The Corporate Democratic Party is into snuff politics.The target this month — single payer, Medicare for all.
The motive — protect the corporate health insurance industry.
Democratic snuff politics was on display yesterday on Capitol Hill.
Senator Ron Wyden was on the Hill surrounded by his corporate supporters — Steve Burd, CEO, Safeway Inc., Art Collins, CEO of Medtronic, Inc, H. Edward Hanaway, CEO, CIGNA, Steve Sanger, CEO, General Mills, and Ronald Williams, CEO, Aetna, Inc.
Wyden has introduced legislation that is similar to that introduced by Republican Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
All claim to create universal health care.
None can, do or will.
What's the common denominator between Wyden-care, and Romney-care and Schwarzenegger-care?
The individual must get health insurance or the individual is violating the law.
As opposed to single payer.
Which says to the health insurance companies — get out.
We will take care of our people.
If you sell basic health insurance, you are violating the law.
Everyone is in one insurance pool.
Nobody is out.
All are covered.
No bills, no co-pays, no deductibles.
No losing your health insurance when you change jobs.
No escalating premiums when you get sick.
Cheaper than the current system.
With better outcomes.
One approach sets up a system that outlaws individual wrongdoing.
The other sets up a system that outlaws corporate wrongdoing.
The key element focused on by the CEOs — a market-based health care system.
The goal — derail publically funded single payer legislation that will cut administrative waste.
The single payer bill has 70 sponsors in the House of Representatives and is supported by 52 percent of the American people.
When asked why he doesn't support single payer when 52 percent of the American people do, Wyden didn't blush.
"The people of my state, not a poll, but at the ballot box in 2002, they voted by about 3-1 against a single payer proposal," Wyden said.
Well yeah, after the insurance industry dumped millions to scare people into believing the government was going to take over their lives.
"If you go to a community meeting and take a poll in my state, what people want is coverage like their member of Congress gets," Wyden said. "They want benefits like their members of Congress. They want the quality of care that their members of Congress get."
But can't single payer deliver exactly that?
Mildly irritated by this question, Wyden reminds reporters in the room that single payer is not the topic of this press conference.
(No, the topic is snuffing out single payer.)
"My guess is that single payer is more government than Americans want, number one," he says. (The CEOs nod their heads in approval.)
"And number two — how do you get there from here?" he asks.
How do you get there from here?
Pass single payer.
Wyden actually means — how do you get there from here if you anger the CEOs of Aetna and CIGNA and all of the other CEOs standing behind him at the press conference by supporting single payer?
Well, one way you get there from here is by building political support for single payer.
Hold a press conference with ordinary Americans and announce an attack on the corporate health care system that results in 31 percent of health care spending on administrative costs, that triggers half of all personal bankruptcies, that leaves 45 million uninsured and 16 million underinsured.
None of this by the way was a surprise to long-time Wyden watchers.
Greg Kafoury is a public interest lawyer based in Portland.
"That Wyden would host a health care news conference surrounded by corporate CEOs is typical of his career in politics," Kafoury told Corporate Crime Reporter. "Most of his public life has been dedicated to serving big money. With his constituency in Oregon, he could be a hero of the people and support single payer. The tragedy is that there is no need for him to serve power rather than confront it."
So that's one tragedy — the corporate Democrats.
The other tragedy is the so-called progressive Democrats.
They held a one day conference in Washington, D.C. last week — titled — The Big Con — The Failure of American Conservatism.
It was sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future — the outfit directed by Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey — and The American Prospect magazine.
The day-long event featured a debate between American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner and neocon William Kristol.
The title — Can Conservatives be Trusted to Govern?
Everyone in the room understood the answer to be no.
The unanswered question, only touched on by Kuttner, was whether Democrats could be trusted to govern.
Kuttner grazed by it when he said the $64,000 question was whether the Democratic Party could throw off its corporate funders.
"As the income distribution becomes more concentrated, so does the distribution of political power," Kuttner said. "For the Republicans, that's not a contradiction. Wealthy Republicans pay Republicans to be Republicans and to carry out conservative ideology. Wealthy Democrats for the most part, except on social issues, pay Democrats to be less like Democrats. So, one party starts out with one hand tied behind its back. The cure for that is leadership."
Which was severely lacking at the conference.
Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg told the conference that one recent poll of likely voters showed that 52 percent want a Canadian-style single payer system. And fully 70 percent of Democratic primary voters want such a system.
If that's true, how come even the progressive leaders at the conference who work on health care, like Hickey and Yale University Professor Jacob Hacker, don't support single payer?
"The problem is that you can't just tell people — you are going to have to change all of your arrangements overnight," Hickey told Corporate Crime Reporter. "The problem is telling people that have good health insurance — you have to shift to something else."
The other problem with single payer, Hickey says, is that the insurance companies would fight it tooth and nail.
Hickey says that if you take a pro-single payer stance, "you will be relegated to the sidelines and you won't have any leverage over the political debate that goes on this year."
"The question people have to ask is — are we going to get the political debate heading in a single payer direction, or do we abdicate the field and let Hillary and Edwards and the best of them end up with something like Schwarzenegger's plan, which is all private insurance, or Romney's plan."
But if Edwards had come out for single payer, he would have energized the 70 percent of Democratic Party primary voters who want it, right?
"And if elephants could fly, you would have a flying circus," Hickey says dismissively.
Hacker is the progressive Dems academic guru on health care.
At the conference, we asked him — why not single payer?
"I am someone who is quite appreciative of single payer," Hacker said. "But countervailing that political story, which is certainly a true story, are the political risks of displacing the private insurance of highly paid workers and the fiscal costs of creating the system in one fell swoop."
"The seventy House Democrats who support single payer are a powerful force for major reform," Hacker says. "They should keep pressing for bold action. They only should be willing to talk about compromise at a point in which they think something could really happen and be valuable. My role as a policy analyst is to try and craft something that could be that compromise, something that could be Medicare for many. Keep in mind, nearly 60 percent of all Americans would be in this Health Care for America plan. And projections show at least ten more percent within a decade. So, we are talking about 70 percent of Americans."
Hacker says that insurers and employers will initially resist anything that reduces their role entirely.
"But once you get the system in place, both actors will see incentives to work with it instead of against it," Hacker said.
"With insurers, it's a little more iffy."
So, the political reality of health care in America can be summed up as a tale of Two Big Cons.
Big Con One — the conservatives offering prosperity for all and delivering cronyism and favoritism for the rich.
And Big Con Two — the progressive Democrats, promising universal health care, and then joining with corporate Democrats and corporate America to snuff out single payer.