The most recent issue of Vice Magazine features an interview with David Simon, who unpacks at length on the television show he's best known for creating, The Wire. Along the way, Simon -- almost as an aside -- hits the recent reform debates in Congress with a blast of truth:
Why does reform seem so impossible?
We live in an oligarchy. The mother's milk of American politics is money, and the reason they can't reform financing, the reason that we can't have public funding of elections rather than private donations, the reason that K Street is K Street in Washington, is to make sure that no popular sentiment survives. You're witnessing it now with health care, with the marginalization of any effort to rationally incorporate all Americans under a national banner that says, "We're in this together."
But then the critics of a system like that immediately cry socialism.
And of course it's socialism. These ignorant motherfuckers. What do they think group insurance is, other than socialism? Just the idea of buying group insurance! If socialism is a taint that you cannot abide by, then, goddamn it, you shouldn't be in any group insurance policy. You should just go out and pay the fucking doctors because when you get 100,000 people together as part of anything, from a union to the AARP, and you say, "Because we have this group actuarially, more of us are going to be healthier than not and therefore we'll be able to carry forward the idea of group insurance and everybody will have an affordable plan..." That's fuckin' socialism. That's nothing but socialism.
It is, literally.
So the whole idea of group insurance, which of course everyone believes in, like that fellow on YouTube, "Don't let the government take away my Medicare..." You look at that and you think there's only one thing that can make people this stupid, and that's money. When you pay people to change their votes on the basis of money, the wrong shit gets voted for. That's American democracy at this point. And you get to the Senate and you're looking at 100 votes, which don't represent anything in terms of popular representation. When 40 percent of the population controls 60 percent of the votes in the higher house of a bicameral legislature, it's an oligarchy.
Simon goes on to comment on Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), saying, "Let me understand this: One guy from a small state in New England is going to decide on a singular basis what's good for the health care of 300 million people? That's our form of government, and I don't get it."
It seems a simple enough story to tell: health care reform is shaping up to be what it is because the health care industry is spending a surreal amount of money to influence votes. But you can watch television news for weeks without hearing about lobbyists or influence peddling, and most of the newspaper articles I read on the matter treat "K Street" as some sort of fascinating and frothy anthropological segment of "Beltway culture," rather than the thing the primarily drives legislative decisions.
The press will tell you that lawmakers like Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus and Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu are obstacles to health care because their votes are centrist ones. This is wrong. They are obstacles to health care because their votes have been bought. If supporters of the "public option" could unite as an industry and provide these lawmakers with the money to get re-elected, the public option would become "centrist" so fast that you'd have a goddamned stroke.