Tragically, Republicans, the health care industry and business-friendly "Blue Dog" Democrats have largely been able to frame the terms of the debate, with a substantial assist from the corporate-owned media.
They've successfully focused the health care debate on the short-term costs to the federal government's bottom line, obscuring the potential impact that a meaningful realignment of the health care system would have on the economy as a whole. In so doing, opponents of reform have hoodwinked much of the public into believing that investments in America's national health care system will wind up costing individuals more than they had gained from the effort.
In fact, they've done such a good job that much of the discourse has revolved around what is arguably one of the least-relevant aspects of the proposals being debated in Congress: whether they "cost too much" or are "deficit neutral" in terms of their impact on the federal budget over the next 10 years.
Much of that discussion has been fueled by a series of estimates issued by the Congressional Budget Office -- estimates based on incomplete drafts of the legislation now moving through Congress. Yet, by and large, the mainstream media have dutifully repeated the spin without mentioning that the critics are touting the CBO's preliminary projections as definitive and final.
Just consider the "public insurance option." While progressives were promised a "robust" public insurance program that would be open to all comers, what emerged from the Senate HELP Committee and from the leaders of three House committees was a pale shadow of what had been touted during last fall's campaign season.So don't blame the Obama Administration for this mess.
Next time you see some congressional meat-puppet on TV discussing how much a plan will cost, or lamenting its limited potential for cost containment, keep in mind that it's his or her ideology that is directly to blame for those shortcomings.
It's only because of pressure from industry groups, Republicans and Blue Dog Dems that congressional leaders took single-payer off the table (and threw advocates out of the room) and gave us a limited public insurance option -- a pale shadow of what reformers had been promised.
Now, those same forces are bent on killing an already-watered-down proposal. If they succeed, we can expect more human suffering, more outlandish increases in premiums, more people being denied care, an increase in the numbers of uninsured and a continued drag on the American economy.
Why is it that people who really need health care are so willing to believe the insurance executives and those doing their bidding when the root of the health care problem stems from their very decisions and policies?