Friday, September 11, 2009

BlackCommentator: Healthcare Reform Is America's Anti-Theft Device

Once again we are witnessing, firsthand, the conflicting American impulses of expanding rights to the people on the one hand, and robbing them blind on the other. America fell because of greed, the bottom line, and the eternal quest for profits above all else. We are witnessing the greatest upward redistribution of wealth in American history, with the greatest gap between rich and poor since the Great Depression. Official unemployment flirts with the 10% mark. Meanwhile, the real unemployment rate, which includes those who stopped looking for jobs, and the underemployed who are forced to settle for part-time work, is close to 17%. Wages and benefits are decreasing. More than 35 million people are on food stamps, and 40% of recipients are working families. More than 1 million schoolchildren in the land of plenty are homeless. And even the most creditworthy borrowers are falling behind on their credit card and mortgage payments.

A primary reason for this economic suffering is that corporations, particularly health insurance companies, are stealing our money. They have more of it because we have less. Unregulated and emboldened, they became far too powerful, just like the 1920s. Insurance companies are enjoying record profits because of ever-increasing premiums, and families are going bankrupt because they cannot afford to get sick.

If healthcare reform is to succeed, its proponents must reframe the issue as one of nationwide criminality. The current health insurance system is a recurring act of national theft. These corporations are feeding off America like vultures, robbing from common people and crippling us in our ability to live our lives with happiness, security and dignity. Reform of the system, with a public option, is like an anti-theft device for the country, pure and simple.

And this time, we cannot blame the sideshow that is the Republican Party. We know about their agitation at the town hall meetings. Plus, they’re greedy and care little about the needs of everyday people, or using government as a tool for positive social change. But most of all, the GOP is not in power. The Democrats control the White House, a huge majority in the House of Representatives, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The Democrats’ problem is that they do not have the will. As a corporatist party like the Republicans, they depend on the sponsorship and patronage of those financial interests that are causing our collective suffering. The will of the people be damned. If Obama refuses to change this reality in the party which he leads, then he is just another politician who, as Hillary Clinton once said, gives good speeches.

And yet, it was predictable that this day would come at some point, that the base would have to hold the President’s feet to the fire, and show that they are for real. Perhaps he is begging the base to provide the cover he needs to "make me do it", as F.D.R. once said.

One thing is for sure: If the Democratic base does not force the Democrats to pass real deal health reform as they promised, then the Democrats will be finished. And maybe that is the price we must pay for progressive ideals to survive.

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