Even worse than Joe Lieberman's threat to veto the health care bill, the Connecticut senator's ego may well have distracted Americans from the real issue in the debate over the public option: Will Americans actually be able to choose it or will it just be a health care ghetto for those of us who have been tossed out like unprofitable trash by the insurance industry?
Speaking on The Rachel Maddow Show less than twenty-four hours before Lieberman announced that he would join a Republican filibuster against a public option, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said the following about Harry Reid's proposal :
The public option will be a great tool, if people can get it. It seems to me that Harry Reid deserves a lot of credit tonight. He`s made it clear there ought to be options. But I continue to be concerned that the way this proposal is written, more than 90 percent of Americans, seven years after the bill becomes law, won't be able to hold insurance companies accountable. They won`t be able to get the public option at the exchange, the marketplace, nor will they get additional private choices. You can`t get an accountable insurance industry with just a small fraction of the population. You`ve got to have the whole customer base of the industry on the line...If folks at the grassroots level, the folks who are carrying those signs about the public option now, say, "Look, it`s not good enough that only 10 percent of the population can hold insurance companies accountable, it`s not good enough at a crucial time in American history to have choice available only to a handful of people who are poor and sick and unemployed," that`s almost like a health care ghetto." Let`s hold insurance companies accountable the right way by making them put their whole customer base on the line.(Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), The Rachel Maddow Show, Oct 26, 2009)
Wyden's point was clear and straight forward: the public option will fail to bring down the costs of health care if it is designed such that it cannot possibly compete with the massive customer base forced to stay with private insurance. "We`ve got to make sure that it`s possible for Americans," Wyden emphasized, "who feel their insurance company is abusing them, to have choices like members of Congress."
Wyden offered praise to Harry Reid for bringing the public option to the floor, but a warning that the current state of the public option in the Senate bill does not match the rhetoric about "competition" and "choice" used by the Democratic Party to explain the public option to American voters. The solution? Americans need to demand that their senators add amendments to the current bill that make the public option available for everyone to choose.
Enter Joe Lieberman.
The minute Joe Lieberman threatened to veto a "government run" public option -- which is itself a complete fabrication as to what the public option would be -- Wyden's key point that Reid's version of the public option would create a health care ghetto was trampled over by a media hypnotized like a crazed throng of Conrad Birdie fans.
Honestly. Nora the piano playing cat could figure out what Lieberman is doing, ignore it, and focus back on the real issue at stake in the debate over the public option. What is Lieberman doing?
Lieberman is inserting himself into the debate not because he gives one iota about health care or the public option or what the voters of Connecticut want (68% want a public option), but in order to get for himself -- to get for Joe Lieberman.
Over the course of his career, Joe Lieberman has taken $2,395,369 in donations from the health sector and $1,033,402 in donations from the insurance industry (link). So, he is threatening to veto a public option in order to guarantee those taps stay open and the cash keeps flowing. Joe will filibustering health care reform so that Joe can keep getting for Joe. It is exactly what one should expect from a man who is the founding and only member of a party that bears his own name: self-aggrandizement.
If you are like me, however, and you care little about Joe Lieberman, but a great deal about making a public option available for all Americans to choose, then you should consider taking five minutes to watch this clip of Wyden explaining what we should be talking about instead of focusing our attention on a narcissistic Nutmegger:
(Thanks to Firedoglake for recording the clip and posting it to YouTube)
After you watch that video, send the link to your friends on Facebook and Twitter so they can watch it, too.
What is at stake in the next phase of the health care debate is not whether a self-centered senator is able to hold the Senate hostage so that he can get rewarded by his health insurance industry donors -- but whether or not the public option will be available to everyone ever abused by that industry or merely cordoned off as an undesirable, built-to-fail, health care ghetto.
Leave Lieberman to Lieberman. Let's talk about what matters for a change -- particularly when it matters so much to so many.
Follow Jeffrey Feldman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JeffreyFeldman