Thursday, December 17, 2009

Faux Reform

I ran into an old friend of my father’s recently, and as always, the discussion turned to politics. We’re polar opposites on the political spectrum. He said that he pays a lot of money for health insurance, and so should everyone else. That’s personal responsibility, in GOPspeak. We didn’t continue down that thorny path, but I’m certain that tort reform and blaming people for their health problems were waiting to leap into the conversation at any moment. I’m also certain that CEO bonuses, monopolies, and administrative costs were not fated to be part of the discussion, because apparently conservatives don’t mind those things.

That’s why I’m surprised that the Republicans aren’t tap dancing all over Washington, DC with delight over what is incorrectly called the health care reform bill. If there were truth in advertising, it would be called the Taxpayer Funded Giveaway to Insurance Companies. The GOP has never been shy about using our money to fund corporate America. We shovel plenty to defense contractors, to private mercenaries like Blackwater, and let us not forget that TARP originated with the Bush administration. A few years ago, the GOP desperately wanted to turn Social Security over to their corporate buddies on Wall St. One would think that a bill that forks over to Big Insurance under the phony guise of reform would be right up their alley, but one would be wrong. The GOP, and their angry toady Lieberman are so intent on thwarting Obama that they are missing this chance to pay back their campaign donors.

Let’s make no mistake; this alleged reform bill is nothing of the kind. An insurance reform bill would do something about containing costs. This bill does not. A reform bill would bust up the insurance monopolies. The market is controlled by a small number of big companies that have been allowed to become so large by continual mergers. No competition. The costs are just driven higher and higher, along with the CEO bonuses. In many states there are 2 companies that control the entire insurance market. NH is one of those states. Anthem Blue Cross (Wellpoint) and Cigna control 75% of the NH health insurance market.

In 2008, CIGNA’s CEO, Edward Hanaway took a hit. His salary increased to over $1.1 million, but he lost big on other forms of compensation. The poor man’s performance bonus decreased by 63 percent from the previous year. Hanaway had to make do with only $6.7 million. It just makes you want to cry for the poor fella, doesn’t it? WellPoint’s CEO, Angela Braley earns the same salary, but earned less of a performance bonus – but then, she’s a woman, so that is to be expected. Yep, these are the people who the GOP doesn’t want to help out, with taxpayer money. I confess, I’m shocked. It goes to show how divisive our politics have become, when Corporate America isn’t being rewarded by its most loyal fans – the GOP.

The numbers of uninsured folks and families is on the increase. More and more jobs are being lost, despite the rosy unemployment figures that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out. They only count those who are filing for or collecting unemployment benefits. The numbers of unemployed who were ineligible for, or have run out of benefits are not counted. People who work 4 hours a week are counted as employed. The 10 percent number we hear bandied about is a lie – a lie aimed at keeping us from knowing how bad the situation really is. The real unemployment number is somewhere between 17 and 22 percent. Many of these folks have lost their health insurance, too. Luckily we do have a permanent state of undeclared war to provide employment opportunities for our youth.

So, instead of a real reform bill that would actually help working folks be able to afford insurance, we have a bill that would force working folks to buy expensive private insurance from the monopolies. Those who need help would get government subsidies. There is no mechanism in place to hold those costs down. The insurance monopolies could just hold us up for ever-increasing subsidies – and they will. The Obama administration made a deal with Big Pharma that essentially means that the drug companies can continue to gouge us without fear of regulation. An amendment allowing reimportation of drugs from other countries was shot down. The idea of having to buy our own drugs back (cheaper!) from other countries is bizarre if you stop to actually think about it. We’re told we can’t regulate the drug business, because that would stifle their innovation. I think they could innovate plenty if they stopped advertising penis pills on television every five minutes.

The really sad thing about this whole reform charade is this – we the people do not matter. Our health and well being is not a factor at all. From the very first meeting at the White House, the deck was stacked, by very obviously excluding advocates of a single payer system. If the system is to be fixed, everyone ought to be at the table. Obama said he wanted a bill by the end of the year. He didn’t say anything about it being a GOOD bill. It’s become increasingly obvious that we have government by the corporations, for the corporations, and the party in the driver’s seat matters only in mostly cosmetic terms.

The GOP will continue to wail and gnash its collective teeth about the unborn, while doing nothing to aid the born, unless they were born sucking on a silver spoon. The Democrats will continue to fail to provide any kind of leadership, and will allow the GOP to dominate the national political dialogue with fear and lies. In short, the only change we’re going to see is for the worse.

"Democracy as we know it will be lost if we continue to allow government to become one bought by the highest bidder, for the highest bidder. Candidates will simply become bit players and pawns in a campaign managed and manipulated by paid consultants and hired guns." - Sen. Wendell Ford

printed as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun, on December 18, 2009

© s.bruce 2009

1 comment:

DissedBelief said...

Susan, the old friend of your father's is in my opinion quite representative of the Republican attitude towards the rest of their fellow citizens. Fat cats? When the 4th Reich was in power (the years of Dubya), I had feelings of unease that have carried over. We are still living under the firm thumb of the 4th Reich with their Bormann like moderators and instigators controlling the rest of us. They therefore do not wish for us to live or survive well since this is not their ideology. We are less than human compared with themselves. We don't deserve freedom and therefore, do not deserve to live. This is not a radical comment at all. Consider the Bush years, under his implementation a "health programme" titled Wait Training. Recall that one? This was designed for teenage girls to not have sex before marriage and "to admire a man is to regard him with wonder, delight and approval. A man feels admired when his unique talents and characteristics happily amaze her". And we wonder why we are in so much trouble! Broderbonders at the helm! Where in the world is Barack Obama?