President Barrack Hussein Obama is now deeply involved in the usual compromising process which occurs after presidents take the hypocritical oath of office, that of selling short the planks of the campaign that caused many people to believe in a candidate. Business-as-usual is all ready returning, as we can see by the enormous non-performance bonuses banks are handing out, and by tepid proposals that would merely tweak the regulatory scheme in reality controlled by big business, tightening a few loose screws here and there, and President Obama is going along with the mainstream.
Yet, even as his deeds are done contrary to the words that were spoken, many people will continue to believe in President Obama simply because he is a charming man and they are naturally unwilling to admit that they judged him wrongly. Well, he is only a president and not the Almighty. A president can easily rouse a bored and effete people and their congress to war on a distant people, for people naturally love violence as much as sex, but fighting sickness and poverty is another matter unless the misery is extreme, and then revolution instead of reform is the key word. President Obama may have missed his window of opportunity to effect radical change. The greatest recession since the Great Depression may have only been a rather expensive traffic ticket on the road to hell.
The greatest thing President Obama could get done, if only he were up to the job, would be the nationalization our health insurance system. At least he would push through the community-rated Public Insurance Option, which the great majority of us want, and which he still says he favors. But he has apparently capitulated to the johns who frequent the federal houses of ill repute, both the commons and the aristocracy, trading public health for a few tweaks of business-as-usual.
We saw it coming when he did not even mention the Public Insurance Option during the recent speech that preceded a national press conference. When a reporter broached the subject during the session of questions and answers, he said favored it, but apparently not enough to make it the sign qua non of his signature on a reform bill. We figured it was off the table, and that the most that shortchanged people would get would be slightly more regulation of the wasteful and unjust health insurance industry as we know it. More recently he said that his plan would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against sick people, but he did not say that he would require all plans to be community rated so that everyone, no matter how old they were or whether they were employed or not, would pay the same premium.
Billions in profits are being reported by health insurance companies as we speak. The last big health insurance reform effort resulted in obscene gains to the industry’s administrators instead of the medical providers. After seeing what commercial insurance companies can do to exploit people’s essential need for health insurance, and after being subjected to federal income taxes under the tax reform of 1986, it is no wonder that non-profit Blue Shields, run by boards of doctors who naturally tend to put the welfare of their profession ahead of the welfare of their patients, are converting to mutual profit organizations or consolidating stock companies lately – Well Point is now the largest Blue Shield around.
The Blues evolved from the desire to fund medical care for teachers, loggers and miners. While the Blue trademarks became a symbol for quality insurance for employed workers, who are physically and financially healthier than impoverished unemployed people, large pools of funds became available to certified hospitals and licensed doctors, and they charged accordingly. Increases in premiums, purportedly due in large part to scientific advances, and technological progress including formal education and administrative techniques, would get them an even greater pool of funds to draw from. We have here the usual tug-of-war between need and greed. The Zoroastrian Dualists believed that, although there are two gods, the good god would win out in the very long run. In the case of health insurance, the contrary now appears true. But do not count on it, for the conflagration still impends as $100,000,000 bonuses are paid, mansions are snapped up at $2,000,000 discounts, and the recovery of Miami’s humble workforce, for instance, depends on the likes of the $10 per hour paid from the stimulus package to Tiffany Barkley for sorting out photos of dead people at the county medical examiner’s office during her summer internship – so far Florida is last on the stimulated list, at $610 per capital, while the District of Columbia is first, at $3,891 per capital.
So-called bipartisan senators have proposed an exchange or pool of non-profit insurance companies for people to select from instead of the Public Option the President allegedly “favors”, but given the history of the Blues, which are independent franchises permitted to use the Blue Cross emblem, the Greek cross that Joseph Binder included on his 1934 poster advertising the American Hospital Association, and the Blue Shield symbol designed by Carl Metzger in 1939, why bother to re-invent one of the big wheels with many spokes that is presently crushing us? Incidentally, the AHA designed the Blue Cross guidelines in way intended to reduce price competition among hospitals. Physicians lobbied vigorously to make sure they were represented on the physician-sponsored Blue Shield boards. The Blues now administer Medicare in several areas, provide insurance to state employees, and are a favorite option under the federal employee insurance program, hence the Blues have a great deal of influence on our elected representatives at the highest levels.
We certainly know that we all must have health insurance to spread the economic risk of costly illness. The health of a nation depends on the physical and mental health of its people. There are certainly many things individuals can do on their own to have and maintain a healthy constitution, but human nature, no matter how healthy, is vulnerable, and the United States government is constitutionally charged with attending to the welfare of its citizens. Since health is fundamental to everyone’s well being, or is in fact their well being and chief happiness, and since the diminishment of that health is enormously costly to the nation on the whole, and since the cost of preventing disease, healing the sick and maintaining health very great, spreading the risk through mutual insurance is necessary, and that insurance should be a public utility. Whether individuals actually see the cost as a premium or it is charged to a budgeted or general tax fund is a formality – as it is, we are already paying for medical care one way or another. Leaving the health of our nation in the hands of private capitalists and their managers, whose main interest is profit and executive compensation, is absurd, as every advanced nation on this earth but the United States has realized long ago.
Although we might not admit it, we know the awful truth about naked capitalism and the supposed self-regulation of its free markets. Its object is not to increase competition but to eliminate it, and one way of eliminating it besides undercutting or buying competitors off is by buying off the government that would regulate business in the public interest. And then it is said that the business of government is business, and the bigger the better. Fascism is thus the perfection of capitalism. We prefer to call it corporatism today instead of fascism, for the latter term conjures up visions of concentration camps and gas chambers, whereas corporatism is multicultural and slowly nickels-and-dimes the basis of the established pyramid to death while the power elite at the apex live high off the hog. That system is bound to collapse catastrophically at one point or another. And if President Obama and his business-as-usual team sell us out, it will collapse sooner than later.