Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Full steam ahead -- to the rear

By Don Klein

The Temple of Hypocrisy, better known as the US Congress, is at it again. Now they are finding excuses for NOT passing a universal health bill because it might cut into their personal wealth and privileges. Their battle cry seems to be "Damn the people, full speed ahead back to the status quo."

The Obama administration was foolhardy enough to expect the universal health plan it is pushing to be partially underwritten by a tax on those people earning $280,000 or more. Mythologically speaking that’s the Robin Hood syndrome, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Some call it socialism. Opponents in Congress have labeled it "class warfare."

Oddly enough during the eight years of the previous administration when Bush gave the wealthy a tax bye and in doing so transferred a larger portion of the tax burden to the middle class, there was never even a whisper of class warfare.

In fact the stated Republican argument was that only the rich could finance new businesses and provide more jobs. That leads to a simple question: why are we today suffering under an almost 10 percent unemployment rate if the rich beneficiaries of these multi-year tax cuts were creating new jobs all along? Where did those juicy tax benefits to the rich go?

Why is Congress so interested is protecting the wealthy? Could it be that the overwhelming majority of members of the Senate are millionaires and that most members of the House of Representatives, if not millionaires, are earning more then a quarter of a million dollars annually?

Could that possibly be the reason?

There are those who rightly think that the argument of high cost in relation to the new health plan is as phoney as a pie in the face made of shaving cream. The fact is if you are truly concerned about the high cost of medical treatment just leave things the way they are.

Don’t change the current system of health care unavailability to nearly 50 million Americans so the cost of treating these people is simply tagged on to the bills of those who have health insurance. And the premiums keep rising for the middle class.

Or worse still, let the uninsured go untreated until their less expensive treatable ailments become critical and then require the most expensive of cures. Above all, let’s not tax those with assets who won’t even notice the extra financial burden and let the low income slobs fend for themselves.

The president is having a good year so far. He has reduced the US military commitment in Iraq by having troops withdraw from active patrols and promising to have them leave the country by the end of 2011. He has reinforced the troops fighting in Afghanistan where they should have been all along. His appointed choice of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter is well on the way to confirmation.

He has faced an economic downtown unimaginable just a year ago, including re-regulation of business, and has mended many foreign relations in Europe undermined by Bush. He has had a busy first six months. There is no denying that.

Now the major issue remaining in this notable first year is universal health care, the primary topic of the day. There is much discussion about this program and of course it faces the usual Republican opposition with assistance of fiscal conservative Democrats.

Most insiders predict the measure will pass Congress this year. The only question is how badly will it be watered down by a spineless Congress. Or will the men and women of Capitol Hill finally consider what is best for the voters back home and not the interests of the big insurance, drug and medical industries.

The Democrats have the clout to pass this health bill. They have a healthy majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. They have no excuses for not passing the bill. They must realize if they do not make universal health care a reality this year, the Democrats will be out of power after next year’s mid-term elections. And they will deserve it.

They have new allies they never had before on this subject. Most companies embrace national health care for simple economic reasons. If the government provides it the companies will not have to. That will lower American overhead and make products less costly and more competitive with foreign companies.
What a boon for the ailing Detroit auto industry alone.

Most needy persons in the country back the plan, even those with private insurance of their own. Opponents pound us with absurd television commercials which remind us of the $200 hammer and $600 toilet seat as examples of what happens when Congress gets involved in procurement. These are misleading ads in that those purchasing foul-ups were done by the Pentagon, not Congress. But antagonists will do anything to discredit the program.

Even Harry and Louis, the actors who participated in the underhanded anti-Clinton health campaign on television in the 1990s, have changed their tune and now favor the Obama health plan.

The key to passage is the Senate with its filibuster-proof majority. If the Democrats cannot – or will not – pass a viable and sensible health plan they deserve to be thrown out of office. It is time we found people to serve in government who have the people’s needs paramount and not be there just to protect their own selfish interests or to be bought off by lobbyists.