Sunday, September 06, 2009

Bill Moyers on Health Care

"The editors of THE ECONOMIST magazine say America's health care debate has become a touch delirious, with people accusing each other of being evil-mongers, dealers in death, and un-American.

Well, that's charitable.

I would say it's more deranged than delirious, and definitely not un-American.

Those crackpots on the right praying for Obama to die and be sent to hell — they're the warp and woof of home-grown nuttiness. So is the creature from the Second Amendment who showed up at the President's rally armed to the teeth. He's certainly one of us. Red, white, and blue kooks are as American as apple pie and conspiracy theories.

Bill Maher asked me on his show last week if America is still a great nation. I should have said it's the greatest show on earth. Forget what you learned in civics about the Founding Fathers — we're the children of Barnum and Bailey, our founding con men. Their freak show was the forerunner of today's talk radio.

Speaking of which: we've posted on our website an essay by the media scholar Henry Giroux. He describes the growing domination of hate radio as one of the crucial elements in a "culture of cruelty" increasingly marked by overt racism, hostility and disdain for others, coupled with a simmering threat of mob violence toward any political figure who believes health care reform is the most vital of safety nets, especially now that the central issue of life and politics is no longer about working to get ahead, but struggling simply to survive.

So here we are, wallowing in our dysfunction. Governed — if you listen to the rabble rousers — by a black nationalist from Kenya smuggled into the United States to kill Sarah Palin's baby. And yes, I could almost buy their belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, only I think he shipped them to Washington, where they've been recycled as lobbyists and trained in the alchemy of money laundering, which turns an old-fashioned bribe into a First Amendment right.

Only in a fantasy capital like Washington could Sunday morning talk shows become the high church of conventional wisdom, with partisan shills treated as holy men whose gospel of prosperity always seems to boil down to lower taxes for the rich.

Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him.

No one's ever conquered Washington politics by constantly saying "pretty please" to the guys trying to cut your throat.

Let's get on with it, Mr. President. We're up the proverbial creek with spaghetti as our paddle. This health care thing could have been the crossing of the Delaware, the turning point in the next American Revolution — the moment we put the mercenaries to rout, as General Washington did the Hessians at Trenton. We could have stamped our victory "Made in the USA." We could have said to the world, "Look what we did!" And we could have turned to each other and said, "Thank you."

As it is, we're about to get health care reform that measures human beings only in corporate terms of a cost-benefit analysis. I mean this is topsy-turvy — we should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity.

As we speak, Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, has been fined a record $2.3 billion dollars as a civil and criminal — yes, that's criminal, as in fraud — penalty for promoting prescription drugs with the subtlety of the Russian mafia. It's the fourth time in a decade Pfizer's been called on the carpet. And these are the people into whose tender mercies Congress and the White House would deliver us?

Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company's share price and profits.

Here's a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the website He's a journalist and historian, not a politician. He doesn't split things down the middle and call it a victory for the masses. He's offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan — one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you're 65? Check it out, Mr. President.

This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it's life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter. "


  1. The health care bill is a disaster. The worst aspect (and I read it described as being a true part of the bill on left-wing sites) is the part where families are punished by the federal government for not choosing to spend a certain amount of their money on health insurance.

    HR 3200 lighting into working families like this is pretty outrageous.

    I wonder who specifically flipped working families the finger by putting this into the bill.

  2. In regards to your quote: "Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him."

    If the "bully working families" provision in HR 3200 is one that Obama pushed for, it showes that he came to town preaching mean from the get-go.

  3. All the conservatives I know have a fetish about choice. Do you really believe that citizens DECIDE to not have health insurance? Do you really believe that?

    People don't have health insurance because they can't afford it, or they can't even get it even if they could afford it because they were in the hospital once when they were 10.

    No, I'm not exaggerating.

    I really don't have a problem with people being forced to carry health insurance. You have to have car insurance, and homeowner's insurance-why not health insurance?

  4. "Do you really believe that citizens DECIDE to not have health insurance? Do you really believe that?"

    Some do. And this part punishes that choice. It has no business being there.

    "I really don't have a problem with people being forced to carry health insurance. You have to have car insurance, and homeowner's insurance-why not health insurance?"

    And why not TV insurance and ipod insurance and kitchen table insurance and appliance insurance?

  5. I found this article:

    "Punishing families who can't afford health care to begin with just doesn't make sense," [Obama] said during his party's primaries. At the time, he proposed mandatory insurance only for children.

    White House officials have since backed away somewhat from Obama's opposition to mandated coverage for all, but there's no indication that Obama would support fines."

    Congress has renewed its call to financially burden families with this fine. A burden imposed to punish the family for making informed choices that ignorant bureacrats might happen to oppose. I find the President's attitude on this to be much more commendible.

  6. final point: The stick approach should not be used against families and individuals like this.

    Make health insurance more attractive. Don't rob them of hard-earned money because the family makes decisions that they'd rather spend the money on housing, food, or college.

  7. Really? That's the "choice"? Housing, food, education, or health? John Galt would be proud to hear you say that.

    I dont think HR 3200 will pass-I don't think any of them will pass.

    I dont think HR 3200 is a very good bill-if it were up to me, I would impose the government takeover of health care everyone seems to be afraid of.

    But the failure of your refrigerator, or your IPod, or your microwave, doesn't affect me at all.

    If your car runs into mine, that affects me.

    If I'm a mailman, and I slip and fall delivering mail to your door because you haven't shoveled your walk, that affects me.

    And if you are hit by a bus, and you don't have any health insurance, that affects me. If you don't pay your bill, I do-through higher fees paid by my insurance.

    Again, why should families have to choose between housing and health? Can't we help them have both?

    Every proposal I have seen helps people who can't afford healthcare to do so.

    People who go without healthcare haven't done so to put another Jacuzzi in the Lear Jet. They have done so because they can't afford it, or because they are uninsurable, or both.

    It seems reasonable and humane to help them with that.

  8. "Again, why should families have to choose between housing and health? Can't we help them have both?"

    If they are in dire straits, that penalty part of HR 3200 might causes them to lose the house too. Poor families do not need such a kick in the teeth, and that is all the penalty is.

    I am strongly opposed to complete government takeover, because unaccountable monopolies are a bad idea. One size fits few. And in this case, the monopolist would not be Microsoft or someone like that, but an outfit that has a long and strong reputation of shooting people that disagree with it.

  9. There you go again. Who has this government had shot?

    If they are in dire straits, we should help them. Helping them with their mortgage, and then taking the house away again when they get sick and go into debt, seems pointless.

    The penalty affects those mythical people who would rather finish the wood floors on their beach house than pay for health insurance. Not having health insurance isn't a choice anyone makes willingly.

    I, personally, favor Canadian single payer health care. I believe it is better for everyone-patients, payors, practioners and the entire body politic. (See what I did there?) We are never going to see that in my life time, ever. I still dont even think HR 3200 will pass.

    But we will see.


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