January 06, 2010
To the Rescue!

With the Democrats’ health-care-industry bill nearing passage, the President has finally begun to make use of his extensive leadership skills.

The more active role is a change for the White House, which for months gave wide latitude to Congress as it shaped a bill.

A Senate aid who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the closed-door meetings said that the White House has signaled it will “convene and run” meetings from now on as lawmakers strive to reach a consensus, reflecting a “significant uptick” in the Obama administration’s involvement.

The Democratic leadership welcomes a more hands-on White House, as Obama’s imprimatur could provide political cover to members casting a tough vote in an election year.

It’s initially counterintuitive that a bill to reform the world’s 37th-best health-care system in the world’s richest country would be a tough vote. After all, when the Democrats were still using the bait-and-switch tactic with the public option, something like two-thirds of those polled were on board. As that got watered down to a Medicare buy-in, cleverly pitting the 20- and 30-somethings against the 50s and 60s crowd, support naturally dropped, but was still above 50% until it became clear that the Democrats would once again cave to the super-rich and the corporations that front for them.

But Obama, being The One, now appears at the critical moment. Will he follow through on any of his campaign promises, such as a public option, not increasing taxes on the middle class to benefit the wealthy, and so on?

President Obama told top Democratic House members on Wednesday that he favored a tax on insurance companies offering more-expensive healthcare plans as a means of extending insurance to millions of people who are not covered, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

The so-called “Cadillac tax” is a feature of a healthcare bill that cleared the Senate before the Christmas holiday. But the House has chosen another financing method — a tax hike on the wealthy.

Powerful labor unions at the core of the Democratic base are opposed to the Cadillac tax, saying that in some cases union members gave up wage increases in return for richer healthcare benefits.

Obama’s preference may put pressure on the House to adopt the Senate tax as part of a compromise between the two bodies. Obama made his views known at a late-afternoon meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- San Francisco) and other senior Democrats.

I admit that I voted for Obama assuming he’d be a pretty bad President, so I’m not really disappointed in his performance policy-wise. But I thought he was a better politician than this.

The Democrats gain control of the White House and both houses of Congress and use that control to make none of the changes they promised. When the biggest domestic-policy question in a generation comes along, they operate with Cheney-like secrecy, cut back-room deals with precisely those corporations at the root of the problem, ensure that such deals preclude any meaningful reform in Congress, and finally off-load the costs of the whole insurance- and drug-company giveaway onto the middle class. They really have very little chioce; after all, if they didn’t, some Republican somewhere would be angry.

Funny thing is, no Republicans will be voting for Reid or Dodd’s replacement or Dorgan’s replacement. And not that many Democrats will, either; the intensity gap has been large for quite a while. To me it looks like the Democrats will end up barely controlling the Senate given that Lieberman is really a Republican; on the bright side, a margin like 54-46 would make Lieberman dispensable. The House, with its 81-vote margin, is probably safely in Speaker Pelosi’s hands, but losses, I predict, will be heavy in 2010.

And heavier in 2012, unless the party invests a huge amount of money in PR and spin to persuade people to enjoy being forced to buy insurance now, and wait four or five years for the presumed benefits. Americans are not that dumb, they understand the Democrats have cheated them once again. They also see the Democrats chuckling behind their hands at the thought that Americans have nowhere else to go.

Which may be accurate. So we’ll just stay home then, and let the Democrats buy their votes from insurance company executives.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at January 06, 2010 10:32 PM
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And thus you end with the conundrum that faces America. We can stay home and let the corporate Republicans win or work our hearts out and hand power to the corporate Democrats. Either way we lose, we just lose a bit more when we elect corporatists whose ancillary features are a hatred of gays and women.

I think we have to face facts. Our entire political system is in the hands of corporate power and thus does not and will not ever serve the needs of the people. There is no reality-based method by which we can extricate ourselves from this morass. When you think rationally about what would be required to regain democratic control of the government, you realize that there aren't any. They have us where they want us.

Posted by: Charles D on January 8, 2010 11:00 AM

I certainly agree that our entire political system is in the hands of corporate power and thus does not serve the needs of the people. I agree that the current configuration can't serve the needs of the people, because its interests are diametrically opposed to them. And in general that corporate power is the basic opponent of democracy.

Still, I balk at the idea that there aren't any realistic ways for us to extricate ourselves from the morass I agree we're in. I've been reading William Greider's latest, Come Home, America, and will be commenting on it as soon as I finish my Psy.D. applications…

I think we not only have to re-imagine what Greider calls America the Possible, we have to let ourselves imagine that it could happen. The world is changing, as Galadriel said; power structures are crumbling, and things that were impossible five years ago will happen in five years. Obama will look like the soldier for the empire that he has always been, yet he'll be a forward-looking one. Like the Roman soldiers who adopted Christianity to assuage the guilt of domination and occupation.

More soon, back to my first academic CV.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on January 9, 2010 4:57 AM
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