Most recently, the health care debate has shifted focus again: away from the super rich and organized labor, and towards the lower paid sections of the working class. Obama has suddenly discovered an untapped reservoir of wealth:
“…the administration expects to lower payments [Medicare and Medicaid] to hospitals that treat large numbers of low-income patients.” (New York Times, June 1, 2009)
In the same article a doctor responded to Obama’s idea:
"What about homeless people, the chronically mentally ill, substance abusers and people with low literacy? You think they will be using the federal health insurance exchange to enroll in insurance plans? I don’t think so.”
Another critic mentioned in the article claimed the plan could be "devastating to hospitals that serve inner-city communities."
The health care debate has traveled quite a distance, all in a downhill direction: from the starting point of a universal single-payer system to the very bottom of the hill — taxing workers health care benefits and taking health care away from the neediest. This is the obvious outcome of corporate interests having a “seat at the table” in deciding health care policy.
One thing is clear: if working people do not collectively stand up and demand that the very wealthy pay for health care, they will end up paying for it themselves. The raw material for a powerful health care movement already exists in the tens of million Americans who suffer from the current system. With its resources and organizational capacity, the nation’s labor unions have an important role in helping such a movement take shape. But phone calls and letters to Senators won’t do the trick.
Without the hot breath of mass protests on their neck, the Democrats will do whatever their corporate sponsors tell them to. And this is the more important point: there is no clearer proof that the Democratic Party is an organization controlled by powerful corporate interests. Working people — now more than ever — need their own independent political organization if they want a chance to pursue their interests.