Saturday, October 17, 2009

No Excuse for Apathy

Eva Chrysanthe is my health care hero.

Back in January Senator Dianne Feinstein's staff were telling us she wasn't sure about her position on the public option because she was hearing a lot of opposition from people calling in from southern California opposing it. They seemed to be responding to talk radio shows.

A lot of people wrote articles about Dianne Feinstein's campaign contributions. She kept talking about what she was hearing from voters.

Eva networked with people inside Organizing for America and found 1200 people in the Bay Area who thought Dianne should represent us. They demonstrated, set up meetings, flooded her office with letters, petitions and emails. Dianne finally wrote a very long treatise on health reform, indicating that she was open to a public option; or maybe not. She heard about it from the voters.

Last week, Senator Feinstein was one of 30 senators to sign Sherrod Brown's statement supporting a public option. Period. Eva brought the staff a carrot cake.

Let's not get googly eyed about what we can accomplish. We're talking about a political system trying to manage an economy in deep crisis. The President, a charismatic figure who is well-informed about the health care issue on both the policy and personal levels, campaigned on expanding coverage for children.

But lookit, they're going to pass something here. How come no one knows that the public option as written doesn't start til 2013 and won't be open to most of us until years later, if ever? Are we expecting the media to do this job? The corporate owned media exist to manipulate our emotions between commercials so that we will feel sufficiently inadequate or bored to want to buy whatever the sponsors are selling, and definitely sufficiently cynical, apathetic and confused that we will not consider taking political action.

Some progressives also seem generally to think that dismissing and ridiculing the emerging proposal passes for analysis and agitation. Willingness to consider how we might influence the bill to set the stage for future progress has been compared to compromising on slavery (a great analogy, really - all they had to do in that case was stamp their feet and reframe the struggle as a fight for human rights, and by golly that was that).

Expanding Medicare to cover more people would've been a great thing to do. Max Baucus thought so. He proposed it in a Finance Committee document in January. It wasn't single payer for all, just for people over 55. Wimp. Must be due to his campaign contributions. Wonder how Baucus, the present obstacle to the public option, and the 4th poorest member of the Senate, stacks up against Sen. Rockefeller, the 4th richest:


Baucus

Cycle Source of Funds, 2009-2010, Campaign Cmte only

Individual Contributions $5,989,921 52%
PAC Contributions $4,872,291 42%
Candidate self-financing $0 0%
Other $640,654 6%

Rockefeller

Cycle Source of Funds, 2005-2010, Campaign Cmte only

Individual Contributions $3,756,635 63%
PAC Contributions $1,963,331 33%
Candidate self-financing $0 0%
Other $260,341 4%


Cycle Top vote-getting candidates Election Results
2008 Max Baucus* Amount Raised $11,602,479 Amount Spent:$9,305,359 Reelected
Bob Kelleher $0 $0
2002 Max Baucus* Amount Raised: $6,719,728 Amount Spent: $6,795,547 Reelected
Michael A. Taylor Amount Raised: Amount Spent: $1,839,020 $1,839,020


Cycle Top vote-getting candidates Election Results
2008 Jay Rockefeller* Amount Raised: $5,972,208 Amount Spent: $5,979,250 Reelected
Jay Wolfe Amount Raised: $123,862 Amount Spent:$123,720
2002 Jay Rockefeller* Amount Raised: $3,045,338 Amount Spent:$2,889,425 Reelected
Amount Raised: Jay Wolfe $136,373 Amount Spent:$136,373


Turns out they both raise most of their money out of state (Baucus 90%, Rockefeller 75%), virtually no one runs against them, and they spend most of what they raise to get re-elected. Why do they take different positions on the public option? Interesting question. In casting his vote, Baucus said that the public plan had a lot to recommend it, but it was his job to get the bill out of Committee. Sound like he's been getting calls from the White House?

It's great that people are sitting in at insurance companies. For the 3% of Americans who still thought health insurance companies had any legitimacy, aside from employees of the industry and their friends and relatives, it's probably a revelation. For the rest of us, a worthwhile way to spend time this week will be strongly suggesting to our friend in the White House, and our leaders in Congress, that they must cough up a program that is going to benefit people pretty quickly or else people will notice.

We need a strong public plan, that bases reimbursement on Medicare rates and uses Medicare providers so that it's affordable and viable. It should be a choice for each of us, in 2010. And we need an ERISA waiver for single payer states, so that they can convert to single payer without a lawsuit. For example people could cut and paste the following:

LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

The Senate Finance Committee drama has concluded. The American public will not long remember whether or not any Republican voted for health reform. We do want to know if we'll get more affordable, reliable health care coverage, that provides relief soon. It's time to tell the President, House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid:

We need a public plan option with affordable premiums, that pays hospitals and doctors Medicare rates +5% and includes Medicare providers - and all of us want to have that choice in 2010! Put that up for a vote and we'll support you!

And the bill must include the state single payer option, proposed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/

http://speaker.house.gov/contact/

http://reid.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm

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