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The Death Of American Populism

By Stephen Lendman

20 March, 2010

Ideologically it believes governments must provide for the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It opposes concentrated wealth, demagogy, and despotism, and supports democracy, human and civil rights, and social justice - an ideology the 19th century People's Party and 20th century Progressive Party endorsed without majorities.

Until recently, faint echoes remained, sadly silenced after Senator Bernie Sanders and sole House populist capitulated.

Former Kucinich for president consultant, David Swanson, said "he gave in to the power of a false narrative, and that he ought to have said so....I think the corporate media has instilled in people the idea that presidents should make laws and the current president is trying to make a law that can reasonably be called 'healthcare reform' or at least 'health insurance reform.' " I don't excuse Kucinich flipping....I just want to find the right explanation for it."

The web site singlepayeraction.org, ("everybody in. nobody out.") called the Democrats (like Republicans) "a corporate party, rotting from the core."

SPA called Kucinich's "flameout....spectacular" in support of a bill he and progressive Democrats strongly opposed until they flipped, including Congressman Danny Davis, representing this writer's 7th Illinois District.

Kucinich said "I've taken a detour supporting this bill." For SPA, it's one "that will condemn millions of Americans to ongoing suffering and death" because insurers make money by denying care, why real reform requires their removal and assuring everyone of universal single-payer coverage. Everyone in. Nobody out. What your senator and House representative get, you get. What congressional Democrats won't enact.

On March 17, Rep. Dennis Kucinich announced the following:

"I have carried the banner of national health care in two presidential campaigns, in party platform meeting, and as co-author of HR 676, Medicare for All. I have worked to expand the health care debate beyond the current for-profit system, to include a public option and an amendment to free the states to pursue single payer."

On November 7, 2009, despite enormous pressure, he voted against HR 3962: Affordable Health Care for America Act," asking "Is this the best we can do" in a prepared text titled, "Why I Voted No," saying:

"We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care." Passing "legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry (exacerbates) the very source of the problem....Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution."

On March 17, he reversed himself, saying:

"....after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Elizabeth my wife and close friends, I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.

As this bill passes, I will renew my effort to help those state organizations which are aimed at stirring a single payer movement....I have taken a detour through supporting this bill, but I know the destination I will continue to lead, for as long as it takes, whatever it takes to an America where health care will be firmly established as a civil right."

He later said that not supporting the bill "would destroy Obama's presidency," a nonsensical view given Bill Clinton's success despite his health care program failure and efforts to impeach him. He survived, served two terms, and left office with a 68% approval rating, matching Franklin Roosevelt at the end of his presidency.

On Democracy Now (March 18), Ralph Nader referred to "the latest chapter of corporate Democrats crushing progressive forces both inside their party and against third parties." It's nothing new. It happens every time reform is proposed.

Current legislation doesn't "provide universal, comprehensive or affordable care to the American people. It shovels hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money (to predators that) created the problem: the Aetnas, CIGNAs" and other insurers. It requires no contractual accountability or other benefits for people denied coverage under a "pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world."

For the drug cartel, "it's a bonanza" heading right to their bottom line, including no government negotiated discounts, lengthy new drug patent protection periods to impede cheaper generic competition, and no reimportation of lower-priced foreign drugs to keep prices high and affordability low.

Further, there's no public option, and the legislation mostly doesn't kick in until 2014. It means "180,000 Americans....will die between now and (then) and hundreds of thousands of injuries and illnesses" will go untreated. "There's (also) no free choice of doctor and hospital under this. There's all kinds of exploit(ive provisions to let) health insurance (and drug) companies continue their ravenous ways over people who are (the) most vulnerable....when they're sick or injured." Who in Washington represents them when the few progressives side with the others.

It's a sad moment when liberal Democrats caved. "They've all caved. They've all been put into line by the (House) majority rulers." It's a shameless, but predictable climb-down. They want to perpetuate a system that costs double per capita (about $7,600) of other Western states and provides worse coverage. In America, about 800 people die weekly because they can't afford insurance, enough of it, or insurers deny or delay their claims.

Will new legislation fix this? Not at all because providers, especially insurers, are notorious for gaming the system, and 2,500 pages of legislation contain loopholes, ambiguities, and legal interpretations that experts can easily manipulate to their advantage or create a process so onerous to contest that it amounts to the same thing.

Former CIGNA vice president, Wendell Potter, explained, saying Obamacare lets insurers shift costs to consumers, offer inadequate or unaffordable access, force Americans to pay higher deductibles for less coverage, and even scam subsidized consumers.

"What worries me," he said, "is that people who are forced to buy coverage and all they can afford to buy is a high deductible. (So) if they get really sick, they have to pay so much out of their own pockets that they're going to be filing for bankruptcy or (lose) their homes."

Potter especially dislikes the Senate bill that will force many people to buy insurance only covering about 60% of costs if they're sick. Many people have no insurance because it's unaffordable. "They certainly couldn't afford premiums plus the out-of-pocket expenses in today's market" that keeps hiking costs higher.

At best, Potter believes Obamacare will move millions of uninsured to underinsured, making them vulnerable to serious illness costs, the main cause of personal bankruptcies. When it happens, no Obamacare provision protects them from losing their homes.

As for prohibiting pre-existing conditions, the Senate bill especially gives insurers "all the flexibility they need" to prevent people from accessing coverage. Health history and age will determine premiums, so the chronically ill and aged will pay far more than the already unaffordable high rates.

The so-called medical-loss ratio is another problem. It determines what percent of premiums cover medical costs. The less restricted, the more profits (in the billions of dollars), and less care for policyholders.

Nader points out that even with more people covered, prices aren't regulated, "junk insurance policies" will be offered, and there's nothing to stop insurers "from taking this papier-mache bill and lighting a fire to it and making a mockery of it." They're unhindered by controls, and no facility will "create a national consumer health organization" to give people "their own non-profit consumer lobby (in) Washington. This is really a disaster."

Obamacare forces coverage on consumers, assesses penalties for noncompliance, empowers the IRS to collect them, protects corporate profits, rations care, and dumps millions of Americans (insured and millions left uninsured) in the scrap heap to fend for themselves. It's not a step forward. It's a full-scale retreat.

Obama is like Bush. He froze out dissenters, single-payer advocates, and surrounded himself with corporate hacks and warmongers. It's the same old, same old, the people getting scammed and harmed because no one in Washington represents them. Unless they act on their own, they'll get no help from politicians delivering the best reform money can buy, with no restrictions on spending amounts for it.

In June 2009 on a visit to Gaza, Jimmy Carter said "the citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings." So will millions of Americans under Obamacare, a sellout scheme to provide less than they now have and charge more for it.

Kucinich said his constituents urged him to do something, rather than nothing even if it meant passing a bad bill. Unfortunately, most people don't know the tawdry fine print, that insurance giant Wellpoint wrote the Baucus bill, that corporations write virtually all legislation, that Obamacare gives America's healthcare system to predatory insurers and Big PhRMA, something Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, other progressive Democrats understand, but capitulated anyway. Why so?

Despite his stated reasons, only Kucinich knows for sure, but here's a guess. Washington is notorious for pressuring, intimidating, and/or bribing members of Congress for support. Kucinich may have been told, either vote yes or face a well-funded fall primary challenge that could succeed given the power of deep pockets and deceptive ads. It's a prospect no member of Congress relishes. They could also take away his Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations.

Whatever the reason, he may have tipped the balance with House, then Senate votes, imminent, perhaps as early as Sunday, March 21. Going first, it's believed the House will use a controversial "self-executing rule" for a package of Senate bill fixes to "deem and pass" the entire bill that would otherwise fail. The Senate will then consider the revised bill through "reconciliation," requiring a simple majority to pass. Self-executing has been used many times before, but never for a bill impacting health care for everyone, amounting to one-sixth of the economy.

It also bypasses the 1985 Byrd Rule that restricts reconciliation to budget revisions according to provisions under Section 313(b)(1) of the 1974 Congressional Budget Act.

What's at stake? Plenty!

House and Senate bills will ration care, enrich providers, and make a dysfunctional system worse. Hundreds of billions of Medicare cuts will harm seniors. Most others will pay more, get less, and millions will remain uninsured. According to an earlier AMA estimate, those covered "will face higher premiums, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance, effectively reducing the scope of their coverage," what Wendell Potter explained above.

Business Week magazine acknowledged it last August saying, "No matter what specifics emerge in the voluminous bill Congress may send to President Obama this fall (or now), the insurance industry (and drug cartel) will emerge more profitable." Quoting an unnamed Senate Finance Committee staffer, "The bottom line is that health reform (will) lead to increased revenues and profits," and for doubters, check current insurance and drug company stock prices for confirmation.

Relevant International Law

Adequate health care is a human right, not a commodity for those who can afford it.

Article 25 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care...."

Article 12 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ICESCR) states:

"The State Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (including universally ensuring) medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.... government(s) must ensure all citizens have (affordable) access to basic health services."

Under international law, UDHR and ICESCR form the backbone of the right to health for everyone. The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) developed guidelines to implement it, including a "minimum floor" below which no country may fall, that for health ensures it, in terms of availability, accessibility, acceptability, quality, and universality without discrimination.

America's Low Healthcare Delivery Ranking among Industrialized Nations

Of all industrialized countries, America is the only one that doesn't recognize the right to health and a way to provide it. In fact, in Maher v. Roe (1977), the Supreme Court declared it unnecessary for Congress to require minimum health care standards. The closest to it are Medicare and Medicaid.

Removing middleman insurers would save over $400 billion annually, enough to cover all the uninsured and provide quality care at lower overall cost. Letting corporate predators game the system ensures the opposite, a problem Obamacare exacerbates.

In 1943, Franklin Roosevelt proposed a Second Bill of Rights, declaring "freedom from want" an essential liberty necessary for security, including "the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve good health." Predatory insurers deny it. Focusing on outcomes consistent with internationally-recognized standards is vital, not the right of business to commodify a human right, charge what they want, and deny access for those who can't afford it.

Obamacare will worsen the current system. It's about profits, not people, especially the nation's poor, most vulnerable, and disadvantaged on society's fringes, most hurt by all congressional measures, including one this vital.

What the 1913 Federal Reserve Act did for bankers, Obamacare may do for the insurance and drug cartels.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



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