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Obama Charges Backwards on Health Care (continued)

By Glen Ford, reprinted from Black Agenda Report

He has given progressives nothing but the finger -- and some lefties are finally gathering up enough self-respect to get angry about it. They have come to the realization that Obama, himself, is a principle impediment to real discussion of health care. In crudely freezing single payer advocates out of White House mediated realms of discussion, he has drastically thinned the ranks of serious potential allies in any future throwdown with the corporations. One can only conclude that Obama and his advisors are either bad strategic planners, or that they never intended to confront Big Pharma, Big Insurance, and Big Hospitals in any serious manner.

My own belief is that Obama and his circle understood that any winning Democrat would be required to seem to embrace something that sounded like "universal" health care. A master of ambiguity, Obama convinced those who were not listening closely that he is, at heart, a reformer -- whatever that is. Yet even before winning the general election, Obama prepared to govern, as the New York Times noted, from the "center-right" of his party – through Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) operatives like his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, Blue Dogs, Wall Street's many servants on Capitol Hill, and Republicans. It has been quite clear for some time (and crystal clear in hindsight) that Obama's general legislative and public relations strategy was to silence and neutralize the Democratic Party's Left. This was thought to be necessary in order to prepare the public for some grand proclamation by Obama on his forging of a national consensus -- a coming together of business and labor, rich and poor, all regions and sectors, in time of crisis. That's his kind of music.

When that didn't happen in the health care arena, Obama's people simply invented a "consensus" and political "breakthrough" that never occurred. In what we described as "Obama's Health Care Charade" (BAR, May 13, '09), the White House in May proclaimed that industry leaders had "agreed" to save the public $2 trillion over the next ten years, out of the goodness of their hearts. Of course, this was nonsense on the face of it, and corporate executives found themselves compelled to announce they had made no such promise.

Obama will play tricks on his friends in the boardrooms in hopes of making them appear more public-spirited than he knows them to be, but he will never challenge their power, which he sees as legitimate and benign (the "genius of capitalism"). The social peace he seeks, therefore, must come at the expense of those who would upset the status quo: chiefly, Blacks and progressives.

However, the real world intrudes on Obama's political theater. He was so busy putting single payer Democrats in quarantine, he allowed the so-called "centrists" to make their own deals with the health care industry. For example, Montana Sen. Baucus, whose Finance Committee followed Obama's lead in banning single payer supporters from testifying at its "hearings," is vowing to come up with a bill weak enough to draw substantial Republican support. Sen. Ted Kennedy's plan would expand Medicare, Obama will play tricks on his friends in the boardrooms in hopes of making them appear more public-spirited than he knows them to be, but he will never challenge their power, which he sees as legitimate and benign (the “genius of capitalism"). The social peace he seeks, therefore, must come at the expense of those who would upset the status quo: chiefly, Blacks and progressives.

However, the real world intrudes on Obama's political theater. He was so busy putting single payer Democrats in quarantine, he allowed the so-called "centrists" to make their own deals with the health care industry. For example, Montana Sen. Baucus, whose Finance Committee followed Obama's lead in banning single payer supporters from testifying at its "hearings," is vowing to come up with a bill weak enough to draw substantial Republican support. Sen. Ted Kennedy's plan would expand Medicare, the program Obama wants to scapegoat. New York's Sen. Charles Schumer swears that he will not allow a national plan that would undercut private insurance companies.

The big secret is that Barack Obama doesn't have a health care plan, just a bunch of vague statements. In this regard, he is truly the hollow man. Every corporate interest in Washington now has the opportunity to write their profits into the legislation that finally emerges. The 80-strong Congressional Progressive Caucus and the 41-member Congressional Black Caucus both endorsed a national health care plan along the lines of Medicare for all. The two caucuses heavily overlap, and strong majorities favor single payer. In a more sensible world, progressives on The Hill would have made their presence felt much earlier, before the obituaries had been written on single payer. At the vortex of the confusion is Obama, both the actual corporate politician and the imagined ally. With smoke, mirrors, and duplicity, he has spread confusion among the enemy -- which as far as he's concerned, is us.

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