Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Closing Time

A Historic Confirmation of Corporate Power


It looks like heaven but it feels like death;
It's something in between, I guess:
It's closing time.
-- Leonard Cohen

Official transcript of remarks by President Barack Obama after the March
21 vote in the House of Representatives on H.R.3590: Motion to Concur in
Senate Amendments to Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

My fellow Americans. As many of our more serious commentators have noted,
Democrats and progressives have sought genuine reform of our broken,
bloated, unjust health care system for almost a hundred years. Today, I am
proud to say that we have brought that century-long struggle to a close.
Together with our visionary partners in the House and the Senate, we have
finally killed genuine health care reform for many years to come --
perhaps even for another century!

The struggle is over, the deal is done, the fix is in, and corporate power
-- unbridled, unchallenged, coddled, protected, and larded with the
endless pork of government-guaranteed profit -- has triumphed at last.
This is an historic achievement. This is a mighty legacy we will bequeath
to future generations.

This, my friends, is what change looks like.

Now, you know and I know that such change never comes easily. It never
comes without opposition. It never comes without controversy. Even in this
hour of victory, we know that the doom-sayers will be out in force.

And I'm not speaking here of the Republicans, whose opposition has simply
been a lurid, baseless "Red Dawn" fantasy about "communism" coming to
America. "Communism" -- in a bill that has been written by our visionary
partners in the corporate community, by our hyper-capitalist friends and
patrons on Wall Street, by the lobbyists and bagmen of Big Money! It's
true there is a tinge of socialism in the bill, but it is, of course, the
only kind of socialism that is tolerated in America: socialism for the
rich, where the masses shoulder the risks -- and the costs -- while the
wealthy reap the profits for themselves. The health-care barons, the
bailed-out banks, the farm-devouring agriconglomerates, the war profiteers
... we've got plenty of boardroom bolsheviki out there -- but it sure
ain't "communism" like Castro used to make! So let them hoot and holler
down this false trail all they like; for as I learned back in my Senate
days, when I was considered part of the "anti-war" faction, opposition
without substance only entrenches the status quo.

No, what we must look out for are all those -- or rather, those very few
-- nattering nabobs of negativism who have opposed our historic corporate
empowerment bill out of -- get this -- principle. Like barnacles hanging
onto the butt of the Titanic, they have clung to the idea of truly
universal, equal, single-payer health care, a system that is less
expensive, more efficient, more secure, more democratic, more popular and
more effective than the heroic measure we have passed here today.

These poor wretches -- who now must face the wrath of Kos and the wroth of
Rahm for their tragic apostasy -- are simply not savvy enough to see that
our 2,000-page boondogglepalooza, riddled with fine-print exceptions,
toothless regulations (which we will 'enforce' every bit as rigorously as
Wall Street has been regulated all these years), impenetrable phase-in and
phase-out schedules, and mild benefits that won't even begin kicking in
for years -- and that even after a decade will still leave millions of
people uncovered -- is much better than a simple, streamlined system that
could be implemented by the end of this year, bringing genuine relief from
intolerable, life-degrading financial burdens and medical problems to
millions and millions of people in dire need right away.

Or as that avatar of negativity, Ralph Nader put it:

"The health insurance legislation is a major political symbol wrapped
around a shredded substance. It does not provide coverage that is
universal, comprehensive or affordable. It is a remnant even of its own
initially compromised self — bereft of any public option, any safeguard
for states desiring a single payer approach, any adequate antitrust
protections, any shift of power toward consumers to defend themselves, any
regulation of insurance prices, any authority for Uncle Sam to bargain
 with drug companies, and any reimportation of lower-priced drugs." 
Hey, Ralph, thanks for reciting my credits! All those "berefts" you cited
were the result of my own super- savvy negotiations! It's 11-dimensional
chess, man, a really heavy-duty Matrix Zen Jedi Master use-the-Force kind
of thing, where you win the game by giving away everything you have in the
opening move! But you're too much a dinosaur to understand. 'Anti-trust
protections!' Hey, Teddy Roosevelt -- your horse-and-buggy is waiting!
Just listen to this guy:

"Most of the health insurance coverage mandated by this legislation does
not come into effect until 2014, by which time 180,000 Americans will die
because they were unable to afford health insurance to cover treatment and
diagnosis, according to Harvard Medical School researchers."
Well, what can I say? 180,000 is a lot of dead people. This is a very hard
choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.

Then there's this Chris Hedges guy. He used to be a "serious" journalist,
reporting on the imperial wars for our corporate partners in the
stovepiping community -- what old-timers and barnacles still like to call
the "news media." But he went off the rails a long time ago and joined the
carpers and cranks on the sidelines, those malcontents who, unlike so many
of our progressive partners today, have never imbibed the timeless wisdom
of Warren G. Harding: "Don't knock, boost!"

Just get a load of Hedges here, making the big-whoop observation that our
 historic bill is just a bloated version of the already-failed,
Republican-created Massachusetts plan:

"Take a look at the health care debacle in Massachusetts, a model for what
we will get nationwide. One in six people there who have the mandated
insurance say they cannot afford care, and tens of thousands of people
have been evicted from the state program because of budget cuts. The
45,000 Americans who die each year because they cannot afford coverage
will not be saved under the federal legislation. Half of all personal
bankruptcies will still be caused by an inability to pay astronomical
medical bills. The only good news is that health care stocks and bonuses
for the heads of these corporations are shooting upward. ..."
Again with the credits! Stocks going up, corporate heads filling their
pockets, pols gorging on backroom baksheesh, Big Money controlling the
debate ... Earth to Hedges: That's what we're here for! That's the whole
point! You're an old Seventies guy, aren't you, Chris? You remember ZZ
Top? "Jesus Just Left Chicago"? (If you'll pardon the immodesty.) What do
they say? "Taking care of business is his name." They got that right.

So who cares if the plan "fails"? Who cares, if, as you say,

"[the plan] will not expand coverage to 30 million uninsured, especially
since government subsidies will not take effect until 2014. Families who
cannot pay the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments, estimated to be
between 15 and 18 percent of most family incomes, will have to default,
increasing the number of uninsured. Insurance companies can unilaterally
raise prices without ceilings or caps and monopolize local markets to shut
out competitors."
Listen, Hedgie: If the plan was to reform the health care system for the
benefit of the people, then we would have, like, reformed the health care
system for the benefit of the people. You follow? The plan was, is, and
will always be to appear to be reforming the system -- to make the rubes
believe that something is being done to alleviate their pain -- precisely
to avoid really reforming the system, which is just too good and greasy
for too many of us at the top of the imperial pyramid.

And when this plan fails -- as it will, as it will -- then you rig up
another boondoggle, another "great debate" full of sound and fury,
signifying zilch, to keep the rubes at bay. Meanwhile, we can get on to
the real job our corporate colleagues and patrons want us to do --
bringing that other old dream of social amelioration for the common folk
to an end at last: Social Security. Scalpel, Nurse! The doctor is in!

Chris Floyd is an American writer and a frequent contributor to
CounterPunch. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at

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