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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 10/10/13

The "Affordable" Care Act: The Best Illustration Yet of Why We Need a New Major Political Party

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TV, radio, and newspapers are always telling us that the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are sworn enemies. There are locked in a battle tot he death. They despise each other, and they have fundamentally different ideas about where they want to take the country.

It's a lie.

The truth is, they agree on just about everything, especially when it comes to the big ticket items. They only pretend to disagree. It's all an act. They're faking the whole goddamn thing.

They don't pretend very well--the act is very crude and easy to see through --but they are very consistent and they religiously stick to the script. Only a few members of Congress ever speak the truth about what's really going on. 1 What's more, major media play along and report all the noisy theatre and windbag rhetoric as if it were an honest debate about real alternatives.

Worst of all, a lot of voters pretend to believe the lies peddled by their own parties. Many "conservatives" pretend to buy the free-market ideology that they get from the Republicans, and "liberals" pretend they're dumb enough to believe the lies they hear from the Democrats.

But when it comes time for Congress to vote on legislation and for the President to sign it, suddenly the D's and R's come together. They always manage to come up with something nice and juicy for the big banks and corporations and the speculators and the war profiteers. Republican or Democrat, they always seem to make sure that the people who are already very rich get even richer. And who gets screwed in the process? The vast majority of Americans--the people who do the work and pay the taxes.

For a list of examples of how this evil practice has worked over the years, see the footnote at the end of this article. 2 But for the best example of all, take the Affordable Care Act.

On this issue of healthcare "reform," what do the Republicans say they want? To de-fund the ACA and stick with the old health insurance system, which has been very profitable for the big insurance companies for decades. What do the Democrats say they want? A new system under which people who have no money get squeezed for an average of $328 a month by a private, for-profit insurance company for a health insurance plan they can't afford. (Full disclosure: I do not have health insurance coverage of any kind. Neither of my two jobs offers coverage and I don't have any disposable income, to speak of. I cannot possibly afford a private insurance policy that costs $328 a month or anywhere close to it.)

If these financially strapped people refuse to sign up for one of the plans on offer, they'll get nailed for a tax penalty by the IRS. If they can't scrounge the money to pay the penalty by April 15, they will undoubtedly go into debt to the government. More debt! More bills they can't pay! And all to support a new system that will probably be even more profitable for the big insurance companies than the old system was.

No matter which of the two major parties "wins" this "fight," the big insurance companies will be the real winners. They will remain very rich or get even richer. Their top directors and shareholders will continue making money hand over fist, as usual, or they'll also rake in billions of dollars in new profits. And millions of Americans who are already struggling will get even poorer.

That's a pretty weird outcome for a country that's supposedly based on democracy and majority rule, isn't it? But wait. It gets weirder. Because you almost never hear about the best option of all--a Single-Payer national health insurance plan. The U.S. government, under this plan, would be the "single payer" for all health insurance claims, while most physicians and hospitals would remain in the private sector. The plan is often called "Medicare for All" because it would simply extend the very successful Medicare system, which now exists for older people, to everyone.

Under Single-Payer, the high cost of healthcare would disappear because the profiteers--the big insurance companies--would be phased out over a period of 10 to 15 years. And why shouldn't they be phased out? Their tremendous greed is what caused the healthcare crisis in the first place.

But the Democrats and Republicans in Congress made damn good and sure that Single-Payer did not get any traction, or even a mention. In May 2009, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing where 16 groups had been invited to testify about proposals for managing health insurance in the United States. Not one of the 16 would be testifying about Single-Payer.

Luckily, in the gallery were eight people of conscience who made sure that the audience watching the hearings on C-SPAN and the reporters in the hearing room got an earful about Single-Payer. Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action, Katie Robbins of HealthcareNOW!, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and several others literally stood up for a truly rational and fair national health plan. As the hearings began, they stood up, one after another, and forcefully made their case for Single-Payer before being arrested.

(Image by Michael Fleshman)   Details   DMCA

by Michael Fleshman

This is how desperate things have become. This is what the two major parties have done to the highest deliberative body in our supposedly free country. The Senate wouldn't even allow the best idea to get a hearing! Even if a reasonable person can have doubts about Single-Payer, is it therefore right to keep it from even being discussed? Is it fair? Is it honest? Is it democratic?

Naturally, blaming the two major parties for this state of affairs is not the same thing as blaming all their members in Congress. There are a precious few individual exceptions, a handful of honest, courageous people. Dennis Kucinich really was sincere when he said he was dedicated to a public, not-for-profit health insurance system for this country. He was one of the last hold-outs standing up to the stupendous vote-buying power of the big insurance companies. The very fact that he held out--when most of his colleagues were busy selling out--shows that he was sincere. But during the winter of 2010, as the vote on the ACA approached, Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership all piled on Kucinich and bullied him into voting Yes. They thus destroyed one of the few good people they had left.

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Jerry Kann has made his living in New York City since the late 1980s in a variety of odd jobs--proofreader, copywriter, messenger, secretary--all while pursuing the very challenging avocation of independent politics. For years Kann's primary (more...)

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