Monday, September 14, 2009

What's at Stake, What We're Up Against, and What to Do

To some of my Facebook friends and relations, I must seem like I've gone 'round the twist. I can almost hear you thinking: "You're completely obsessed. Do you think you're going to single-handedly get a public option passed? We're going to have to find you something to do with your time. Every other post on my newsfeed is from you. And they're all about the public option."

Well, you may be right, but this is the political fight of my life. And it should be the political fight of yours too.

There are two reasons why I'm pushing so hard: First, this is not your average legislative fight. Health care reform has the potential to profoundly affect every single person in the United States—that's right, everybody: your neighbors, your coworkers, your kids, the person who rings up your groceries.

Not only that, but it will have a huge impact on some of the most important decisions of your life: whether to change jobs or start your own business, whether to get married or divorced, whether to retire. This legislation will affect each and every one of us every day of our lives—and it could be very good. Or it could be very, very bad.

Not only will this legislation affect our personal lives. It will also affect our life as a nation. It will affect our moral character—are we a people who take care of each other? Or are we content to let our neighbors fall through the cracks of a greedy, rapacious wealth care system?

This legislation will have an enormous effect—for good or ill—on our economy, on our health and well-being, on our everyday lives, on national security, on our viability as a nation. In other words,

This is a life-and-death issue, people!

This isn't something that should be left up to the politicians. This is our fight. It has to be our fight. The question about the politicians is, Do they work for us, or do they work for the health insurance industry? They can't answer that question. Politicians are like trees blowing in the wind, and whichever way the wind blows hardest, that's the way they'll bend.

Which leads me to the second reason I'm pushing so hard: $1.4 million per day. According to the an article in the July 9, 2009, Washington Post,
A record-breaking influence campaign [is being waged] by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records. And even in a city where lobbying is a part of life, the scale of the effort has drawn attention. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million. [emphasis added]
You may have heard how the health care industry is behind health care reform. Yes, indeed, they are "behind" it in more ways than one, according to the New York Times:
The top lobbyists for every major sector of the health care industry publicly insist they are squarely behind the Obama administration’s health care reform. But as the debate gets down to the details, the lines dividing friend from foe are getting blurry.

Each industry group is also working quietly to scuttle or reshape some element of the administration’s proposals that might hurt profits — usually some measure aimed at cost control.
The industry is very much involved in both shaping and undermining health care reform. And believe me, it's not your best interests they have in mind.

The only way to create a force that will counter that kind of gale force wind is for every single one of us to get involved. Nobody is off the hook on this one. In spite of what you may have heard about the public option fading from the debate, it's still very much alive. And it's still the very best way to bring down the skyrocketing costs of health care.

On Saturday, President Obama had this to say about this presumably fading possibility:
Now, I've also said that one of the options in the insurance exchange, one of the options—most of the folks who are going to be offering insurance through the exchange are going to be private insurers—Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, all these. Well, I think one of the options should be a public insurance option. (Applause.) Now let me be clear. Let me be clear. Let me be clear: It would only be an option. Nobody would be forced to choose it. No one with insurance would be affected by it. But what it would do is, it would provide more choice and more competition. (Applause.) It would keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable, to treat their customers better.

I mean, think about it. It's the same way that public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students. That doesn't inhibit private colleges and universities from thriving out there. The same should be true on the health care front. (Applause.)

Now, Minnesota, I have said that I'm open to different ideas on how to set this up. But I'm not going to back down from the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we're going to provide you a choice. (Applause.) And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the coverage that you need. That's a promise I will make. (Applause.)
To me it sounds like Obama is for the public option. Or something else. He wants this, but he's open to other ideas. He doesn't know yet which way the wind is blowing. First he gets blown one way and then the other. The health insurance industry lobbyists are trying to blow the public option right off the table.

That's your American dream they're trying to make disappear. The only thing standing in their way is:


It's not too late. They haven't succeeded yet. But the clock is ticking.

Jane Hamsher at presents our best hope for health care reform with a robust public option. Instead of trying to push Blue Dogs or Republican obstructionists, push members of the House of Representatives who are known progressives from solidly progressive districts (i.e., their political fortunes are not at stake) to vote only for a health care reform bill that contains a robust public option. That way, they are essentially aggregating progressive power and preventing the passage of a watered-down bill:
We need at least 40 members of the House to pledge to vote for only a strong public option. By our count, we can rely on at least 17 members to say "No" to triggers, co-ops, and other faux public options.

You can help us find the remaining 23 members of Congress by calling your representative now. Can you help us whip the vote for a strong public option?

Call the House switchboard now at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative in the House. Clicking here will let us know you called.

It comes down to this: will progressives stand up against a health care bill written by insurance industry lobbyists? Or will they follow the lead of Rep. Raul Grijalva, who slammed the insurance industry bill as "not legitimate," and
fight for what the President says we need to keep costs down?

Here's what we need you to say when you reach your representative's office:

  1. State your name, city, and state, and that you're calling because you strongly support only a true public option in health care reform.
  2. Say that you expect your Representative to support nothing less than a strong public option - that means no co-ops, no triggers.
  3. Ask if you can count on your Representative to vote only for a strong public option and vote against any bill that doesn't have a strong public option. Again, that means no co-ops, no triggers.

Can you call your member of Congress now? Dial (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative in the House.

When you're done, click here to let us know you called. and then report the office's response.

Thanks for your help in whipping the House to pass the public option.


Jane Hamsher


  1. Make no mistake about it, we have a health care crisis. But few people realize why, and that our politicians want to cover it up. They are the source. It isn't because of ideology or political philosophy or party; it's because America has this thing called campaign contributions. Cash bribes for favors returned. The public wants health care reform and the insurance industry wants exactly the opposite, and they gave $46 million in campaign cash and the public gave peanuts. Who do you think is going to win?

    Yes, it's political corruption by both political parties, and it affects all Americans and now all countries. Health care is only a small part of it. Because the bankers gave loads of cash, congress in the 1990's started eliminating banking regulations and caused an international crisis. Big corporations gave cash for a hands-off immigration policy, and then availed themselves of cheap labor. What jobs weren't taken by immigrants were outsourced. Businesses gave campaign cash that stifled any attempt to limit outsourcing of jobs, and our nation's economy trashed in the process. Money that should be spent on children's schooling and health, and on police and fire protection, is spent instead on special interest giveaways.

    No, our corrupt political system is the cancer, our politicians are tickled pink, and we Americans must apologize to the world.

  2. A very apt assessment of what's really going on. Many complain about the Dems being "spineless" and "letting the Republicans frame the debate," as if they were hapless idiots who don't know how to get what they want.

    The horrifying truth is that the Dems are getting EXACTLY what they want, what their corporate masters have paid them for. They also want to be able to blame the Republicans for their own failures.

    Lord Rahm Emanuel's driving ambition is to make sure those corporate dollars go to Democrats and not to Republicans. That's the prize he has his eye on, and the rest of us be damned. (I'm sure he'd use much harsher language than that.)

    You are exactly right, Jack. We must fight hard and long to expose the corruption and change the system so that it's not rigged against us.

  3. Found my way here by seeing your comment on John Good's FB. I am a friend of John's and from River Falls, WI. Your political blog, especially this post, is great material about the health care considerations in the news these days. I'll pass this information along.