I’ve noticed a lot of people piling onto Senator Joe Lieberman this week. They seem to blame the Senator for the unforgivably weak health care bill that’s about to pass, the one that’s laden with insurance company giveaways and devoid of nearly any meaningful attempt to rein in the morally disgusting practices of the industry. And make no mistake: Lieberman is a corporate cheerleader, on his knees in the locker room delivering a big sloppy, ball-lickin’ bj to Big Pharma and the health insurance companies. But I don’t blame him — I blame President Obama and his failure to lead.
This bill is a dog, a gift-wrapped Christmas present for the health insurance companies. It is most certainly not health care reform; hell, it isn’t even insurance reform.
Think it ain’t so? Take it from Wendell Potter, the former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower whose conscience eventually forced him to battle the insurance industry practices he once enforced. When asked by Keith Olbermann if he considered the bill a bailout for insurance companies, Potter replied that “It certainly is. It contains everything the industry wants, and it’s been stripped of things that the industry didn’t like, so it absolutely is a big gift, a big bailout to the industry.”
Should you wild out? Well, yeah, if you give a shit about reforming health care in any credible way, you should be screaming WHAT THE FUCK. It’s extremely revealing that the White House has taken aim at Howard Dean for telling it like it is. Think about that—they’re not mad at Lieberman…they’re mad at Dean. But Lieberman ruined our chance of getting the public option, right? And yet the White House has been directing it’s ire at Dean…Dean, who actually has the nerve to point out that, dare I say it, the Obama administration is slathering lipstick all over a pig here.
It seems like this is the bill the Obama White House wanted all along. By making some half-assed effort at a public option, the President could appear to be a man of the people. By stopping short of demanding it, he could still hook up the corporate interests he is apparently beholden to. Lieberman seems like more of a fall guy here than anything, someone who did what the administration secretly wanted to do, but publicly couldn’t.
So now we’re legally forced to purchase insurance, by law, from the same asshole insurance companies (Blue Cross, Aetna, CIGNA, etc.) whose bullshit policies didn’t cover people very well, and that we couldn’t afford to begin with. Oh, and they still get to keep their anti-trust exemption. Wow, thanks for the reform guys. Can you do the college football national championship next?
It’s easy to get riled up over Lieberman’s one-man show, and focus on him as the reason we just blew the best chance for meaningful reform in decades. But the real fault lies with President Obama. He showed a lack of leadership on this from the start. By not actually defining what he wanted to see in the bill, he’s now able to CLAIM that he got a win when this fetid piece of garbage passes.
Sure — if you never take a stand for anything specific, you can never really be said to lose. When asked if a public option was a requirement for him, he waffled and equivocated, and, to put it bluntly, acted like a pussy. If he’d said it from the start, and made it clear it was important to him and there would be fucking consequences for those who opposed this, it might have gone better for him. Instead he was wishy-washy and lukewarm, and the House and Senate correctly interpreted that to mean the public option wasn’t very important to him.
This is hard to say coming from someone who thinks George Bush was an amoral, murderous vampire/lich whose hands are dripping with a gooey mixture of crude oil and the blood of the innocent, but he showed more leadership ability, in many regards. He led the country in exactly the wrong way almost every time, sure, but still: Bush never had 60 Senators, and somehow he managed to ram through all his idiotic ideas, like that classic that allows more arsenic in our drinking water.
It could be argued that Republicans have more of a herd mentality, and that there is far more diversity of thought and opinion among the Democrats—therefore they are a tougher group to cajole into voting together, as a unit. That’s partly true, though the GOP is increasingly fractured. But the bill about to be passed amounts to a Playboy centerfold, one that insurance executives are currently beating off to. And, much as it pains me to write it, we have Barack Obama’s utter failure of leadership to thank for that.
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