Halleluah… Health Care + a Nuclear Spring
OBAMA GETS HIS MOJO BACK by Michael Hammerschlag
The Democrats in America can take a bow for finally ramming through the strange convoluted half-a-loaf health care expansion bill. The irony was this could have been done in August or December with 20 more votes, were it not for Obama’s wearying obsession with bipartisanship, a joining with Republicans dedicated to destroying him, that could never come. Every delay allowed them to spin more lies, spread more toxic propaganda, until a fervent band of flat-earther “Tea Party” extremists were threatening and spitting on Congressmen in favor of this bill. Had Obama framed the debate properly, between a greedy ruthless industrial health machine that profits off of people’s misery, and the uncovered and undercovered citizens in the only 1st world country without universal health care… he could have recruited half of those “Tea Party” characters in his service. The amount of money funneled to the Congressional opponents of health care by pharmaceutical and HMO firms should have been reported (millions per rep) every time they opened their mouths (America is as corrupt as Ukraine in this way). A victory last year would have allowed Obama to move to other crying concerns, like punishing the Wall St. hucksters that fleeced the world, and restoring the Depression-era regulations insanely canceled in 1999-2000.
This Bill does many good things- preventing insurance companies from canceling people who are sick or have pre-existing conditions, extending family coverage to kids up to the age of 26, paying half of small businesses insuring their employees; but the big one- the thing that made it desperately necessary- saving maybe 45% of the obscene fees for simple procedures by enacting Government run single-payer health care … was killed in favor of the maybe 5% savings of this plan.
Worse it forces people into the arms of the insurance companies and health management parasites and enriches them beyond their wildest dreams, enshrining their power (and their 15-20% cut) forever. So any future savings will be only incremental, since the Frankenstein monster of unnecessary parasitical intermediaries (think RosUkrEnergo) will be untouchable. I went to the emergency room in the Northeast twice 10-15 years ago, each for an infection (one a dog bite) and received a shot or IV and some pills over 25 minutes- the cost… $1000 each time. If I was a millionaire I wouldn’t pay that for maybe $60-100 of treatment, in fact if you had insurance it was billed at only $200; the system was designed to devastate the uninsured and poor so they wouldn’t come back until they were at death’s door.
The Republicans showed their overarching corruption and contempt in voting unanimously against the Bill and the American people, something they wouldn’t have dared had this come up in the summer with Obama riding high and having first demonized the corrupt medical-industrial complex and their lackeys. Their extremism is such that they won’t stop trying to undo it- have any guesses which way the slimy Roberts Supreme Court would rule on the legality of this, they who just ruled that corporations can inject unlimited money into elections, overturning 100 years of precedent? Some 14 state Attorneys General have filed suit against it. To the extremists of the rejectionist right, “It ain’t over till it’s over”, and to them it’ll never be over. The hatred and madness incited by right wing talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck has now metastasized into a festering cancer, with inarticulate moron “Tea Baggers” screaming delusional epithets and throwing bricks through Congressional office windows- a logical conclusion of allowing lunatics to carry guns and threatening signs near the President.
Obama's passion for compromise was borne out of the violent racial hothouse of Hawaii, where the locals resent other races, and whites (and the rare blacks) are the targets of vicious beatings by packs of punks. Compromise or peacemaking wasn't an option there- it was mandatory to avoid savage violence- but in practicing it with sworn opponents in Congress Obama has often seemed weak, frittering away his powerful honeymoon period against solid opposition that never had the slightest intention of even meeting him a quarter way.
It is better than nothing, and hopefully Dems can ram through amendments and improvements to it, optimally like the public option (what they called single-payer) – one huge problem is that many provisions won't take effect until 2014, too late to impress the people and help the Dems and Obama's chances in the next 2 elections. But though a failure here would really have crippled Obama's Presidency- narrow squeaker victories are still victories- Clinton's 1993 balanced budget that set the stage for the economic boom of the 90's passed by 1 vote, as did the ratification of lazy hack Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Bush's corrupt $3 trillion of deficit-spending tax breaks for the rich also barely squeaked through in the same rare legislative reconciliation process.
But finally freed from his almost pathological need to reach a consensus with his enemies, Obama has been on a roll -achieving a momentous victory in Arms Control with the Russians- a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that would replace the 1991 agreement that just expired, committing each nation to reduce strategic nukes by roughly 1/3, to about 1550 each. Of course some Republicans have pledged to oppose it, without the useless and counterproductive European “missile shield” that so infuriated the Russians. Obama had to accomplish this to justify the Nobel Peace Prize, already awarded to him on credit.
Building on this he rallied the largest meeting of world leaders since WW2 to deal with the paramount issue of nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism- the single greatest security threat to America, Russia, Israel, India, Britain, Iran!, and France. The truth is, we’re in a bleak race to see which city is immolated by nuclear fire first- the plutonium in a Nagasaki sized bomb is the size of a baseball and the only real obstacle- bomb design is widely known. On the world stage, conversely, this ability to rally the world and reach a consensus is Obama’s great strength, where Bush squandered America’s influence and credibility. Leaders came bearing important gifts to reduce weapons grade nuclear material- Yanukovich pledged to send Ukraine’s 150-odd kg of highly enriched Uranium (+70% U-235) back to Russia within 2 years, ingratiating himself to Obama. Mexico, Chile, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, and Canada made similar promises, as 46 nations signed the voluntary agreement, which provides for a 6 month progress report and a 2 year summit. In a side agreement, the US and Russia agreed to dispose of a stunning 68 metric tons of Plutonium, enough for 17,000 bombs.
The next step of Obama’s “nuclear spring” strategy is the May strengthening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and then using the world consensus to pressure and sanction Iran, sadly too late- I think Iran will have the Bomb by the end of the year. After building the Iranian reactor, Russia has continued it's ambivalence towards sanctions, though Moscow, which Chechens would fry in a heartbeat, is much closer to Iran than Washington.
Then he used some of his Presidential power and made 15 recess appointments while Congress is on vacation (these don't need confirmation, but can only serve for a little under 2 years) to overcome Republican's blocking and stalling. These are used sparingly by Presidents to appoint controversial or unqualified people or overcome blanket stalling from the other party. The Republicans kept many dozens of judgeships empty during Clinton's entire 8 years in office, and have stalled 217 Obama nominations, 34 for over 6 months. "I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government,” Obama proclaimed. Finally. Before that he dressed down the out-of-control Israelis for humiliating VP Biden by opening endless new settlements on the eve of his visit- this Likud administration will never make peace with the Palestinians without acute pressure.
In another coup, Obama smoothly removed banks from the business of making student loans, substituting direct government financing- giving them a break on rates and reducing the amount poor graduates have to pay from 15% to 10% of their salary. Both it and the Health Care bill were signed in a simultaneous ceremony March 30, the President magically going from almost being a “failed” President to multiple solid impressive accomplishments in 2 amazing weeks. Bush was unable to manage one lasting positive accomplishment in 8 years. As Hillary Clinton discovered when she was blindsided in the early caucus Primaries, losing the Presidency before she knew what was happening, this President has depths of resilience and smarts beyond most mortals.
The sad thing is that there are no longer 2 political parties in America: there are the Democrats (about 40% corrupt), who mostly try to do the nation's business and fix problems, and there are the rump Republicans (about 95% corrupt), voted down to an extremist reactionary minority, who do the bidding of the rich corporations, lie like the wind, block all progress, and live in an Alice in Wonderland universe where keeping people from dying because they don't have health insurance is called... fascism.
Michael Hammerschlag (Hammernews.com) has covered 2 Presidential campaigns, managed a Democratic Presidential caucus in Seattle, produced political ads, and spent 3 years in Hawaii. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Honolulu Advertiser, Capital Times, Media Channel, Scoop, Business Ukraine; and Moscow News, Tribune, Guardian, and Times.