Sometimes I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness, and I wonder if I am mistaken, if I see threats that are not there, if I am shooting at shadows. And then I read the work of other writers who share my perceptions, and I feel maybe, just maybe, the shadows have substance, after all. One such writer is a young man named David Sirota, who spent some time in the Washington political jungle and ran to sound the alarm.
In a book titled Hostile Takeover, Sirota documents the sabotage of America’s government by corporate interests. He shows how this happened right under our noses and how common-sense solutions to public issues like spiraling health care costs, the outsourcing of jobs, the inequities of the tax code, and out-of-control energy prices are buried under the lies of lobbyists, the influence of campaign cash, and the “spin machine” financed by Big Business.
In a recent article on the Salon web site, Sirota focused on the health care issue, explaining how reform is being sabotaged. I would like to say the Republicans are the only villains in this sad tale because I get so frustrated at the lies coming from Republican opponents of health care reform. But, apparently, the real villains include Democrats. Here’s an excerpt from Sirota’s article:
In the Senate, both parties have outsourced health care legislation to six Finance Committee lawmakers: Max Baucus, D-Mont.; Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. The group recently announced it is rejecting essential provisions like a public insurance option that surveys show the public supports.
Meanwhile, seven mostly Southern House Democrats have been threatening to use their Commerce Committee votes to gut any health care bill, regardless of what the American majority wants.
These lawmakers, hailing mostly from small states and rural areas, together represent only 13 million people, meaning that those speaking for just 4 percent of America are maneuvering to impose their health care will on the other 96 percent of us.
Census figures show that the poverty rates are far higher and per-capita incomes far lower in the 13 legislators’ specific districts than in the nation as a whole. Put another way, these politicians represent exactly the kinds of districts whose constituents would most benefit from universal health care. So why are they leading the fight to stop – rather than pass – reform?
Because when tyranny mixes with legalized bribery, constituents’ economic concerns stop mattering.
Thanks to our undemocratic system and our corrupt campaign finance laws, the health care industry doesn’t have to fight a 50-state battle. It can simply buy a tiny group of congresspeople, which is what it’s done. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, health interests have given these 13 members of Congress $12 million in campaign contributions – a massive sum further enhanced by geography.
There it is. The health care industry is sabotaging reform right under our noses, and apparently there’s not much you or I can do about it. Sirota says there is talk of circumventing the 13 obstructionists and forcing a vote of the full Congress. But Washington insiders – in both parties – oppose that kind of tactic as “improper procedure.”
I can’t believe the American people would allow the will of the majority to be subverted because of a procedural technicality. This is, after all, the home of the brave and the land of the free – isn’t it?