Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Moral Equivalent of Slavery (UPDATED)

posted by Armadillo Joe

The so-called health care "debate" seems pretty simple to me. On one side are, well, anyone not making money off killing people by neglect -- what in a criminal trial would be called depraved indifference. On the other are the gobs of people who make gobs of money by collecting fees with the promise of paying out should the need ever arise and then not only not paying out on a wide variety of pretexts with no recourse when the need actually arises, but further revoking the policy once the person in need represents a negative income stream. In any other business such behavior would be called fraud. It is so profitable that one side can effortlessly thwart the will of an overwhelming majority of the public by spreading their blood-stained dollars around on an as-needed basis. Any politician from either party whose coffers include any money from the "Death-Insurance" industry has blood on their hands, too.

In other words, one side makes money by letting people die and anyone who helps them should be held criminally liable. It's really that simple.

But the problem we have now is that we have been robbed of the language to accurately talk about the health-care debate in the moral terms it requires. George Orwell called the phenomenon "doublespeak":
Communication will become... not the transmission of meaning, but the attempt to avoid meaning in furtherance of a political end which we feel must be mad but are unable to prove


"...the whole point of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought... In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it” ... The lack of words to express rebellion stabilizes the regime, as no one will have the ability to revolt. However, it also takes away the basic rights of people to express their feelings and thoughts.
The GOP, through the tireless efforts of Frank Luntz and other like-minded villainous functionaries of the Ruling Elite, has been able use various methods of debate-framing to leach meaning out of the very words we use to discuss any particular issue. Hence, we are no longer "citizens" deserving of certain base-levels of protection against violence foreign & domestic and calamity economic or social for the simple fact of being citizens. We are now "consumers" of government services or any other public good, which crudely reduces health-care to a mere commodity, and commodities -- as everybody knows --- are naturally always subject to magic laissez-faire sparkle-ponies and assorted free-market fairy dust which always fixes everything for all time throughout all human history forever and ever, Amen. Duh. Anyone who says different is a commie or a Dirty Fucking Hippie and hates America. And makes baby Jesus cry.

That is how they've been able to control the health-care debate for almost a century, yes: a century, from Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose calling for health care reform in 1912 to FDR failing to pass NHI in the 1930's to Harry Truman running on a platform of nationalized health-care in 1948 through the modest success of the Medicare/Medicaid battles in the 60's to Ted Kennedy's heroic but doomed efforts in the 1970's and the star-crossed Clinton initiative 15 years ago. We've been fighting this battle for almost 100 years and, except for the legacy-producing aire that passed Medicare and Medicaid in the wake of the blood-sacrifice of JFK's assassination, we always lose this fight.

We're about to lose it again. In fact, I would argue we lost it when Max Baucus paid no political price whatsoever for wantonly shutting out single-payer advocates in the initial health care hearings last month. The public option is already a piss-poor substitute for single-payer, a "Separate-But-Equal" compromise that will become the doctor's office equaivalent of "white" and "colored" drinking fountains. Anyone who has ever been glared at by the checker and other people in line while trying to buy groceries with food stamps knows what I'm talking about. At this point, the public option -- if it happens at all -- will be little more than a cobbled-together false-flag hybrid so chocked full of compromises that it is essentially engineered to fail, so that the insurance industry can point to it as proof they were right all along. No good faith efforts to make health-care work for all Americans here. No sir-ee, multi-gazillion dollar CEO salaries are on the line, so shut the fuck up and stay sick and die, you Dirty Fucking Hippie.

Over at FireDogLake, Glenn W. Smith calls this situation the moral equivalent of slavery:
The gravity of America's health care crisis is the moral equivalent of the 19th Century's bloody conflict over slavery. This is not hyperbole, though the truth of it is often lost in abstract talk of insurance company profits, treatment costs, and other cold, inhuman analyses.

Today's health system condemns 50 million Americans to ill health and death while guaranteeing health care to the economic privileged. It cannot stand.

About 18,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance. That's more than a third the number of lives lost in battle during each year of the four-year Civil War.

Members of Congress without the moral clarity to recognize this equivalence will be condemned by history. Their spinelessness and lack of will when confronted with the power of the insurance industry is just as morally bankrupt as the American congressmen who bowed to Southern slave-owners.


In other words, people are dying because our political leaders are afraid of the insurance industry.

Condemning Americans to premature death and ill health so some can earn profits is the moral equivalent of slavery. Some may find the comparison extreme, others distasteful. But history will record it as a fact.

And members of Congress who ignore that fact can be certain that their descendants will be haunted by their blindness and cowardice.
I recognize that politics is the art of the possible. Single-payer, dissolving the corporate charters of all health-insurance companies for violations of the public good and then jailing insurance CEO's for felonious depraved indifference is a pie-in-the-sky pipe dream of this DFH in an America that still protects torturers from prosecution, but I think Obama is playing it way too safe by not providing the vocal moral leadership from his bully pulpit that would give the cowardly caucus of Democratic capitulators in Congress the political cover they need to stand with their de jure constituency instead of their de facto one.

I don't think they need a collective spine-transplant because A.) we'd need a health policy that would cover it and we don't yet have it and B.) the success of such a surgery would presuppose a desire to do the right thing. They are craven opportunists, every single one of them, and I think they need to be shamed into doing what they've been elected to do by the public, not what they've been paid to do by industry. No amount of public phonecalls and letters and emails will trump the blood-dollars poured into their pockets. The only person with the power to lead this chorus of Quislings is our president. Based on what has happened so far, I fear he will attempt to navigate a middle course where there is none.

In the meantime, just try not to get sick of anything.

Over at Mahablog, it seems maha's in a pretty sour mood about how this whole health-care fight is winding down and frankly so am I. In a post titled "Reform Theater," she pretty much wrote the same post as I did, but better phrased (bold-face is mine) -
...I believe that in nearly any other industrialized democracy in the world politicians would be tripping over themselves in the rush to provide universal health care coverage for citizens.

But not in the United States. In the U.S., politicians pat us on the head and tell us we’re confused. What we really want, we’re told, is to keep the private for-profit system that allows increasing numbers of Americans to fall through the cracks.

In the United States, the will of the people means nothing any more. What was once a vibrant democracy has been riddled with parasites sucking democratic values, not to mention wealth, out of it.


At this point, most of us fully expect that President Obama’s health care proposals — which were moderate and centrist to begin with, not nearly the total overhaul most of us wanted — will be watered down and compromised away to nothing but a collection of minor tweaks. And when the health care “reform” bill is signed into law there will be a great ballyhoo about it, but the American public will see no real difference. And the struggle will continue, and the Right will argue that we tried a progressive option and it didn’t work.


Years of government that cannot be made to respond to the will of Americans has resulted in political enervation. We’ve become resigned to an ever-encroaching shabbiness, an increasingly instability. None of the promises of reform made to us by the politicians we elect are ever kept to any meaningful extent, and we no longer expect them to be kept. Instead, we get reform theater, and nothing changes. That’s just how it is.

That wasn’t always the case. I am old enough to remember the attitudes of my Greatest Generation parents and their friends, who grew up with the New Deal and fought World War II. They came out of that era believing the American people, through their government, could accomplish anything. Now we’re grateful if our lights come on and our bridges don’t collapse.

Sorry if I’m feeling bleak today, but a number of news stories say the Democrats are going to be forced to compromise away the public insurance option — you know, the option that 72 percent of Americans support — to get a health care bill passed. And as far as I’m concerned that’s the only part of the package that really matters. It’s not a perfect solution, but it would make a real difference to millions of Americans and put us on the road to more genuine reform in the future.

And of course we may ask, with such broad public support for the public option, who is forcing the Dems to compromise? And the answer is, well-funded interest groups, the over-represented Right, and Big Money generally. We won’t get the reform we need, because it would cause a few well-connected people to lose money.

[... ]

We can write letters and make phone calls and even hold massive rallies until we all grow feathers and fly. It won’t matter. We know that, because we’ve tried these things in the past, with this and other issues, and were ignored. That’s why so many of us have given up.

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