Thursday, January 20. 2011
I know we've been hearing about this happening for the last couple of weeks, and nothing is more inevitable than the entire House Republican caucus voting in lockstep with their one homogenized mind, but still I felt shock when they passed their health care reform repeal. How can anyone be so ignorant as to think that returning to to the status quo ante solves our health care problems? Or even crazier, that there were no problems pre-Obama? There are lots of problems with the Obama reforms, but none will be solved by repealing the law. Indeed, the need to spend political capital to defend the law makes it all the more difficult to fix the real problems that remain.
The saving grace, of course, is that with a Democratic majority in the Senate and a Democratic president, actual repeal has no chance: it is basically a symbolic gesture, a way of reminding us of the Republican commitment to letting the health care system run as a racket. Indeed, the main point of the Republicans' anti-regulation, pro-business agenda looks to be the elimination of all constraints on corporation efforts to rip consumers and workers off. This rarely happens more explicitly than in their fight against consumer protections against the finance industry, although you see it in everything they do, from loosening up pollution restrictions to protecting corporations from being sued for their malfeasances to letting every profit-seeking company in the health care industry shake you down in any way they can imagine.
Living under Republican power -- and I remind you I live in Kansas -- is a lot like trying to navigate through a squalid neighborhood ruled by gangs. Once they bought the idea that greed makes the world go round, indeed that it makes anything and everything all right, they concluded that the sole purpose of government was as a patronage racket -- reward one's friends, and render everyone else powerless so the no one can stand up to the plunder.
That may seem like an extreme charge, but it's hard to find any more benign explanations. Sometimes they cloak their agenda in platitudes, but often they just let it all hang out. If they ever manage to do what they say they want to do, that will be the end of anything approaching affluence in America, indeed the end of civil society.
This at least is something the Democrats can rally around, like a few other Republican targets (like Social Security). Still, a better offense would help the defense. The main thing that's happened since health care reform passed here in Wichita is that one of the largest physician groups, Wichita Clinic, has sold out to Wichita's largest hospital business, Via Christi, while Gallichia Hospital -- the most reputable of the physician-owned hospitals -- has sold out to HCA, which runs Wichita's other major hospital, Wesley. This concentration gives the big hospitals more political muscle and less competition. The sellers, of course, make more money than they could make running their own businesses because the buyers know they can make even more running their monopolies. And the money comes cheap to the buyers because the government is holding interest rates down, allegedly to stimulate the economy and create new jobs. And that they're failing should be no surprise: concentration invariably eliminates jobs as well as driving up costs for everyone, undermining competitiveness and costing more jobs.
One thing Obama could do to fight back is to fight the mergers and acquisitions that are concentrating corporate power -- there are, you know, already laws on the books against that sort of thing, even if they've rarely been enforced since Reagan. Another thing would be to start the campaign for extending health care reform beyond 2012 -- to get a public option to ensure competitiveness, to finally take on the drug companies, and some more easy targets. He needs, after all, to rally voter turnout for 2012, so it's time to start promising something more than stale compromises.
A couple related links:
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The author does not allow comments to this entry