Thursday, October 1, 2009

Public Option: Fail

Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA),
ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee (Washington Independent)
Now that the Democrats have pulled a classic Democratic move by losing when they had all odds in their favor (for previous Democratic performances, see the 2000 presidential election), it is time to mourn to public option. That's right folks, the insurance system as it stands today has won the war on health reform, as their pockets will soon be lined by tax subsidies that the government will be giving out to Americans to shop around for their own insurance coverage. It's all right, though, because the insurance companies will play fair and follow the rules without strict government regulation, right Wall Street?

But we had to see this coming. It happened to Clinton in the 90s, and the powers that be (read: special interests and their lobbying arms) are just too entrenched to get anything done. Look at the massive amounts of money that they have donated to the folks responsible for the death of the public option. Chuck "Death Panel" Grassley has received $227,000 in the first half of 2009 alone from these interests. Max Baucus, the Democrat whose bill was supposed to garner wide bipartisan support but in reality was a bigger flop than a Vlade Divac offensive foul, has received $3.9 million since 1989 and is currently ranked fifth in terms of donations from the healthcare sector. It should be no surprise, then, that Baucus' plan had no public option.

But why do we need a public option so bad? Think about it: do you really think that the healthcare industry will police itself? No. Since that is a given, do you really think that the government will effectively ensure fairness in the insurance industry while making sure that those with horrible insurance or no insurance at all receive adequate coverage? If you do, then you're either a moron or have good enough insurance that you just don't care (this latter group, as indicated by the effort put forth by them, includes senators and congressmen).

A robust public option would have created what those in love with capitalism have wet dreams about: competition. How unfair would it be? The public option probably would not be that great to begin with, it would be a basic form of care. Those opposed to it on the principles (that great mass of people who refuse Medicare coverage because it is government-run) do not have to partake in it. To say that a public option would take down companies with a net income of more than $1.3 billion in 2008, or more than $1.2 billion sounds a little crazy.

But that's not even the point, as the popularity of a public option seems split according to public opinion polls. The point is that the Democrats have what has been deemed a "supermajority," a mandate if you will, that the country was sick of the way things were going and wanted to change things. Instead of ramming this legislation through Congress or making deals with their peers or doing whatever it took to fix this inherently flawed system, they held town halls, pandered to rumor mongers, and proved to the American people why bipartisanship simply does not work when you elect morons.

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The death of the public option began (and in my opinion, ended) with the Senate Finance Committee. The committee shot down both public option amendments, and then in a twisted turn of events voted to restore $50 million for abstinence-only education. So how did Senate Finance Committee member Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a staunch public advocate for th public option, feel about the day's activities? "We're feeling good," and "We're pleasantly surprised." In an utterly embarrassing day for Finance Committee Democrats (who outnumber Committee Republicans 13-10), Chuck Schumer says that he feels good about what took place? Two public options proposals were shot down and $50 million was allocated to a horrible educational curriculum that simply does not work. That's like Omar Minaya saying that the Mets have had a good couple of years.

So who's to blame for all of this? Democrats? Republicans? Tea bag nutjobs who don't understand nearly anything? That's a good start, but as we continue to vote in incumbents who really do not have our best interests at heart (if this bill affected their healthcare it would have been done decades ago and we would be pitying Canada for having such backwards, universal healthcare) and continue to allow special interest groups to dictate what we talk about in the media and in the legislative halls, we're only screwing ourselves. Because while the Chucks live in their own worlds - Grassley saying the government will pull the plug on grandma, Schumer saying two vote-downs of the public option and an increase in failed abstinence-only education is, essentially, a victory - we live in ours, and right now our healthcare system sucks and will continue to suck with no public option.

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