If President Obama is truly serious about changing the way Washington operates, he'd begin to aggressively hector the entourage of lawmakers that I've not-so-affectionately nicknamed the "Coalition of the Corrupt and Spineless" (COCS) -- the Democratic Senators who have very obviously been bought off by the healthcare lobby, along with other almost-as-awful Democrats whose cowardice is only matched by their weakness of will.
Throw down, Mr. President.
Maybe even do one of those big Hollywood movie style presidential speeches, like the one at the end of The Contender in which President Jeff Bridges calls out that slippery douche Congressman Gary Oldman in front of a joint session:
"I am not free of blame. Right from the start, I should have come down here, pointed a finger your way -- pointed a finger your way and asked you, "Have you no decency, sir?" Yesterday, I met -- Mr. Runyon, you may walk out on me, you may walk out on this body, but you cannot walk out on the will of the American people."
There can be no denying that the COCS are flagrantly and unapologetically legislating against -- what's the word? -- overwhelming super-majority popular support for the public health insurance option. And why is that? I can't recall another example in recent memory when the collusion of lobbyists, corporate PACs and members of the United States Senate has been quite this obvious.
We can only conclude that the COCS are entirely ignoring the will of the American people because they're hiking the Appalachian Trail with the healthcare industrial complex.
What other excuse might they have? To date, not a single senator in the COCS has explained this disparity, chiefly because it's such an awkward and transparent illustration of the very worst side of Washington -- the side that President Obama pledged to help mitigate.
Nate Silver analyzed the president's polling and noted that the popularity of healthcare reform and the popularity of the president should mean that the president's healthcare approval numbers should be Herculean. Yet they're weaker than expected. This leads Silver to conclude: "That's not to suggest that Obama should throw caution to the wind and push for single payer. But he needs to begin pushing for something, and something fairly specific."
That something has to be the public option.
It's seriously the right time for the president to make the hard sell on the public option -- to knock some heads and to push it through. Hard. This means perhaps calling out healthcare lobby errand boys like Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus, or at least using some of his considerable popularity to privately smack them around a little. Threaten to pull back the curtain on their healthcare mob ties.
Meanwhile, the TriCaucus (the House Black Caucus, the House Hispanic Caucus and the Asian Pacific American Caucus) have pledged to vote against any healthcare reform bill that doesn't include a robust public option. Along with the Progressive Caucus, that makes 120 members of the House who won't vote for the bill without a public option. Without these 120 votes, there are only 131 Democratic votes left. They need 218 votes to pass the House and, if their voting record this year is any indication, you can count on zero Republican votes for anything authored by Democrats.
In other words, the president's healthcare reform agenda depends entirely upon the inclusion of an acceptable government-run option for affordable health insurance.
So why not own it? Why not make it a central front in his campaign for healthcare reform?
Plus, there's a real opportunity here to achieve more that just healthcare reform. In addition to giving us a public health insurance option, the president can do some serious damage to the healthcare lobby, as well as to the members of Congress who so brazenly suck down the lobby's collective diarrheic filth.
It's an easy case to make since the distinction couldn't be clearer. Upwards of 76 percent of Americans support the public option. Sixty-nine percent the new Quinnipiac poll. And, this week, the AMA expressed its support for the public option. Furthermore, the CBO scored the Kennedy-HELP version of the healthcare reform bill and determined that with the public option included the price tag is hundreds of billions of dollars less than previously reported.
Knowing all of this, do the COCS support the will of their voters (and now the TriCaucus, the CBO and the AMA)?
Of course not. Because they're being paid to oppose the public option. Again, there aren't any other explanations. And so calling bullshit on this corporate-congressional exercise in mutual masturbation ought to be a cakewalk.
Regarding the pitch for the public option, by the way, there's a stronger argument to be made beyond the pitch for simply insuring people like me and my friend Lee Stranahan who have lost our health insurance for whatever reason. It's about everyone else -- the other 250 million Americans who have health insurance and who, one day soon, will be screwed by their provider. The mafia never wants to pay, and it's only a matter of time, as costs skyrocket, before even those with Cadillac plans will be dropped, investigated, gouged, or denied. Think of the public option as Screwing Insurance.
As much as I'd love to hear President Obama use the phrase "Screwing Insurance," he's much more, you know, mature than I am. And that's definitely a good thing. So he can probably come up with something less offensive. But in addition to forcing the private insurance mafia to play on the level, the public option will provide a safety net for 250 million Americans who have insurance, but would prefer not to be left in the lurch when and if they're screwed out of the benefits they paid for. One of the best aspects of Michael Moore's SiCKO was how he focused mainly on people who owned health insurance policies but who were crapped out the ass end of the deal. The lesson was simple: if you have insurance -- even a policy that you like -- history and many horror stories indicate that it's only a matter of time before you are summarily screwed and left for dead.
This is probably why up to three-fourths of Americans want a public option -- far greater numbers than those who are uninsured.
If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that Americans of all parties would applaud the president if he were to call out the corrupt and spineless. The only thing we'd enjoy more, considering the corporate bilking of taxpayer cash for too many years, is the president castrating the seemingly enormous financial balls of the healthcare lobby.
Enough prevaricating. The storm is perfect. Kick some ass, Mr. President.
CORRECTION: The TriCaucus is the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. The Progressive Caucus is separate. The appropriate section is corrected above.
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