Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whose Side Are You On, Mr. President?

Yesterday in his speech at the AFL-CIO's annual Labor Day picnic, President Obama gave us a little down payment on Wednesday night's speech:
I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry. They should be free to make a profit. But they also have to be fair. Security and stability for folks who have health insurance, help for those that don't, the coverage they need at a price they can afford.
Is it just me, or did the last bit sound like an advertisement for health insurance?

Two statements keep running around in my mind: "I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry.... They should be free to make a profit."

Now hold on just a cotton-pickin' minute. President Obama is holding up the concerns of the health insurance industry in one hand and the concerns of the American people in the other like there's some kind of parity there, like the two are somehow comparable. Uh, hello?

Could we focus on what will work well for the people of this country, the people who are losing their homes because they can't pay their medical bills, the people stuck in crappy jobs because they're afraid to lose their health insurance, the people being denied care even when they're insured, the people who are dying because their insurance companies won't cover the care they need?

How can these direst of life-and-death circumstances be mentioned in the same breath as the lust of the health insurance industry to make ever-increasing profits? Are we so beholden to the great capitalist machine that profit-making is always our priority?

The pit in my stomach is telling me that I know the answer to that question, but I just can't accept it.

Can you really look us in the eye, Mr. President, and hold the concerns of the health care industry alongside ours? Really? Have you not heard anything we've been saying? Are you not paying attention? What if it was your daughter whose care was denied by one of these modern-day pirates? How would you like her health and well-being held up alongside the concerns of industry stockholders to make a profit?

What I keep hearing is the politicians' deep concern for the health insurance industry. Enough already! Will you quit worrying about them? Quit acting as though their concerns are every bit as legitimate as ours! I don't care how much money they've sunk into your reelection coffers. You can't serve their needs and ours. Are you theirs? Or are you ours? You can't be both.

I don't understand why our health should be treated like it's just another commodity in America's capitalist soup. We keep hearing about how the bogeyman of socialism will rear its ugly head if the American people transform their "wealth care system" into a system that is designed to actually care for the health of the American people. Does every single aspect of our lives have to involve some corporate behemoth making a filthy profit? How many more of us have to die or have our lives ruined because of oblations poured out on the altar of rampant, unchecked capitalism?

Here's my question for you, Mr. President, members of Congress: Whose side are you on? Really? Because you can't be on the side of the health insurance industry and on the side of the American people at the same time. Our interests are diametrically opposed to theirs. You can't be for both. So which is it?

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