Monday, August 24, 2009

Obama Piddles Away the Public's Options

Wed, 08/19/2009
“It's all over but the funeral.” In abandoning the “public option,” President Obama has relinquished all claim as champion of health care reform, the content of which he first diluted and ultimately bargained away entirely. The forces of reaction, which were disorganized and on the defensive when Obama entered office, have been vastly strengthened by the president's “duplicitous backroom deals and back-stabbing of his most loyal supporters.”
Obama Piddles Away the Public's Options
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Obama seems to believe he can salvage a bill – any bill – and scribble the word “reform” on it.”

It became crystal clear that the insurance companies had prevailed in President Obama's health care fiasco the moment the White House coined the term “public option.” Plainly, a public alternative to private health insurance was always merely an option – just another bargaining chip in Obama's private and oh-so-friendly negotiations with the rich and ruthless. Now it's all over but the funeral.

The death of Obama's health care project was both ignominious and foreordained. This is what comes from duplicitous backroom deals and back-stabbing of one's most loyal supporters. What remains of the legislative mish-mash birthed by Obama and his congressional co-conspirators, are corporate bills. That's why the drug barons are spending $150 million to advertise for Obama's fraudulent brand of health care reform. And, although the insurance industry continues to publicly oppose the hollow shell that Obama's project has become, at this stage in the game they win whichever way the wind blows. If Obama's hot air balloon fully deflates, the health insurance companies will continue to enjoy the status quo they have so carefully engineered over the years. But if a bill emerges with provisions that force everyone to buy private insurance, the health care racketeers will add millions of new, subsidized customers.

“Obama gave everything away before the negotiations even began.”

Obama signaled that he is willing to engage in further compromise with his corporate friends, the guys whose company and confidence he so highly prized at White House health care forums, venues where single-payer advocates were not welcome. The problem is, Obama gave everything away before the negotiations even began. Now he has nothing left to trade, and not enough forces to rearrange the battlefield, having demobilized and dismissed the Left in favor of corporate Democrats like himself.

Still, Obama seems to believe he can salvage a bill – any bill – and scribble the word “reform” on it.

He has been reduced to the politics of semantics. He invites his election day supporters to leap into the river with him as he grasps at “slivers” and straws and calls them “reform.” Obama will describe passage of any legislation with the word reform attached to it, a victory. But his paper victory will represent a lasting defeat for real health care reform, which will have been discredited in the eyes of the public – for how long, no one can say.

But the damage is even more horrific. Obama has succeeded in wounding Medicare – and Medicaid and veterans health care and Social Security – more grievously than the Republicans could have dreamed of on their own. He entered office spreading hysteria about the cost of Medicare and other so-called “entitlements.” Now his little boat is sinking, but the Republicans have been reinforced in their age-old battle to privatize what's left of the public sphere. In the short space of 7 months, Obama has piddled and bargained away huge regions of the public's “options.”

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

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