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Moyers talks with Matt Taibbi and economic historian Robert Kuttner

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Here's a synopsis of what was said:

One year after the great collapse of our financial system,

Main Street
is still struggling, Wall Street is again "cleaning up," while our politicians dither. As for health care reform, many of us are about to be forced to buy excessively expensive insurance from companies whose stock is soaring, and that's just dandy with the White House. Obama and the Democrats seem to be reluctant to cross swords with the corporate elite that has so much power in this country, whether it's the Wall Street elite or the health-industrial complex.

Our capitol's being looted, republicans are acting like the town rowdies, the sheriff is firing blanks, and powerful Democrats in Congress are in cahoots with the gang that's pulling the heist. This is not capitalism at work. It's capital at work -- raw money, mounds of it, buying politicians and policy as if they were futures on the hog market.

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Some of the big insurance companies -- Well Point, Cigna, United Health -- all surged to a 52-week high in their share prices this week when it became clear to investors that there'd be no public option in the health care bill going through Congress right now.

The massive subsidies for health insurance companies have been preserved, yet they've also managed to expand their customer base. How? There's a mandate in the bill that's going to provide these big companies with the 30 million new customers who are going to be forced, under possible penalty of a fine, to give them top dollar for health insurance. Wall Street investors correctly read what this Congressional health care effort is all about. It's about ever larger profits, mandated by law, thanks to a Congressional majority that is essentially owned by Big Pharma and the Health Insurance Giants.

Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, was Bill Clinton's political director. And what he learned from Bill Clinton's failure to get health insurance passed was, 'don't get on the wrong side of the insurance companies.' So Obama's strategy was cut a deal with the insurance companies and the drug industry going in. And the promise to these industries was, "we're not going to attack your customer base, we're going to subsidize a new addition to your customer base. This was a sweetheart deal between the pharmaceutical-"health' industry and the White House, done many months ago, well before this fight in Congress really began.

That's one way to get legislation, but it's not a way to transform the health system. Once the White House made this deal with the insurance companies and Big Pharma, the public option was never going to be anything more than a fig leaf. And, sure enough, over the summer and the fall, it gradually got whittled down to nothing.

Howard Dean's point this week was that by way of this mandate (which is going to force people to become customers of private health insurance companies), the Democrats are going to end up owning this crappy policy and it's going to be extremely unpopular. He says it's going to be an albatross around the Democrats' neck for a generation.

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The difference between social insurance and an individual mandate is this: Social insurance everybody pays for, through their taxes. As a result, we don't think of Social Security as a compulsory individual mandate. You think of it as a benefit, as a protection that your government provides. An individual mandate, on the other hand, is an order to you, under threat of a fine, to buy some product from some private profit-making company, which in the case of a lot of moderate-income people, you can't afford to buy. The dilemma here is that the affordable policies have very high deductibles and co-pays, so you can afford the monthly premiums, but then when you get sick, you have to pay a small fortune out of pocket before the coverage kicks in. However, if the coverage is decent, then the premiums are unaffordable. And so our government is doing the bidding of private industry, in this way coercing people to buy profit-making products that many of them can't afford -- and Congress has the audacity to tell them that this "healthcare reform"!


Just this week, the Washington Post and ABC News had a poll showing that the American public supports the Medicare buy-in plan by a margin of some 30 percentage points -- yet in Congress this proposal went down like a lead balloon. Why?

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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You campaigned on 'change you can believe in'. Fun... by ProgressiveBum on Wednesday, Dec 23, 2009 at 6:59:54 PM
!... by Richard Clark on Wednesday, Dec 23, 2009 at 8:10:00 PM