The health care reform debate is heating-up in DC, and it's become overwhelmingly clear the special interests are taking over the conversation AND the process. The reports that there has been $1.4 million dollars per DAY spent by the private health industry on 350 lobbyists who are former members of Congress (and staffers) to swarm their former colleagues. Bill Moyers' interview of Wendell Potter (former CEO of both CIGNA & Humana) was very revealing as to how monstrous the campaign against reform truly is too. At first the AMA had rejected President Obama's health care reform proposal; so when the AMA's announced they now approve of the reform (bill H.R. 3200 the "America's Affordable Health Choices Act"), I couldn't help but think that THEY are winning the battle for OUR health care reform! Indeed, if you read into the bill it looks more like "The Aetna/Pfizer Preservation Act" just as the tobacco legislation was essentially be "The Phillip Morris Monopoly Act." What I find strange is that while you'd think these two industries have nothing to do with each other, you'd be wrong.
I've also heard the more progressive members of Congress (Senator Sanders & Rep Kucinich) practically begging Americans to get more involved by contacting Congress and by getting out in the streets amongst other things. In this interview with Rep Dingell, I was surprised to hear his unequivocal support of Single Payer followed by his statement that Congress doesn't have the votes for it, because they are hearing equally from proponents as they are from anti-reform constituents. This tells me the private insurers' PR team has been equally successful in mobilizing the public to contact Congress on their behalf. I've felt this same nearly desperate desire within me to see an en masse action from pro-reform advocates too; but I've been quite frustrated because of the shoddy or otherwise absent leadership out there. We need the kind of leadership that's required to bring the People's Voice into the media, and most importantly, to DC!
Don't get me wrong, I'm also feeling like there is a giant monster working against us in DC, and I'll admit it is daunting to say the least. As a Single Payer advocate, I feel even more at odds with the process too, and to speak those words in DC seem to be almost forbidden. But instead of allowing this monster make me believe this it is a futile fight, it pushes me the opposite direction. I truly believe we need to fight for health care reform like we are fighting for our very lives! The truth is, we are doing exactly that; and there is no such thing as an appropriate excuse for apathy when it comes to this issue as far as I'm concerned. As Senator Sanders often says, "Despair is not an option!" I also expected the barrage of lobbyists long before they came though too, and so I started to take a serious look at the different ways to go about combating it a few weeks ago.
Every time I'd seen notices for a rally or some other type of gathering for health care I thought, "Definitely needs to be done, but that's ONLY in DC; and it won't be big enough or strong enough to get the attention it needs and deserves." I believe rallies can be a powerful means of activism, but in order to be truly effective I think there must be enough "noise" that the media simply cannot ignore it. That's why I was looking for a nationwide rally, in every major city on the same day for example. When I began to explore which organization might actually to take on such a task, it became clear to me there are just as many positions being taken by the numerous organizations as there are policies being proposed in DC. My point being, that even the advocates for reform are too divided amongst themselves to come together for something as important as health care reform. Yet, in spite of this policy division, they can ALL agree there's a serious problem that needs to be resolved. In a way, it's the specific policy of the pro-reform organizations that is driving their actions; and they are fractured in the same way the lobbyists are who are fighting each other in DC to have their own interests be met!
Now again, I can also understand the impassioned desire to
"stick to our guns" when it comes to the specific policy we each stand behind,
because the clock is running out on us to get it done (perhaps we have
a little more time than expected). On the other hand, I think we all know
that the true power lies in the numbers. I think the timeliness of this issue
means we are essentially dependent upon our ability to utilize any and all
means that are already at hand, and will bring as many of us together as we
possibly can. -
As we all know, the internet has proven to be an incredibly valuable tool for activism, especially when it takes nationwide unity to get something accomplished; precisely by utilizing the power in numbers. I've witnessed some significant progress being made via the internet on the health care issue, and I would say they are by far the most promising and effective movements. There have been calls to actions such as faxing, calling or emailing our representatives on a particular day or week for example.
In my state of California,
I have seen these measures prove to be effective in pushing our reps to take a
policy stance one way or another. Even Senator Baucus admitted he had caught
hell from his constituents for not allowing a Single Payer advocate join the
private insurers at his committee's hearing on reform; and when they had showed
up anyway to state their objection, he had them arrested for disrupting the
hearing! Senator Baucus' constituency had made it clear to him it was
unacceptable to eliminate Single Payer from the discussion, and he said he was
wrong for doing it. As a result of constituent feedback, he had invited those
very same people he'd arrested previously, to sit before his committee to
speak. I'm not going to suggest this means Senator Baucus is going to start
acting on The People's behalf, because I simply don't believe it to be the case
at all. However, this incident did
tell me We the People can certainly influence the direction of the discussions
taking place on health care reform, and maybe we can even influence the results
too that is, IF we are actually heard! ---
Consider the kind of press coverage a successful live event can attract, and then add to it the power and effectiveness of the internet. This would be ideal, wouldn't it? It became increasingly obvious to me the problem was that We the People didn't really have the kind of leadership we can ALL depend upon, nobody we can trust to simply carry our voices to DC and be heard. Nor do we have a coalition of pro-reform organizations, all willing to pull together for the sake of being included in the debate on health care reform. Or do we?