September 23, 2009
Distracting, Dissembling, Disappointing; Barack is Back! by Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report, 09/16/2009
Distracting, Dissembling, Disappointing; Barack is Back!
by Bruce A. Dixon 09/16/2009
Like Dick Nixon after his vacations, Obama returns to the White House “tanned, rested and ready.” Good for him. But nine months into the Obama presidency, many are asking, what about health care? What about the war? What about torture and warrantless wiretapping? What about the stranglehold of Wall Street on the real economy, and the unpayable debts of tens of millions of families? Why does the White House seem to value Glenn Beck's opinions more than those of its own Democratic base? What happened to the candidate whose presidency was supposed to be the fulfillment of Dr. King's Dream?
Distracting, Dissembling, Disappointing. Barack is Back!
By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Distracting: If Joe Wilson Didn't Exist, The White House Would Have Needed To Invent Him
In the week since the president's much ballyhooed speech on health care, most of the air and ink, both in corporate media and most tellingly, among so-called progressives hasn't been on what the president did or didn't say. It's been on the member of Congress who interrupted the president, calling him a liar.
South Carolina's Joe Wilson is an unrepentant racist creep, no doubt about itt. But first, a member of Congress calling the president a liar should be pretty much par for the course. If either prolonged proximity to prevaricators teaches one anything, or if it takes one to know one, a member of congress should be pretty much an expert on liars, right? It also means the accuser could be lying too.
Secondly and more important, it should not be an offense against law or courtesy to call any president a liar, any time. It's not like the Oval Office teleprompters have never been sullied by the well-suited bearers of false witness. Absolutely nobody can say that U.S. presidents don't lie. So-called progressives who joined the corporate media's week-long orgy of outrage over Joe Wilson's bad manners are only marginalizing themselves next time they want to call out a prevaricating president. It wasn't that long ago that Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld advocated felony charges against the impolite protestors who interrupted his untruthful testimony before the Senate.
Joe Wilson's interruption served the highest purposes of the bipartisan political establishment. It distracted public attention from the actual content of the president's speech, and the barren prospects it presents for health care reform as anything other than a bailout of the predatory private insurance industry. It allowed corporate media to divert discussion of health care to the longstanding and frankly racist demand on the part of most Republicans, and many Democrats that the border be extended into every doctor's office and emergency room, and medical providers be required to ascertain citizenship of the ill and injured. And while the First Black President and his party have not fully obliged them, they have done nothing to actively discourage the virulent racist sentiment that underlies much of the opposition to the extension of health care benefits to all.
Dissembling: Is it Health Care Reform, or Bailout For Private Insurers?
On the questions of health care and health insurance, the president's speech offered no surprises and according to the polls, changed few if any minds. Obama at last openly likened his vision of health insurance to car insurance, in that everyone will be required by law to purchase the health insurance industry's shabby and deceptive product. The president mentioned single payer, the solution favored by a majority of the nation's physicians and people, and endorsed by more than a hundred members of the previous congress, but dismissed it with the specious claim that single payer would somehow “disrupt” the care people already receive.
The president grossly undermined congressional Democrats who support a “robust public option” by spelling out just how constricted, crippled and un-robust he intends to make any “public option.” Obama's public option “...would only be an option for those who don't have insurance....In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.” Five percent is less than 15 million people, far short of the 120 million or more that a not for profit public option would need in order to force downward the prices of drug companies and private insurers.
While President Obama mentioned Medicare, he omitted the fact that Medicare was passed into law and enacted in a mere eleven months, compared to his vision of “health insurance exchanges” which will take until 2013, after the end of his first term, to begin covering the uninsured. Also lacking was any precise description of what the American people received in return for the president's concession to drug companies in giving away the right to negotiate their prices downward, or just how these health insurance exchanges will ever bring the cost of insurance, or of health care down.
As always, the refusal of the president and his party to consider the single payer solution to the nation's health care woes deprived him of the most cogent answers to every rightist and Republican charge from “socialism” to “it costs too much.” So the president could say the death panel rumors were false. What he could not say was that leading private insurers in the nation's largest and wealthiest state reject a full one-fifth of all medical claims outright, as the California Nurses Association revealed last week. He could not advance his health care plan as a job creation machine because he aims to keep private insurers in business rather than allowing a single payer system to create a net gain of 2.6 million new health care positions after subtracting for the 550,000 people in the insurance industry who would have to look for other work.
The president repeated unlikely claims, that he would make the private insurers cease the revocation of policies because policyholders get sick or injured, that he would make them lower deductibles and stop refusing treatment. Effectively, he promised private insurers a bailout; tens of millions of new customers whose policies would be paid for by the government. The president left out his proposal to pay for some of this with a profoundly regressive tax on the employer-provided health care benefits that millions of Americans already receive. For low and middle income workers, such benefits are a relatively larger portion of their total wage and benefit package, so such a tax would hit them much harder than higher paid employees, even if those employees had much better coverage.
Disappointing: Will Obama Take Down Democrats in 2010?
Congressional Democrats recall the precedent of another first term Democratic president who disregarded the will of his own party's base to make NAFTA its first and most urgent priority, and pay attention to health care and other matters only afterward. That president's failure gave the Congress to Newt Gingrich and the Republican class of '94. If the American people believe the Obama administration fails to deliver on health care, if that administration continues its cynical escalation of the unwinnable war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2010 could be the new 1994.
More and more of the president's supporters are coming to see, as Ian Welsh puts it, that “the fundamental truth about the Obama administration is that it is the Bush administration run by slightly less incompetent, marginally less evil people...””
Whether it's Barack Obama's support for extending provisions of the Patriot Act and the state of emergency George Bush initiated to grant himself extra powers in 2001, his continuation of Bush polices aimed at privatizing public education, the Obama giveaway of $12 trillion to Wall Street, or his retention of Team Bush at the Pentagon, President Obama seems determined to mock the hopes that his candidacy once inspired in tens of millions of supporters.
Richard Nixon's advisors used to say their man was “tanned, rested and ready” after his summer vacation. Well, summer's over again. Barack is back. He was born tanned, and after long weekends and extended golf games with the world's biggest money launderers he should be rested. We presume he's ready. Distractions, dissemblings, disappointments and all. Are we?
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and based in Atlanta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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