Open letter to the House Progressive Caucus (except Kucinich and Massa)
By K�llia Ramares
Online Journal Associate Editor

Nov 20, 2009, 00:22

I am deeply disappointed in you for voting for the �Greater Health Insurance Industry Profits Act,� a.k.a. H.R. 3962, and especially for voting for it with the Stupak anti-abortion amendment attached, after your voting against the amendment�s being attached in the first place.

Stupak goes beyond even the Hyde Amendment in that it forbids women from buying insurance coverage for abortion services with their own money if they are being subsidized by the government for health insurance and forbids health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage if they are part of HR 3962�s insurance exchanges. But you voted for the bill with this amendment added anyway. And you call yourselves progressives?

Some of you will probably say, �We know the Senate will not accept the anti-abortion language, so we refused to let it get in the way of health care reform.� In other words, you fobbed off your responsibility to do the right thing in protecting women�s rights on the Senate. That is not showing very much courage or character on your part. And what makes you think H.R. 3962 is reform?! It is insurance industry profiteering disguised as reform.

Who am I to say this? I am a 54-year-old woman who has never had to personally face the �choice,� so Stupak is irrelevant to me. I am a constituent of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who famously said, �Let us not become the evil we deplore.� She was right then, but is wrong in not applying that philosophy to this context. Corporations making money by denying sick people care is evil. Profiteering from illness and injury is evil. What have you progressives become by voting for the perpetuation of this evil? Because believe me, the insurance companies will still find ways to deny care, even if they have to sell everyone insurance.

Who am I? I am uninsured and uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions. I want reform but I do not want H.R. 3962. While I don�t claim to speak for anyone but myself, I suspect that there are others who feel as I do:

I do not want health care access at the cost of my sisters� rights.

I do not want a weak public option that is doomed from the start.

I do not want a program that does not start until 2013. Who knows if I will still be around?

I do not want a system that will still leave out millions of people.

I do not want to be forced to buy an insurance policy from the very companies that are responsible for the high cost of health care.

If this individual mandate becomes law and I am not excused from it because of my low income, I WILL OPENLY DEFY IT! If you CongressCritters--to quote Jim Hightower�will not protect us from becoming the profit slaves of these corporations, let�s have a trial and see if the courts will strike down the mandate. And if they don�t, then let�s see how many people are willing to go to jail for the �crime� of refusing to be profitable to the politicians� campaign contributors. Henry David Thoreau, who went to jail rather than pay a poll tax, would be on our side. Let�s find out how many others will take to the streets in protest. The Founders would be pleased if we did. Thomas Jefferson said �a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.�

President Obama says the mandate, which he opposed as presidential candidate Obama, is not a tax. Really? Then how come refusal to buy insurance will be punishable under the criminal provisions of the IRS code? Isn�t the IRS responsible for prosecuting TAX evaders?

Obama also calls having health insurance a personal responsibility. (I thought personal responsibility was Republican talk, their way of disclaiming any corporate or governmental responsibility for problems with things like health or the environment. But I see now that Democrats can use it, too. It�s just �politician talk�). No one has been required heretofore to buy a product or service from a private company as condition of residency in this nation and I say we should not start now. It is no one�s personal responsibility to provide profits to any industry.

Health insurance is not health care and you all know it. I expected the progressives in the House to ask out loud why anyone should have to pay a middleman (the insurance companies) for access to health care. Insurance companies are health care gatekeepers who make money when the gate is narrow, i.e., when people pay more in premiums than the companies pay out for services. I expect progressives to be for health care not health insurance!

H.R. 3962 is a bill that still calls for employment-based health care access. But what about all the people who don�t get health insurance on the job? I am one of them. I work fewer than 20 hours a week (not by choice), and thus do not qualify for my company�s health program. I have been in the labor force nearly 30 years and have had health insurance through employment for fewer than six of those years. Those were the times I had so-called regular, �permanent,� full-time employment with large corporations. The rest of the time, I have worked on contract, through temporary agencies, part-time, for an individual, and as a freelance journalist. There was no insurance in any of those situations In a �reform� that provides less than universal access, people who do not work conventional jobs will still have problems getting health care. Why did the progressives not call Obama out on his nonsense about Americans being used to getting their health insurance through employment? The type of job that provides such a benefit is rapidly disappearing. How can representatives who call themselves progressive be in favor of reinforcing the healthcare-through-employment system during the worst recession since the �30s?

I want H.R. 676, -- the �Medicare For All� bill co-written by Rep. Kucinich. Shame on you who call yourselves progressive yet are not co-sponsors of this bill, which is the only true reform of the American health care system. If you had done the right thing and voted against H.R. 3962 with the Stupak amendment attached, it would have been defeated and you would have had to dust off H.R. 676. Hmm, maybe you did not want to do that. Let the people think you are progressive without your having to actually be progressive. This way you can go along to get along and still have your cushy job with its generous health benefits.

H.R. 676 spells the end of the health insurance industry, and that is what I want. It served its purpose at a certain point in history, when people did not have the means of paying for health care but were able to get it through jobs in companies that had their wages frozen during WWII but which were able to compete for employees through fringe benefits. But such a system is now obsolete for among other reasons, the fact that most of us have advanced in civilized attitudes well enough to realize that people need health care whether or not they have a job, or the type of job that carries insurance.

Until we get even more civilized and recognize the barbarism of paying for things, of paying to live on the planet we were born on -- name me another species on earth that has to do that -- we can at least get to the point of saying that we, as a society, should all take care of each other by seeing to it that we all have health care and that the health care providers living in the money economy -� doctors, nurses, therapists, etc. -� are compensated fairly for their services, without the parasitic middlemen of insurance in the way. I expect progressives to lead the way in developing our nation�s level of civilization in thought. If you really need a philosophical basis for the idea that health care is a human right -- and you may need it in the face of certain opponents -- I�ll be happy to provide you a copy of the paper I am preparing on the subject. But if you really are progressives, the need for H.R. 676, and the bane that is H.R. 3962 should be self-evident to you.

Some of you probably thought that you had to compromise. �Politics is the art of the possible� and �Don�t let the perfect become the enemy of the good� and �Half a loaf is better than none� yada, yada, yada. But H.R. 676 wasn�t even �on the table.� The leadership wrote you off before the game began and you went along with it. There are times when an elected official has to draw a line in the sand.

H. R. 3962 is one of those times. It is not a compromise; it is a sell-out to the health insurance industry. Big Health has controlled this debate from the beginning. For example, on November 15, 2009, the New York Times reported that it found evidence that during the debate on H.R. 3962, Democrats and Republicans inserted into the Congressional Record statements provided for them by lobbyists for Genentech, one of the world�s largest biotech firms and a subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche. A lobbyist told a reporter, �This happens all the time. There was nothing nefarious about it.�

The people gave the Democrats the White House and both Houses of Congress because they wanted real change. Instead, they are getting the same old run-around: more wars, more deficits and more giveaways to industries that don�t give a damn about the people except for how much more blood they can suck from them. The Blue Dog Democrats and the Republicans are against �Health Care Reform�s� high cost. They have a point. Ditch the insurance companies and the costs will go down.

You think you are doing the politic thing by backing H.R. 3962. But you are throwing away a great opportunity to change the course of American history for the better in order to kow-tow to Pelosi and Reid and Obama. I don�t even know why most of you bother, those of you who have safe seats. (Yes, Ms Lee. This means YOU!). You don�t need campaign contributions from the party. So what if Pelosi takes away your committee assignments? That won�t go unnoticed by the press, even the weakling mainstream media, if she does it to a whole block of you. And politicians don�t like bad publicity. You can still attend the hearings -- I used to go to congressional hearings as a college student -- and you can still vote on the floor. That�s actually your most important job. You can also hold your own hearings, be independent fact-finders. The people could use that in Congress.

The power of congressional leaders has been broken before. Most famously, Uncle Joe Cannon -- he of the Cannon Office building -- got his head handed to him in the early 20th century; Pelosi is no Joe Cannon.

Don�t be afraid of doing what you know is right because it would make your female speaker and black president look bad. They deserve to look bad because they have shown that they can�t be trusted to protect ordinary Americans from predatory corporatists. What good are Democrats, what good is a black president, or a female speaker if the same ol� white boys� corporate network is going to benefit at the expense of the rest of us? We don�t need identity politics in Washington. We cannot point with pride to diversity in gender and skin color in the political leadership unless those leaders who appear diverse also bring to the table the diversity of experience and point of view that makes diversity more than cosmetic.

What good is calling yourself progressive if by your actions you show that you are just Republicans in slow motion?

Acknowledge your mistake and greet the bill that comes back from conference committee with the NO vote you should have given it the first time. Medicare-For-All would be Congress� biggest leap in progressivism since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Isn�t it about time?

Kellia Ramares is a journalist in Oakland, CA. Her web site is Broadcaster At-Large. She can be reached at CC K�llia Ramares, 2009. BY-NC-SA

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