It's truly depressing to watch how quickly so-called progressive leaders in Congress, and many of their supporters in the so-called progressive movement, are abandoning all of their key promises on health care reform in the name of a health care bill that will provide massive government subsidies to private insurance and drug companies and fine citizens who can't afford to buy crappy private insurance policies, without any effective competition from a robust public option.
As I wrote a few days ago, 60 members of the House Progressive Caucus signed a letter to Speaker Pelosi last July promising to vote against any health care "reform" bill without a "robust" public option which paid Medicare rates plus 5%.* Now they're breaking that promise. Progressive leaders like Rep. Anthony Weiner are now calling the neutered public option in the House bill a "once in a lifetime reform," despite the fact that it has eliminated the very provision that the Progressive Caucus promised was essential in order to get its vote.
Even worse, Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic House leadership has stripped the House bill of a provision -- passed by a bipartisan 27-19 vote in The House Education and Labor Committee -- which would allow individual states to experiment with state-level single payer systems without being sued by the private insurance industry. If, as I believe likely if it the Democratic health care bill becomes law, the bill fails to provide affordable health care to all Americans and instead mandates that they buy junk private insurance at unaffordable rates or be fined, this provision would allow states to experiment with other systems, just as Saskatchewan's success with provincial single payer eventually pursuaded the national Canadian government to adopt national health insurance. Pelosi's "justification" for dropping the provision and not allowing it to come to a vote in the House: It would somehow break President Obama's promise that people can keep the insurance they have if they like it.
What a crock of bullshit to justify a further cave-in by Democrats to the private insurance industry.
Nowhere during the campaign did Obama make a promise that he wouldn't let states experiment with their own single payer systems, if they so chose. In fact, Candidate Obama repeatedly said that if he were starting from scratch, single payer would be the best way to go.
But President Obama has broken numerous other campaign promises made by Candidate Obama on health care reform:
1. Candidate Obama promised to end backroom deals with "stakeholders" like insurance companies, drug companies and hospitals and instead broadcast all health care reform negotiations on CSPAN. Instead, President Obama has negotiated backroom sweatheart deals with insurance companies, drug companies and for-profit hospitals in exchange for campaign cash.
2. Candidate Obama vigorously campaigned against Hillary Clinton's proposals to mandate that uninsured individuals and families must buy health insurance or be fined by the federal government. Instead, the heart of President Obama's and the Democratic Congress's plan for covering the uninsured is now individual mandates under the threat of IRS penalties.
3. Candidate Obama promised to end the ban on Medicare negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Instead, President Obama made a deal with big Pharma to extend the ban.
4. Candidate Obama promised to allow the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada. Instead, President Obama made a deal with big Pharma to continue to ban such importation.
5. Candidate Obama promised a robust public option that would give consumers a real alternative to private insurance and would put competitive pressure on private insurance companies to moderate their premiums. Instead, President Obama is supporting meaningless triggers for a public option, while the House and Senate are proposing neutered public options that would cover almost nobody, would cost more than private insurance, and would have virtually no impact on lowering private insurance rates.
6. Candidate Obama opposed John McCain's proposals to tax employer-provided health care plans. Instead, President Obama has offered no objections to the Senate's plans to tax the health care plans of many union workers, and some form of this tax plan is likely to end up in the final bill President Obama signs.
So Speaker Pelosi, spare us the insult to our intelligence by your claiming that you can't allow a vote on the state single-payer amendment because it would break President Obama's campaign promises. The only promises it would break are those made by President Obama -- and now apparently Speaker Pelosi -- to the insurance industry.
If Democratic politicians want to know why their base -- who voted for President Obama and a Democratic Congressional majority in 2008 -- are demoralized and not voting in large numbers, they should look no farther than these kinds of betrayals. The only thing that can revive the bankrupt Republican Party is for the Democrats to continue to act like the party of the insurance companies, drug companies, and Wall Street investment bankers.
*P.S.--Following are the names of the 60 members of the House Progressive Caucus who signed a letter to Speaker Pelosi on July 30, 2009 stating that
"Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates -- not negotiated rates -- is unacceptable. It would ensure higher costs for the public plan, and would do nothing to achieve the goal of 'keeping insurance companies honest' and their rates down...We simply cannot vote for such a proposal [emphasis added]."When the House votes in the next few days on a bill with a neutered public option that's not based on Medicare rates, watch carefully to see how many of these "Progressive" Democrats break the promise they made in this letter.
Lynn Woolsey, Raul Grijalva, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Jerry Nadler, Phil Hare, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Keith Ellison, Earl Blumenauer, Mel Watts, Donna Edwards, John Olver, Dennis Kucinich, Laura Richardson, Maxine Waters, John Conyers, Judy Chu, Maurice Hinchey, Hank Johnson, Diane Watson, Jackie Spier, Bill Pascrell, Lloyd Doggett, Marcy Kaptur, Mazie Hirono, Bob Filner, Linda Sanchez, Marcia Fudge, Barbara Lee, Andre Carson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Michael Honda, Jim McDermott, William Lacy Clay, Jim McGovern, Yvetter Clarke , Eric Massa, Chellie Pingree , Jesse Jackson, Jr., Elijah Cummings, Bennie Thompson, Gwen Moore, Donald Payne, Fortney "Pete" Stark, Ed Towns,Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings, Nydia Valezquez, Luis Gutierrez, Grace Napolitano, Albio Sires, John Tierney, Mike Capuano, Chaka Fattah, Jose Serrano, SamFarr, Bill Delahunt, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Gregorio Sablan, Robert Wexler Emanuel Cleaver
The "Progressive Democrats" who break their promise deserve a place on a wall of shame. And put Speaker Pelosi's name at the top of the wall of shame.