President Obama's sole historical distinction (other than killing Al Qaeda leaders) is his health care plan, which he, personally, botched, as will here be described by providing a history of how he botched his Presidency's signature "achievement."
When he campaigned for President in 2008, one of his highest-polled promises was to institute a "public option." The public option even had the support of physicians.
The New England Journal of Medicine, on 14 September 2009, headlined "Doctors on Coverage -- Physicians' Views on a New Public Insurance Option," and reported their poll of 2,130 U.S. physicians. "Overall, a majority of respondents (62.9%) supported [the availability of both] public and private options. ... Only 27.3% supported offering private options only [the existing type of options]." An additional 9.6% of respondents preferred "Public Options Only." Physicians knew how much paperwork, and how arbitrary the requirements were, that private insurance companies placed upon doctors, and how unpredictable private insurers were in deciding whether or not to pay charges.
Yet, on 16 August 2009, the AP had headlined "White House Appears Ready to Drop 'Public Option.'" The only significant means to lower medical costs in the U.S., so as to make costs competitive with what other industrialized nations pay, was essentially being abandoned by Obama, early in the "battle." On 24 August 2009, the Los Angeles Times bannered "Healthcare Insurers Get Upper Hand: Obama's Overhaul Fight Is Being Won by the Industry, Experts Say. The End Result May Be a Financial 'Bonanza'." That's because insurers would now get government to force more Americans to purchase health insurance, but insurers wouldn't have to worry about competition from a government-operated insurance plan (such as Medicare, VA, etc.) far more efficient than private insurance companies.
On August 9th, James Kwak, at baselinescenario.com, headlined "What Do the People Want?" and he looked into the poll about which the NYT had headlined on July 30th, "New Poll Finds Growing Unease on Health Plan." Kwak found that among this poll's actual findings, which weren't mentioned at all in that conservative newspaper's "news" story about it, were findings such as these percentages of actual support by the American people, at that time, for what President Obama seemed to be supporting:
• The government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans, by 55%-38%.
• The government should 'offer everyone a government administered health insurance plan,' by 66%-27%.
• Insurers should have to cover anyone regardless of medical history, by 76%-19%.
• It is true that 68% of people think that health care reform could limit their access to treatment; but 66% are concerned that without reform, they could lose coverage at some point.
• Similarly, 76% think that health care reform could increase their taxes; but 75% think that without reform, the cost of their health care will go up.
In other words, although there indeed was a "Growing Unease on Health Plan" (due to the Republican and corporate propaganda campaign about fictitious "death panels," etc., and not as this conservative newspaper was implying: because people didn't want healthcare in America to be handled more in the way it's handled in the world's other democracies), the American people nonetheless still overwhelmingly supported the public health insurance option that Senator Obama and other Democratic Presidential candidates had been putting forth during their Presidential campaigns. Not only had the NYT's report, concerning the NYT's own poll, left a misleading, indeed false, impression, by omitting these crucial findings, which presented a very different picture, but President Obama's having dropped from his health plan the public health insurance option (which he had actually virtually dropped shortly after his coming into office: he had never pressed for it to be included; it was just a campaign ploy) was, in fact, opposed - not supported - by the American public, by more than two-to-one (66% to 27%), even after all of this confusion. The public, in other words, by more than two-to-one, wanted the public option to be included. They wanted to be offered that choice within the "exchanges." All that Obama achieved by the weakness of his support for the public option was to lose political support from supporters of the public option (and that was lots of people), and to cause many of them to believe that failure of the Democrats' plan would probably be better than passage of the plan, especially since no one knew what the Democratic plan would ultimately turn out to be. Rather than yielding to the American public on this matter, Obama simply caved to the Republicans -- and to the hospital, drug, and insurance lobbies -- on that issue, at the sacrifice of considerable public support for there to be a public health insurance option.
And he caved, even though, on August 10th, clusterstock.com headlined "What Causes $1.2 Trillion Of Healthcare Waste [Each Year]?" and reported that, "A new report from consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers identifies how the $1.2 trillion in annual waste breaks down." This giant accounting firm's analysis (titled "The Price of Excess: Identifying Waste in Healthcare Spending") showed that "up to $1.2 trillion of the $2.2 trillion spent nationally, more than half of all health spending," was waste in the United States, defined as "costs that could have been avoided without a negative impact on quality." Furthermore, PWC reported that, "In an increasingly global economy, the inefficiency of the U.S. health system ranks poorly. The U.S. spends nearly twice as much per-capita on health than other industrialized nations," but "ranks 20th in life expectancy and has the third-highest infant mortality rate. ... When compared with five similar industrialized nations [the very same nations whose healthcare systems were being attacked in Republican and lobbyists' TV commercials, and all of which nations had single-payer systems], the U.S. ranks at the bottom on all key measures." PWC left no doubt that passing really major reform of health insurance would be essential to restoring America's international economic competitiveness. That same day, USA Today bannered "Poll: Americans Divided on Health Care Overhaul," and reported that almost all of the opposition to healthcare reform was coming from Whites over the age of 65 -- the very same segment of the population which had voted for McCain, and for Hillary over Obama. President Obama's pitch to those people was proving to be fruitless: Those people were afraid of being euthanized by their Government. They received Medicare (which Republicans had also tried to block in 1965) and still weren't being euthanized; but, so what? These were people of faith; science was simply irrelevant to their opinions.
On August 24th, statistician Nate Silver, at fivethirtyeight.com, headlined "How to Poll on the Public Option," and he pointed out that the wordings of the questions on polls of the public option were deceptive (usually in ways that worked against the public option) in all but two polls, both of which good polls were unfortunately little publicized: Quinnipiac, which on August 5th found 62% favoring vs. 32% opposed; and SRBI, which on July 29th found 56% favoring vs. 36% opposed. The Quinnipiac poll sampled more than twice as many people, and the respondents were better-qualified (2,409 registered voters, as opposed to just "1,002 Americans"), so the Qunnipiac poll offered by far the most reliable findings. In other words: Even after some of the Republican/lobbyists' astroturf campaigning against the public option, clear majorities of the U.S. public still overwhelmingly supported the availability of a public option. But in a corrupt country, confusion reigns, washing away facts, in a torrential flood of lies, and that's what happened here.
The "deathers" won. When NBC News, on August 18th, headlined "NBC Poll: Doubts Over Obama Health Plan," a key reported finding was: "Forty-five percent think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly." This "deather" lie (along with big media's general rampant distortions against the public option) would probably have sufficed to destroy Obama's health-insurance reform program, and thus his Presidency. The religious liberal Obama was totally unprepared for the religious conservative (or fascist) reality that he faced. The Quinnipiac poll, which was finding overwhelming support for the public option, also found that, by 52% to 39%, respondents disapproved of "the way Barack Obama is handling health care." Consequently, there existed both a strong disapproval of Obama's job-performance on this issue, and an overwhelming approval of a public option. (In fact, the Quinnipiac poll found strong support for all four of their listed components of Obama's health-insurance-reform proposal, and found the highest support of all for the public option -- the plan's key component, and the only one which Obama was actually abandoning. Quinnipiac also found that though each of the four components was widely supported, support for each of the four was down from the month before. Obama was thus clearly on a downward trajectory.) Obama had "achieved" the worst of both worlds: public rejection in the face of very strong public support for each one of the four components of his plan. Obama's failure on health-insurance reform (the issue that was the decisive political battle of his entire Presidency) was simply colossal. The nation's most gifted politician turned out to be a flop as a political leader, because he didn't know how to talk about moral issues, but only how to avoid talking about them: he never even mentioned the real question here, which was: Is basic health care a right, or is it a privilege? Liberals didn't have a clue about how to defeat fascism, because liberals were just a weakened and confused form of it: they were religious liberals, instead of religious conservatives. The problem was religion.
On 19 August 2009, President Obama finally, in a healthcare-reform conference-call with religious leaders, made his lame attempt to frame the debate on the basis of his conception of a progressive moral foundation: "I am my brother's keeper. I am my sister's keeper. And in the wealthiest nation on Earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call." That's all. He still didn't know that basic health care is a right, not a privilege. He was a shocking bust, even when he finally made the attempt. He was a liberal, no progressive. This foray by Obama proved to be useless. Most of the little attention it received, dealt with his promise that there'd be no taxpayer funding of abortion under his plan. And, of course, the central question, of the universal availability of a public option, so as to provide competition to keep health-care costs down, wasn't brought up at all, much less presented by Obama as being likewise a moral issue for the nation to address.
The best reporting of all on the health-reform issue was a year later, by David D. Kirkpatrick on 13 August 2010 in The New York Times, headlining "Obama Is Taking an Active Role in Talks on Health Care Plan." That newspaper's management/editors controlled headline-writing, but if the headline there had been honest it would have been something like: "President Sells Out the Public to Drugmakers and For-Profit Hospitals." Buried in the second half of this article was the real news here: "Mr. Obama and his top aides have immersed themselves in the Senate Finance Committee process. The president talks to Mr. Baucus several times a week." In addition, Obama aides Nancy-Ann DeParle and Peter Orszag were reported to be spending lots of their time in Baucus's office. The deals that Obama had separately negotiated with the drug industry and the for-profit hospital industry were described here. For example: "Hospital industry lobbyists, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of alienating the White House, say they negotiated their $155 billion in concessions with Mr. Baucus and the administration in tandem. ... Several hospital lobbyists ... said it was understood as a condition of their support that the final legislation would not include a government-run health plan." Evidently, hospitals were united with the health-insurance lobby in opposing the public option, and the hospital lobby could talk about it whereas the health-insurance lobby could not (Kirkpatrick didn't even mention the health-insurance industry). If the insurers were publicly associated with killing the public option, then even conservatives would recognize the venality behind the organized opposition to a public option.
The reason that the for-profit hospitals didn't want a public option was not touched upon by Kirkpatrick, but it wasn't hard to figure out: if a public option became tied to Medicare reimbursement rates, this would reduce insurers' ability to suck the financial blood out of the public; and even if the rates were calculated simply on some cost-plus basis, this would drive down the reimbursements they'd be receiving from private insurers, who would have to pay less than the public-option rates in order to be able to survive competing against the non-profit public-option plan. This would drastically lower salaries and bonuses for the executives and board members at the hospital chains, which were huge sources of political campaign contributions. So, Obama was running the corruption with all of the health-related industries, through Baucus's office, and also by means of private meetings with industry lobbyists inside the White House. This news report in The New York Times (for readers who got as far as its second half) was the clearest early indication published anywhere of Obama's corruptness and willingness to sell out the public in order to be able to compete with the Republican Party for corporate campaign cash. America truly had become a banana republic; the future could be only yet more downhill from here.
On 3 September 2009, Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, whose "news"room was by now (after his recent acquisition of the paper) strikingly like that of Fox "News," totally under Murdoch's editorial control, bannered "Wrong Turns: How Obama's Health-Care Push Went Astray," and portrayed the collapse of the public-option proposal as being the result of grassroots opposition to it, which Democrats supposedly had known about since 2005: Focus groups back then had been organized and found: "Skepticism ran high. The chief worry: Giving access to inexpensive government insurance to America's 46 million uninsured would boost costs, or reduce care, for those who were already insured." No mention was made, by this "news"paper's "reporters," that, despite such beliefs on the part of conservative voters, all polls still showed that the public option was, and remained, supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans. No mention was made there of the Republican scare-tactics about fictitious "death panels." No mention was made there of the nearly $100 million lobbying and advertising campaign by medical industries and by Republican PAC's scaring the public against Obama's "government takeover of health care." No mention was made there of Obama's real failure: his having cast health-insurance reform as being an economic instead of as a basic moral, issue -- as "What's in it for me," instead of as "Basic health care is a right of all, not a privilege which only the economically well-endowed deserve." A selective presentation of "history" here, by the formerly reliable news reporting in the WSJ, conveyed a profoundly false impression of what had happened, and of why.
Above all, no mention was made there that the Wall Street Journal was lying through its teeth about this. The reality was: Giving access to inexpensive government insurance to America's 46 million uninsured would lower the health insurance costs for all Americans. The reasons for this are twofold: First, by bringing into the health-care system those 46,000,000 Americans whose only health care at present was via emergency rooms, which are super-costly, America's health-care costs would go down. Second, by removing, from the cost of insurance, many of the expenses of marketing and advertising, the government-provided plan would establish a new and lower competitive price-level for each of the private insurance company offerings; they would be forced to lower their own enormous overhead costs: the exorbitant pay-packages for insurance executives would plunge, and the remuneration of advertising agencies hired by them would also plunge, in order to keep up with the government-provided offering. However, none of these savings would result unless the public option were to be offered to everyone: if the public option were to be offered instead to only less than 5% of the U.S. population, as Obama was now saying that he wanted, then there would be virtually no reduction in U.S. healthcare expenses.
The Associated Press was universally considered to be mainstream, but on the same day, September 3rd, mediamatters.org bannered "AP Again Botched Net Cost of Health Care Plan," and reported that the AP was reporting this day, that "Nonpartisan budget officials have said Obama's proposals could increase the federal deficit by about $1 trillion over the next decade," when, in fact, the Congressional Budget Office report (which was issued on July 17th) had concerned not "Obama's proposals" but the house-passed bill, H.R. 3200, and had concluded: "Enacting H.R. 3200 would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period." (The Senate bill was netted out to increase the deficit by less than $700 billion; there was, as yet, no "proposal" from Obama to calculate.) It was one lie after another, mixed in with unprofessional sloppiness from "journalists." In fact, "Reuters also ignored CBO's conclusion, ... [by saying] 'Americans worry about what the nearly $1 trillion scheme could mean for the burgeoning U.S. budget deficit.'" The AP and Reuters just sopped upk and regurgitated Republican Party assertioins as if they represented facts instead of lies; and Barack Obama failed to hold the press to account for its sloppy "reporting."
Mainstream "news" sources slanted their presentations to make it appear that valid reasons were causing Americans to supposedly reject the public option, and even to reject the Democratic health initiative in toto. For example, on 9 September 2009, the AP headlined "Obama Regrets Delaying Details for Health Plan," and buried in their lengthy report some really sensational news about the leadership incompetency of President Barack Obama and of Senate chief Harry Reid, and the AP instead pretended that fiscal cost considerations were supposedly driving the supposed unpopularity of the Democrats' plan. This story made no mention of such things as "death panels" as driving the public's concerns here; those things were ignored totally. Much was said instead of "The first big blow to Obama's health care agenda" being the CBO's finding that "the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs." Duh? That's like an oxymoron for morons. Everybody except the sickness profiteers themselves wanted the government to do something to control health-care costs. Meanwhile, the shocking authentic news in this article concerned Harry Reid and "a decision he and Obama had reluctantly made months earlier: to give six senators from small states, the so-called Gang of Six [3 Republicans and 3 conservative Democrats, all of whom happened to be against the public option and were heavily in hock to health insurance companies and other health-industry contributors], the time and prominence to fashion a bipartisan bill on overhauling the health care system." "Bipartisan" - that means corrupt. Sometimes, it's necessary for a President to go directly to the public and explain how corrupt interests are blocking what needs to be done, and why they are blocking it - not just participate in it by being "bipartisan" with the grafters. Obama had proved, by his actions -- not by his mere words -- that he was out to ditch the public option, in order to win "bipartisan support" from Republicans; but, of course, Senate Republicans instead just dragged out their fake "negotiations," while their business contributors and fundraisers were filling the airwaves with bogus charges of Obama's "death panels."
Obama handed Rush Limbaugh and other Republicans the victory for which they yearned; and now, on September 9th, Obama regretted having done it - way too late to be able to salvage any good reform of America's health care system. Now, the Republicans had real control, and the chief result of any health-care reform would inevitably be to force Americans to pay insurers' exorbitant rates for America's way-overpriced health care. The Federal Government would be compelling individuals to shell out cash for medical kleptocrats to rake in. Doctors, drug companies, and health insurers, would now be able to charge whatever prices they liked, and the government would force Americans to pay it. Obama's deal with insurers was: You'll be competing with each other more than you do now, and you won't be able to cherry-pick whom you'll insure, but we'll make sure that you'll have a significantly larger "market."
The cost-reductions that would be available by using the public option were reaffirmed on 21 October 2009 when Jon Walker at firedoglake.com bannered "CMS: Public Option Much Cheaper Than Private Insurance, and Would Make Private Plans Cheaper, Too." He reported that, "The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) just released a study of the version of the health care reform bill, H.R. 3200, reported out by the Ways and Means Committee" (which was only the latest version; it pegged payment to providers at "Medicare rates plus 5 percent"). It would cost "18-percent lower that the average for private health plans," so "Premiums for the public health insurance option are estimated to be 11 percent lower than those for private plans on the Exchange." This would be due to "10 percent lower administrative and margin costs" and other factors.
America's major "news" media were widely reporting as if fact the Republican line that the public option was unpopular with the American public, and that it faced difficulty in Congress because of that. However, on 9 September 2009 (the day of the President's big speech about health care, to a joint session of Congress), statistician Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com headlined "Analysis: Public Option Is Likely Popular in Most Blue Dog Districts," and he presented poll-results for each of the 435 House districts and for each Senate race, and summarized: "The public option is estimated to have plurality support in 291 of the 435 Congressional districts. ... The public option is estimated to have plurality support in 235 of 257 Democratic-held districts. ... The public option is estimated to have plurality support in 34 of 52 Blue Dog [or conservative] held districts, and has overall popularity of 51 percent of these districts versus 39 percent opposed." Here one could also see state-by-state support for the public option: for example, Montana, whose Democratic Senator Max Baucus was dead-set against including the public option in the bill he was writing for his own Senate Finace Committee, favored the public option 49% to 41%. North Dakota, whose Democratic Senator Kent Conrad was the most determined Democratic opponent of the public option, opposed the public option barely, by 46% to 43%. Maine, whose two Republican Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, were both committed against the public option, favored the public option by 62% to 30%. Arkansas, whose anti-public-option Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln was in a hot race for re-election, also favored the public option: she was against it. Connecticut, whose independent Senator Joe Lieberman was almost as dead-set against the public option as were Kent Conrad and Blanche Lincoln, favored the public option by 58% to 33%. (A large portion of Lieberman's campaign dollars came from the insurance industry, which dominated in his state.) So, anti-public-option Senators possessed far greater trust in complying with the campaign dollars than in complying with and responding to the policy-preferences (much less the interests) of their electorates. The lobbyist culture despises the public as suckers who can be deceived if only enough money gets spent propagandizing to them. Democratic Senators who opposed the public option represented states that had few progressive Democrats, and thus few people who'd vote against them in a Democratic primary election. But those Senators didn't really represent their states, anyway -- much less did they represent the views of the Democratic voters in their state. Those Senators represented their financial backers. Moreover, a nationwide dailykos poll, taken August 31st through September 3rd, showed 58% favored, and 34% opposed, when asked the superbly put question, "Do you favor or oppose creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance plans?"
On 25 September 2009, The New York Times headlined "In Poll, Public Wary of Obama on War and Health," and CBS News bannered "Poll: Improved Perceptions on Stimulus Package." This latest CBS News/NYT poll was being "reported" by those two "news" media, but virtually none of the readers and audience would learn what Rachel Weiner of huffingtonpost.com dredged from this poll's unpublished findings, when she headlined that night, "Poll: Public Option Favored By 65% Of Americans," and she reported: "A New York Times/CBS poll found that 65% of respondents want a public health care option, while only 26% opposed such a plan." CBS didn't report this detail at all, whereas the NYT buried their mention of it near their article's end, on an inside page, where the reporters said, as if in passing, "On one of the most contentious issues in the health care debate -- whether to establish a government-run health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurers -- nearly two-thirds of the country continues to favor the proposal, which has been backed by Mr. Obama but has drawn intense fire from most Republicans and some moderate Democrats." That's all. Furthermore, probably most readers of that sentence didn't notice that it described the public option in an entirely false way, as "a government-run health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurers," which is exactly what single-payer actually means: that's a definition of single-payer, not of the public option; it's not an "option" at all, but rather an alternative to the existing health-insurance system in the U.S. The "option" would instead be in competition with private insurers; it wouldn't be "an alternative to private insurers." If the Times had instead said "as an alternative option to private insurance companies," then the reporters/editors of the Times wouldn't have been lying, but they were lying here.
Similarly, on 19 October 2009, Greg Sargent at The Plum Line blog, headlined "WaPo Poll: Majority Wants Public Option More Than Bipartisanship For Its Own Sake," and he reported what the Washington Post buried online, namely: "The new Washington Post poll finally asks people about their cravings for bipartisanship in the right way, and its finding really challenges the conventional wisdom that people want bipartisan health care compromise at all costs. Specifically: A majority wants a Dem-only bill rather than a bipartisan one if the Dem-only one includes a public insurance option and the bipartisan one doesn't. A majority of Independents wants the same [the Dem-only bill]." The poll's question #10 offered four options, and the resultant percentages were: "Prefer government-sponsored insurance" (51%); "Prefer Republican support" (37%); "Neither" (6%); "No opinion" (7%). This blog-entry linked to the newspaper's online question-by-question poll-results, because there was no news-article on this poll in the Washington Post, which had inexplicably deep-sixed the entire poll, and not included it at all in the paper's online archives.
A month later, on November 17th, CBS News online (but not telecast) headlined "Poll Shows Support for Public Option, But Not for Full Bill," and Stephanie Condon reported that, "Americans would strongly prefer a health care bill that includes a public option to a bill without it, a new CBS News poll shows, and only one in four say their preference is no health care legislation at all." 51% wanted a public option; 16% wanted a bill without a public option; and 26% wanted "No bill at all."
Probably most Americans ended up thinking that, though they themselves supported the public option, the reason it wasn't included in the legislation that Obama was pushing is that the idea was too unpopular among the public, or else that Democrats in Congress were too corrupt to pass a public option, regardless of whether Obama wanted it. Both of those beliefs were (subtly and unsubtly) being pumped in the nation's "news" media, but both were false. The vast majority of Democrats in both houses of Congress wanted there to be a kpubic option, but the President was opposed: he wanted a "bipartisan" deal with the Republicans instead.
The President gave his big speech to both houses of Congress on 9 September 2009, finally saying what his health reform proposal actually consisted of. The public option wasn't among his requirements for legislation he'd sign, but he recommended that it should be included, so long as "it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance" and "less than five percent of Americans would sign up," and so long as it would be phased in over four years. Obama lied by saying "It's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight"; however, the reality was that the sort of public option that he had "proposed tonight" had never even been polled by any polling organization, because during the Presidential campaign he had promised to deliver a public insurance option which would be made available to any American who wanted to sign up for it; all Democratic candidates in the Presidential contest had promised that. Furthermore, Obama had always said that the public insurance option would "help keep the insurers honest," or words to that effect: it would "keep them honest" by making available to every American a public option competing against the private insurers' offerings, which needed to pay dividends and capital gains to stockholders, not just medical care to insureds. For example, on 11 June 2009 Obama had told a town hall in Green Bay, "If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it will keep them honest and help keep prices down." Even his speech to Congress now, on September 9th, said "An additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest [which they weren't, and he knew that; he knew, for example, that they routinely deceived in their contracts, and that they routinely rescinded unprofitable policies on that basis] is by making a not-for-profit public option available." But he was here speaking of a "public option" which wouldn't really be competing with private insurers at all. It would be available to only less than 5% of the population. So, his statements here were just a blatant lie.
Obama was employing the standard con-man salesman's bait-and-switch routine; he had baited the public with a real public option - which they supported - and was now switching that for something very different and far more limited, as the goods that he was hoping actually to deliver to them.
This President certainly was not another Franklin Delano Roosevelt - someone who demonized the evil conservative opposition and morally marginalized them into shameful defeat, thus establishing Democratic hegemony over Republicans for decades to come. Obama's "change we can believe in" turned out to be no real change at all, just more of what had become standard payola politics. However, when the progressive blogger Taegan Goddard headlined on September 13th, "Public Option Fades Away," most of the reader-comments posted after his note expressed blissful ignorance of the reality. A typical comment there was: "Huh? It picked up new strength last week." The majority of liberals heard from the speech what they wanted to hear; they, too, were people of faith, the only difference being that their faith was in liberal hacks, rather than in conservative hacks.
Obama was negotiating with the insurance companies as if they ran the show and had a bigger "bully pulpit" of sheer cash to run ads against him than he did, of the White House to give speeches to the American people to explain his policies and expose their lies. Obama could have chosen to give interviews with every news anchor in the country, to explain why the corrupters' proposed alternatives were bad for the public, but he chose not to do that. He refused to go head-to-head against the corrupters. On 8 June 2012, a news story was published reporting e-mails that congressional Republicans had just released showing some of Obama's corruption in preparing Obamacare. The Republicans did this even though congressional Republicans themselves had voted in Congress virtually as a block backing the corrupters' position on this matter against that of congressional Democrats. Their only objective now was to defeat him for re-election. Obama's rhetoric as a candidate in 2008 had supported the Democratic position on the matter, but as President in 2009 he was working behind the scenes to sabotage it. This news story, by Peter Baker, in The New York Times, was headlined "Obama Was Pushed by Drug Industry, E-Mails Suggest," and it described e-mails between health-care lobbyists and Obama's health-care policy operative, Nancy-Ann DeParle. The NYT chose not to mention the crucial fact that DeParle had received more than $6 million as a director of companies that faced federal investigations, whistleblower lawsuits and other regulator problems, and that among these board memberships were companies whose fates now rested on the very same deals that she would now be drafting for Obama, such as Accredo Health, Triad Hospitals, Specialty Laboratories, Guidant, and Medco Health Solutions. Her blatant conflicts-of-interest were ignored in this NYT report, which alleged only that "Obama Was Pushed by Drug Industry," not that Obama negotiated secret deals for the drug industry in his health care reform proposals, and that this former director of major health-care companies was the operative he had chosen to do it. However, what was actually reported in this NYT gloss of the Obama White House was, in fact, two-way "pushing" between the industry and this White House, in which the industry wanted goodies to be placed into the legislation, and Obama wanted the industry to run a TV campaign supporting the passage of the legislation. The public's interest was third, if even that. This duplicity by Obama entailed lies by him as the presidential campaigner who had railed against "the old game playing in Washington," as Baker quoted from his 2008 Presidential campaign. Baker documented that Obama, once he was in office, simply continued this very same "game playing." However, it was even worse than Baker was reporting; for example, Nancy-Ann DeParle compelled congressional Democrats to cave to Republicans and medical lobbies to limit the financial liability of physicians and their insurers for medical errors - all of that loss would go to the victims themselves. Obama as a candidate in 2008 had railed against precisely that, but this is what he did the moment he entered the White House - he worked behind the scenes to ram Republican legislative initiatives through against the wishes of the Democratic leaders in Congress. Obama didn't fight for the public; he instead kept the public in the dark, just as the corporate lobbyists wanted him to. DeParle worked out with the pharmaceutical manufacturers a deal in which Obamacare would continue America's highest-in-the-world drug prices, in return for which the "Harry and Louise" commercials that the drug lobby would be running about Obama's health-reform proposal would support it, instead of oppose it as they had done to Hillarycare in 1993. Hillary had sided with the health maintenance organizations (HMOs) against the interests of both the insurance companies and America's healthcare-consuming public, and those drug-industry "Harry and Louise" commercials are largely credited with having killed Hillarycare. By contrast, in 2009, the HMOs had already been bought up by the insurance companies, and Obama was negotiating secretly with the drug companies, the hospital companies, and the insurance companies, working out deals so as to get all of them to avoid running commercials against his package. In Obama's view, this constituted Presidential leadership. His compromises weren't between the special interests - or private interests - and the public interest, but instead between the various special interests - all against the public. He saw the Presidency as negotiating deals amongst the various aristocratic interests. The public was just to be kept in the dark and deceived by the aristocracy and by himself as their collective representative. This turned out to be what the "Change We Can Believe In" that he had advertised during his 2008 campaign actually consisted of.
On 11 June 2012, Agence France Presse headlined "Obama's Collaboration with Big Pharma Exposed," and reported the details of the Obama-PhRMA propaganda that was crucial to the passage of Obamacare: "Nearly $70 million was spent through two ... political action committees - organized in part by White House officials, including Jim Messina, Obama's former deputy chief of staff who is now managing the 2012 reelection campaign." Obama's view of the Republicans was: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Or else: He simply didn't want to "beat 'em." If the former was the case, he had to be stupid, because caving at the very start to one's opponent in a negotiation is stupid, and that's what Obama usually did. But it turned out that his real opponents were evidently Democrats in Congress. He worked with the Republicans, to sabotage the majority of Democrats in Congress.
Health insurance companies were virtually salivating at the millions of new customers they'd be getting from Obama's plan. Only the prospect of a universally available government-provided non-profit competitor remained unpalatable to them, and Obama had now weakened that option into insignificance. And medical industries knew it. On September 10th of 2009, the AP headlined "Policyholders Could Pay More Under Obama Plan," and reported: "Consultants estimate Obama's priorities would shower the industry with at least $1 trillion in new revenue from premiums over the next decade. ... The stocks of several health insurers performed better than the broader market Thursday [the day following Obama's speech]. ... Health care reform without a public option 'would be fantastic' for insurers, said Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a Virginia-based health care consulting firm. ... Said Laszewski, a former industry executive, 'There's a reason they aren't running any negative ads.' ... Another analyst, David Bachman of Longbow Research in Independence, Ohio, expects spending on doctor visits would jump $8.5 billion a year under Obama's proposal. ... Overall, Bachman said his 'back-of-the-envelope calculation' indicates a 15 percent increase in spending at hospitals, 17 percent more for doctor visits and 10 to 12 percent more for patient supplies. Insurers will then pass those increases on to customers, he said." In other words: Obama's health plan, which he had promised would bring down the nation's cripplingly high medical costs, was simply a hoax which would instead cause those costs to soar even more than before, thus making the U.S. even less competitive in international economic competition. On 24 September 2009, the Los Angeles Times bannered "Mandate Minus Price Controls May Increase Healthcare Costs," and Noam Levey and James Oliphant reported that, "In the drive to bring health coverage to almost every American, lawmakers have largely rejected restrictions on how much insurers can charge," which would likely cause even more "skyrocketing premium increases." The reason cited for this was: "Democrats have shied away from regulating premiums in the face of charges from business leaders and Republicans that controlling what insurers charge would be meddling too much in the private sector." The only practical means which had been proposed to restrain premium increases was a public insurance option open to all Americans, but this had now been abandoned by the President. Democrats in Congress had no real leverage now to use with this President, who negotiated instead only with Republicans.
Democrats in Congress fought for inclusion of a public option, but they received no support from Obama on it. The New York Times headlined on 27 October 2009, "Public Option Push in Senate Comes With Escape Hatch," and reported that Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid included an escape hatch for Republican states to avoid a public option, hoping that this would help him win some Republican support in the Senate, which Obama demanded him to do (part of his negotiations with Republican leaders). The article noted about the public option, "The idea has consistently drawn strong support in national polls, and it has backing from President Obama, though he has not insisted on it." This fed his lie: ever since his September 9th speech to Congress, his version of the "public option" couldn't possibly be made available to more than 5% of the population. By his not insisting on a universally available popular option, he greatly reduced the public's trust in his own leadership on the entire health-insurance issue. Basically, Obama was behaving like a closeted Republican on this matter. He refused to use the popular public option as a political weapon against congressional Republicans. He actually weakened his own Presidency, and Democrats' re-election chances, over his demand for "bipartisanship" on health-reform.
Fox "News" Channel was even more deceptive than the mainstream "liberal" press. More than a year later, on 9 December 2010, Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast headlined "Fox News' Spin Game," and he reported that, "On Oct. 27 , the day after Senate Democrats introduced a bill with a public insurance option from which states could opt out, Bill Sammon, a Fox News Vice President, ... sent the staff a memo ...: 'Please use the term [actually phrase] 'government-run health insurance,' or, when brevity is a concern, 'government option,'" instead of the phrase "public option." Republican pollster and focus-group maestro Frank Luntz had found that "public option" was popular with the public, but that "government-run" and "government option" were unpopular. From October 27th on, this is the way the "reporters" at Fox "News" used the Luntz-recommended phrases instead of "public option." The full Sammon memo was presented at mediamatters.org an hour after Kurtz's report, under the headline "LEAKED EMAIL: Fox Boss Caught Slanting News Reporting." The Republican Party's version of Joseph Goebbels, their message-maestro or chief propagandist Frank Luntz, worked not only directly for the Party and its candidates, but for its "News" channel: Fox "News." There was never any comparable propagandistic operation at even the most liberal of the mainstream news networks, MSNBC. The conservative end of America's press specialized in deception, because the truth is always damaging to conservatism. Fox "News" persons were propagandists, not news people, with the sole possible exception of Shep Smith, who was a conservative-slanted actual news reporter.
Obama was now intentionally carrying out these agendas, even though this was political suicide. Instead of reflecting pragmatism, what he was doing reflected his aristocratic ideology, whether for purposes of "bipartisanship," or for purposes less stupid but more sinister than that. On September 16th, Evan Miller, at thenewargument.com, headlined "BREAKING: DNC [Democratic National Committee], OFA [Organizing For America, which formerly had been known as Obama For America or barackobama.com, and which was Obama's campaign website both during the campaign and now] Dump Demand for the Public Option." At last, Barack Obama's cave-in on the public option had become semi-official. David Sirota at openleft.com bannered, also on September 16th, "The Wrong Kind of Pressure from Obama?" and he condemned Obama's "pressuring Democrats to drop the public option," and he went on to ask whether Barack Obama made sense in any other way than as Obama's having been a secret opponent, all along, against a public option. Obama's behavior "could no longer honestly be portrayed as necessary 'pragmatism'," said Sirota. Throughout the progressive blogosphere, Obama's supporters were bailing out on him. They had been slow in reading the message, but now it could no longer be ignored (except at places such as dailykos, which are resolutely supportive of whatever a Democratic President does). Obama's ideology, whatever it was, hadn't really supported the public option, neither during the campaign, nor now. All Democratic Presidential candidates during the primaries had needed to support the public option publicly, in order to have any chance at all of winning the Democratic nomination, but only now Obama was displaying his true ideological colors, as the President. He was against the public option, even if he had to commit political suicide in order to kill it. Not only did he really mean it when he said, in his September 9th speech to Congress, that he wanted to keep the big-seven health insurers in business; but he actually wanted them to suck yet increasing amounts of blood out of the U.S. economy. That's true conservatism: Greed is good (so long as it succeeds - which it certainly was doing under Obama).
Something that the NYT's conservative managers/editors did not want the U.S. public to know was that instead of costing the government money, the public option would save the government money, at the same time that it would reduce people's health insurance premiums. None of America's major "news" media reported this crucial fact, but online on 25 September 2009, National Journal headlined "CBO Estimates Show Public Plan With Higher Savings Rate," and reported that a public option in which the reimbursement rates to doctors would be tied to Medicare rates would save the Federal Government $110 billion over 10 years, and that a public option "that requires the HHS Secretary to negotiate rates with providers" like private insurers do, "will save only $25 billion" (as if that weren't also saving the government money). The American public were demagogued to believe that a public option would cost more for both the government and the public; but actually the truth was the exact opposite: it would reduce costs for both. This article noted, in passing, that "The numbers are based on oral communications between CBO staff and Pelosi's office, a Pelosi spokesman said. They do not represent an official CBO estimate." The reason there was no official CBO estimate is that Barack Obama didn't want a public option; Pelosi did, and this is why the estimate was only oral, to her -- she had asked for one. Of course, other corrupt Democrats than Obama, such as Max Baucus, also didn't want to know. Pelosi was courageous and a good person, but power lay with people who weren't. Even though Democrats in the House chose her as the leader, power lay elsewhere than with most Democrats; power lay with the corruptors and the corruptees. Thus: Obama was negotiating with Republicans, and left congressional Democrats pretty much out of the picture.
On 11 October 2009, The New York Times led Sunday's page one with "Lobbyists Fight Last Big Plans to Cut Health Care Costs," and David D. Kirkpatrick reported that, "As the health care debate moves to the floor of Congress, most of the serious proposals to fulfill President Obama's original vow to curb costs [of health insurance to the public, not to the government] have fallen victim to organized interests and parochial politics." Though Kirkpatrick didn't add such a phrase as "and to President Obama's own efforts to block the major cost-control initiatives in Congress," one could tell, just by reading between the lines here, that this was indeed the case, because Kirkpatrick described Obama's deals negotiated inside the White House with the pharmaceutical industry, with the insurance industry, and with the hospital industry, which were being cited as the chief roadblocks to congressional legislation to keep down the cost of health insurance to the American people. (And the NYT headlined on 16 November 2009, "Drug Makers Raising Prices Before Reform" and reported that the supposed savings that Obama had negotiated with drugmakers would be at least partially offset by those firms' sudden skyrocketing of prices now, prior to the change. Obama didn't bar that at all.)
Perhaps this President was more interested in filling his 2012 re-election campaign coffers than he was in actually fulfilling his campaign promises and serving the electorate. If so, the effort wasn't working, and the health insurance industry rejected the emerging Democratic health-insurance reform plan, as progressive Democrats fought to lower consumers' costs of insurance. On October 12th, the AP headlined "Insurance Industry Assails Health Care Bill," and reported that, "The industry said the cost increases [which insurers were alleging would result from existing proposed bills] would result from new taxes [on those insurers] and from a weakening of the penalties for [an individual's] failing to get [purchase] insurance - a change that would let Americans postpone getting coverage until they get sick." Insurers were worried because the high costs they'd be charging for health insurance wouldn't sell to the public unless draconian measures in the legislation forced everyone to purchase insurance - and such draconian measures weren't included in the emerging legislation.
Moreover, "the CBO estimated that even with new federal subsidies [to make insurance affordable for the poor], some 17 million Americans would still be unable to afford health insurance. Faced with that affordability problem, senators opted to ease the fines for going without coverage." In other words, insurers were now rebelling against Democratic lawmakers' efforts to avoid final legislation which would be so bad for consumers as to jeopardize these Democrats' own re-election. Obama's whoring to the health insurance industry had produced nothing but garbage -- even for the insurers, to whom Obama was whoring. So, if Obama thought he'd get gold from it, he was evidently wrong; the whole thing was garbage. Now he was at war against the insurers.
On 26 October 2009, Sam Stein at huffingtonpost.com bannered "Reid Presses Forward With Public Option," and he reported that, "The move is a bold one on Reid's part, going against the skepticism of the White House that such a provision can overcome a Republican filibuster." Senate Majority Leader Reid made important concessions to the White House, however; he weakened the public option so as to be made available only to no more than the 5% of the U.S. population that President Obama had said that his support of a public option might extend to. In other words, profit-making insurance companies wouldn't face competition from this public option, except among - at most - some of the people who didn't already have health insurance. Reid made this concession to the White House, because he believed that anything less would fail to win support from the President and simultaneously from enough Democratic Senators so as to be able to shut down the inevitable Republican attempt to filibuster the health-reform bill to death in the Senate. Obama, like the rest of political Washington, knew that the likelihood of a Republican filibuster succeeding would have been far higher if no public option were included at all: Plenty of Democrats, in both the Senate and House, had made clear that they'd vote against any legislation which included no public option. By contrast, only a single Republican Senator (Maine's Olympia Snowe) had said that she might possibly support a health reform bill if it included no public option. (Winning Snowe's vote was Obama's rationalization for wanting the legislation to exclude any public option at all: He said he wanted a "bipartisan" bill, by which he referred to a health-reform bill that would win the support of at least a single Senate Republican, and Snowe was the only one who still hadn't committed to opposing whatever Democrats might come up with.)
Due to Obama's inputs into the process, Harry Reid in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House were drawing up a final bill that would offer the public option to no more than 5% of the U.S. population. Still, however, only one Republican Senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine, was even considering to vote for the legislation -- she was demanding that no public option at all be included except as something that might be "triggered" in the event that private insurers failed to meet pre-specified cost-control targets. The White House was pressuring congressional Democrats to accept her demand so as to have a "bipartisan" bill (i.e., in their meaning: legislation which would receive at least one Republican vote). On 30 October 2009, politico.com bannered "Opt-Out Divides Schumer and Emanuel," and Glenn Thrush reported that N.Y. Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was rejecting such a compromise and was pressing for no compromise beyond providing a few extremely Republican states an opportunity to "opt out" of offering the public option. The contest was now between Schumer and his allies, versus Rahm Emanuel and the White House. "Emanuel, expressing the opinion of many others in the White House, believed that getting Snowe would give the bill a bipartisan imprimatur" which would enable "reform" to pass Congress. Obama's people refused even to consider that perhaps there were enough progressives in Congress to vote against and kill the shoddy health "reform" that Obama was trying to force Congress to pass.
On October 29th, the Congressional Budget Office sent to Congress their estimate of the effects the House version of health reform would have upon future expenditures and incomes to the Federal Government if passed into law: "Enacting H.R. 3962 would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $104 billion over the 2010-2019 period." Regarding the legislation's effect upon health-care expenditures by Americans, "CBO does not analyze those expenditures." CBO was concerned only about governmental expenditures. CBO calculated how many people would be covered by the public option: "Roughly one-fifth of the people purchasing coverage through the exchanges would enroll in the public plan, meaning that total enrollment in that plan would be about 6 million" out of the total of around 300 million.
On November 1st, the AP headlined "After All the Fuss, Public Health Plan Covers Few," and reported: "What's all the fuss about? After all the noise over Democrats' push for a government insurance plan to compete with private carriers, coverage numbers are finally in: Two percent." The CBO said that because the public option would be available only to people who didn't already have insurance, it would have "a less healthy pool of enrollees" and so might need to charge more than private insurers would charge, even though administrative costs for the plan would be lower. This represented an overwhelming victory for America's health insurance industry: they'd be competing with the public option on only 10% of people, and the public option would be taken by only 2% -- and those 2% wouldn't even be profitable to insure anyway. The United States would continue to be overwhelmingly the most profitable market for health insurance companies, and would continue to pay twice as high a percentage of its GDP for health care as any other nation on Earth.
Obama left, in place, virtually untouched, the nation's conservative ideology, which had soared since Reagan in 1980: private is good; public is bad.
The vast majority of Democrats in Congress were actually shocked and dismayed at Obama's hollowness. On 6 December 2009, Ryan Grim at huffingtonpost.com bannered "Obama Silent On Public Option In Speech To Senators," and he wrote that, when Obama, that day, addressed, behind closed doors, in a Senate conference room, all Democratic U.S. Senators, urging them to unite to pass a "reform" of health care in the U.S., he failed even so much as to mention the public option, and he immediately and abruptly left. "Obama spoke for roughly 30 minutes and did not take questions. ... Obama's reluctance to stand up for the public option has been a source of contention between [the Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Harry] Reid, who is pushing for it, and Obama." Attendees who were asked to comment were simply dumbfounded at his lack of leadership. And this was Obama's private meeting with only his fellow Democrats; he had no support, at all, from any Republicans, in either the Senate or the House.
The following day, Jane Hamsher at firedoglake.com headlined "Why Progressive Activists Are Giving Obama a Pass." Would conservative activists have given George W. Bush a pass if he had similarly double-crossed them? No -- they would have been furious. Conservatives know what they stand for; they merely refuse to acknowledge it's evil. Ms. Hamsher reported that Obama was applying so much pressure on labor unions for them to drop their demand for a public option, so that they'd have to drop it. Obama's lack of leadership was thus not due to mere incompetence: He was a conservative himself, even if he had no idea of what that meant. Republicans, who knew what it meant, didn't think that he was conservative enough, but he still did almost everything he could to please them. Hamsher concluded: "The cost to Democrats in 2010 could be cataclysmic." This same day, Gallup headlined "After Brief Uptick, Obama Approval Slips to 47%," which was the lowest for any President since Gallup first started tracking "Job Approval Rating Averages for Presidents in December of First Year in Office," going all the way back to Eisenhower, in December 1953.
Of course, Hamsher's "The cost to Democrats in 2010 could be cataclysmic" was soon borne out in the 2010 mid-term election results.
By now, public support for the public option might have declined from the level prior to Obama's having given up on it. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com headlined on 7 December 2009, "In Polls, Much Opposition to Health Care Plan Is From Left," and he showed the internals of a recent Ipsos/McClatchy poll, that 12% of respondents said they "Favor Health Care Reform, Oppose Plan (Doesn't Go Far Enough)," but that 35% said they "Oppose Health Care Reform, Oppose Plan (Goes Too Far)." Those were the only two categories of respondents who opposed the plan: so, by 35% to 12%, opposition to this proposed plan came from conservatives, not from progressives. However, an additional full 20% of respondents said that they were undecided about the plan, and 31% more said they favored the plan. The percentages of those two categories of respondents who favored the public option wasn't tapped in this survey. (For example, some might have been undecided because the plan included no public option, and some who favored the plan might have favored it even more if it had included a public option.)
The only thing that now was clear was that Obama had never really fought for the public option: he actually didn't want it, even though the vast majority of the U.S. public did want it. The public option had been in his 2008 campaign only because it needed to be there in order for him to have even a chance to win the Democratic nomination: Democratic voters would have opted for other candidates if he hadn't included it in his platform.
Obama was always an opponent of the public option, but whether this was because he needed the campaign contributions from the sickness industries, or whether it was because he opposed the future welfare of the American public, is unclear. He was essentially a conservative in either case. However, he was widely viewed as being liberal, and therefore the deficiencies in his policies ended up reducing public support for the Democratic Party, and boosting support for the Republican Party. This is one reason Republicans took control of the House in the 2010 mid-terms. Obama advanced his career by weakening the Democratic Party. Not only were his policies terrifically advantageous for the aristocracy, but they weakened the Party that opposed control of the country by the aristocracy.
Economic inequality is soaring under Obama faster than under any previous President. In fact: "The top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery." What the data show is that for the first time ever on record, all income gains went only to the top 1%. The bottom 99% lost 0.4% in income during Obama's economic recovery from Bush's crash. The bottom 99% were even a bit worse off now than they were under Bush's crash. But the top 1% were 21% better-off now than they were when Obama took office. The stock market is booming. Obama cares only about the top 1%. He serves them very well; what he serves them is the bottom 99%, who vote for him because they believe his lying rhetoric, and (perhaps even more importantly) because they know that the Republicans are the wolves that want to take charge over this hen house. The reality of Obama (as opposed to his rhetoric) is remarkably close to the reality of Mitt Romney, the chief difference between the two being that Obama is far more competent than Romney, in a wide range of areas. Whereas Romney wanted to facilitate still further the economic rape of America's public by America's aristocracy, Obama is already doing a bang-up job of that.
Obama is turning out to be perhaps the best Presidential partner that congressional Republicans have ever had - of either Party. He is the most conservative Democratic President since James Buchanan departed the White House in 1861. And that is the reason why Obama will probably be low-rated by historians. (Buchanan, incidentally, is rated as perhaps the worst President in the nation's history, maybe even worse than George W. Bush and Warren Harding were - both of whom were likewise famous for their corruption, or service to the aristocracy at the expense of the public.)
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They"re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST"S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.