside, they don’t mind wrecking the federal union that wrecked their confederal one and forced civil rights down their throat. Religious wingnuts want to destroy the separation of church and state and civil liberaties that allow people to have sex whenever they want it. The wealthy want to destroy the New Deal.

    All of these things are the same and mean the destruction of the American state as we know. In our life times we will see the withdrawal of American forces from Korea, Japan, the Middle East, and Western Europe because the collapsing economy won’t afford it, and rich people won’t want to fund the taxes necessary to maintain such commitments. This is exactly the same thing that happened to Rome. Around 350 a.d. the abandoned Britain to save money and deploy resources else where. In 450 a.d. Rome was no more. It’s eastern vestiges hung on for another 1000 year’s but only for 600 of those with much vigor. Likewise, the vestiges of pax Americana might hang on in Europe, Australia and islands in east Asia, but eventually a new order will drowned most of these islands. All of this collapse could have been avoided, perhaps, if (1) Gerald Ford had beaten Jimmy Carter or (2) Jimmy Carter had beaten Ronald Reagan or (3) Al Gore had beaten George Bush (I think John Kerry would have been too little too late because in 4 years Bush had concentrated wealth to the point where it was already at critical mass).

    Thus what is going on now is quite big and important drama. At least in my eyes. God’s speed to Obama – or some such thing.

  2. Ken
    July 25th, 2009 at 09:49 | #2

    while I agree with your argument that Rep are digging in their heels on this issue just to weaken Obama, I still cannot support the proposed Health Care reform bill as it stands. If you watch ‘Sicko’, the biggest problem with our health care system is the insurance agencies abusing their power to maximize profits–not partisan politics.
    As long as health insurance exists in the American medical system, I cannot see any significant changes happening. We need to look at the Canadian/British and other health care models to fix the present system.
    So far, I do not see anyone on either Dem or Rep side addressing this issue. Maybe they’re too afraid of saying “no” to insurance companies? On second thought, eliminating insurance companies would also have a staggering effect on the unemployment figures, thus weaking the economy further.

  3. Luis
    July 25th, 2009 at 11:20 | #3

    Ken: I agree fully that health should not be held hostage to corporations, which, when regarded as the human entities they are legally supposed to be, are sociopaths. The problem is, there is enough opposition in the US to just the “public option,” any attempt to go straight into pure socialized medicine would sadly not survive. So, for the time being, we should be satisfied with more government regulation and control over the limits of what private industry can do, along with the public option that would hopefully keep the private industry competitive enough not to be as much of a problem as they currently are. With luck, either the public option will work well enough to become the no. 1 insurance plan, or the public will be impressed enough with the government-run plan that they will be more willing to go for the completely socialized route in the future–another reason why conservatives are running scared on this.

    One thing which is for certain: Republicans should not be allowed within ten miles of the planning or execution of the public option, as they have made it very clear that they will do everything to sabotage it. Something else I worry about is that the lobbyists and the Republicans will somehow jimmy the system so as to dump the most expensive cases on the public option plans while keeping the most lucrative customers in private insurance, and then point to the expenses of the public system as a reason to scrap it–kind of like what they’re trying to do with the public education system.

  4. Ken
    July 25th, 2009 at 15:29 | #4

    Yeah, this may be our best shot at catching up with the rest of the world. The word “socialized” has many Americans afraid of the unknown. I personally believe we can keep the same quality of medical care for lower prices if [and only if] we can make insurance companies obsolete. Most medical practitioners support this view.

    The reality of “socialized” medicine, as can be seen in most other countries, is a system that provides 1)better care, 2)at cheaper costs and 3)with 100% of the population covered. Yet, those on the Right keep painting the picture of it as an out-dated communistic plot to compromise our health care quality. They go out of their way to find something wrong with it, just to keep those fat insurance-lobbyist contributions coming. Even Hilary is said to have collected such contributions…

    People who live in that mindset need to get out and have a look at what is going on outside of the US. It is our own problem which we have created. It is up to us to take a hard look at wealthy power-abusive insurance companies and tell them to take a hike. Someone has to tell them “We don’t need your campaign support, we need a realistic healthcare system.” If there were any politicians out there with a balls to say that, we might be able to move forward.

    In the meantime, there is Obama’s plan…

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