Imagine public elections in which 2 percent are allowed to vote and Diebold gets to nominate the candidates. Or public parks with guest lists of 2 percent of the public, and private prisons for anyone else who tries to enter. Or how about public schools serving 2 percent of children with fully televised lessons broken up by commercials promoting illiteracy? Welcome to the world of the robust public option.
At first the "public option" was to be a massive but less-than-universal healthcare plan that would prove so efficient and effective that over several years the public would all opt into it. It was a backdoor to a civilized system of Medicare for all. Now what’s left of it? Now it’s a public option for 2 percent of Americans, and in some states 0 percent, to be run by private corporations, with prices set to avoid any efficiency or competition for the wasteful health insurance companies.
Is that better than nothing? No, it’s worse, because this pathetic scam of a healthcare plan is plastered like lipstick on a pig to a bailout for the health insurance corporations. (Sure, the bill contains some reforms to the insurance corporations’ practices, but that’s like trying to reform piranhas.) And when the healthcare crisis continues to worsen in the coming years, the blame will be placed on the nearly nonexistent public option, thus justifying making things even worse, if possible. And the same bill goes out of its way to prevent states from solving the problem on their own, allowing them to opt out of the perverse public option (opting into which would hardly be noticeable anyway) but denying states the ability to create real healthcare funding for their residents. Congressman Kucinich’s amendment to remedy this has been stripped out by Speaker Pelosi.
Now, enough House Democrats have publicly committed to voting No on any bill this bad, that it could not pass. On July 30th 57 of them signed a letter saying that any bill without a public option based on Medicare rates would be unacceptable. And therefore, this bill would be dead, and we could go into round 2 with a stronger demand for a bill that might actually save a significant number of lives. And we could move ahead on easy steps, like busting monopoly protections, passing the Kucinich amendment, and passing reforms proposed by Senator Sanders. That is, we could imagine all such scenarios if you could trust a progressive member of Congress as far as you could throw one. And some of them are pretty robust, if you know what I mean.
Sadly, these people’s word is as trustworthy as the promises of a health insurance company. (And when they prove that yet again, you can forget about progressive legislation or action on any issue in the months and years to come.) And most so-called progressive and labor organizations don’t even want to ask them to keep their word. So-called citizens’ groups, now actually taking their directives from the very people they pretend to lobby, are so obsessed with passing any sort of bill, that the content of the bill is virtually irrelevant. I say virtually, because the collective decision is that it must contain something or other that can be mislabeled a "public option." Other than that, it could sentence millions of Americans to death, and it would still be fine and dandy. And that is exactly what it does.
And why is a bill better than no bill? Why is a bill that funds absolutely useless parasites like health insurance companies at the expense of our grandchildren’s unearned pay better than nothing? Why — when blocking a bill would almost guarantee a better debate in round 2 — is it more important to pass the bill and close off the opportunity for valuable reform? Is there nothing this bill could do that would lead you to oppose it? If the senate turns the "public option" into something that does not even exist until possibly "triggered" years from now, then will you oppose the bill? But the public option barely exists in the House version either. Why wait until the last minute to pointlessly pretend you oppose this pig?
Why not speak up now wen it might make a difference? Why not at least demand No votes unless the Kucinich amendment is restored?
Silence is not speech.
War is not peace.
Illness is not health.
And 2 percent is not robust or public or an option.
DAVID SWANSON is the author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org