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Web Letter

What a sham! The entire healthcare reform debate has come down to political posturing. All we get in our holiday stockings is a lump of pathetic, compromised coal with a neat sachet of insurance bail-out. At a time when real change was needed and the thought was that somehow the eight disastrous years of darkness we have endured would be slightly overcome with meaningful reform, all that is negotiated is a sweet deal for Nebraskans, guaranteed income for truly fatcat insurance behemoths and increased expenditures. Where's the "reform" in this healthcare reform bill?

We seem to have played quite nicely into the Rush Limbaugh game plan of failure for the Obama administration. The Democratic Party's ship is sinking, rats are fleeing and all we have left is an overcompromised collection of dissatisfied crewmembers.

It's too bad, I was hoping for so much more.

Steve Ball

WIndsor, ME

Dec 21 2009 - 8:52am

Web Letter

As the other writers here have astutely noted, the passage of this bill--which forces everyone to buy private insurance without doing anything serious to restrain insurance company graft--might be a death knell for the Democratic Party.

Which, in itself, might not be the world's worst thing. The more serious issue is the way this bill might mean the end of liberalism altogether.

It's been thirty years since the "anti-government" mantra of Reagan's scriptwriters took popular hold--a cynical exploitation of valid public angst about the Nixon administration's crimes and the bipartisan Vietnam War. America was told, and believed, that the faults of our economy and foreign policy were due to Big Government, rather than increasingly unlicensed corporate malfeasance.

For a moment, in the last election, voters were willing to question the wisdom of letting corporations run wild. Katrina and the subprime collapse had briefly made "business" (so much more efficient, to unburdened by bureaucracy) seem a less-than-perfect source of solutions to our problems.

If the Democrats (who, as we know, are not liberal, but who are the public face of liberalism) betray this opportunity, when will we have another? In thirty more years? They didn't have to solve everything--they merely needed to prove that, on occasion, once in a blue moon, government regulation could actually improve people's lives. (FDR didn't fix everything, and wasn't quite a liberal, but people had pictures of him in their homes for a generation.)

This legislation embodies every cliché of the right about how public participation is futile; it may well embalm any public confidence in the left for the foreseeable future.

James Fillmore

St. Paul, MN

Dec 21 2009 - 2:52am

Web Letter

This morning, health insurance stocks are at a fifty-two-year high. The Senate has produced, with President Obama behind the scenes, a nakedly corrupt upwards wealth-transfer plan intended to serve and protect the health insurance and pharmaceutical cartels. Former presidential candidate John Kerry has argued for this legislation. Former vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman was crucial in making the corrupt legislation a done deal. President Obama will assuredly sign this bill. Almost no voices in the Democratic Party establishment have spoken out against the bill.

Next year, hard-working Americans will experience the IRS serving as a collection agent for Aetna and Regence. Eli Lilly and Bristol-Meyers-Squibbs will make billions on their enhanced patent monopolies. The public will be poorer and will have worse and less health care.

And who will The Nation advocate for during the Congressional elections?

That's right, the Democratic Party.

For all the essaying on refom and progress The Nation produces, the publication will always serve as a reliable busker for the Democratic Party's candidates. Even next year, after this atrocity of a "reform" becomes law.

Seymour Friendly

Seattle, WA

Dec 20 2009 - 12:42pm

Web Letter

We, Americans, may now be aware at how corrupted by corporate monies our government has become.

James L. Pinette

Caribou, ME

Dec 20 2009 - 6:53am

Web Letter

It is pretty obvious that the "individual insurance mandate" is unconstitutional on the federal level.

Then what?

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Dec 19 2009 - 4:00pm

Web Letter

Frankly, I'm stunned by The Nation's perspective on healthcare reform. This editorial accurately describes the guaranteed-to-disappoint procedures adopted by the president and Congress to create real reform, but then concludes that "progressives should argue more aggressively than ever for real competition--ideally in the form of a public option but at least with Medicare expansion."

Progressives know that there are 3,000 corporate lobbyists spending $1.4 million per day not only to persuade legislator to vote against real reform but to actually write the bills being proposed! This is hardly a prescription for reform.

As Dr. David Himmelstein of Harvard University, Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action and Matt Taibbi, a journalist for Rolling Stone, have convincingly argued, the public option would be so hampered and restricted that it would fail to provide competition to the private insurance companies. Even expanded Medicare is doomed to fail as written in the Senate bill because it would cost as much as private insurance for people between 55 and 64.

Why, as perhaps the most recognized voice in American progressive journalism, does not The Nation insist on single-payer healthcare reform paid for through progressive federal income taxation? That would be real reform… and progress!

Steve Blank

Middleton, WI

Dec 19 2009 - 11:42am

Web Letter

Would the healthcare reform bill in its current shape cover the cost of the backbone implants for the Democratic Party leaders and the White House?

If it would, the bill could be the gigantic leap forward for our country.

I had no idea that by voting for Obama Barack we would put Joe Lieberman in charge of making the final decisions on the Wall Street bailout, the Afghan War and the healthcare reform.

Kenan Porobic

Charlotte, NC

Dec 18 2009 - 12:47pm

Web Letter

In 1989, Congress passed Medicare catastrophic legislation. The bill extended Medicare benefits to pay for long-term illnesses and drug benefits. It required that those over 65 pay an additional 15 percent in income taxes to pay for enhanced benefits. It was a catastrophic decision. There was an enormous backlash from the supposed recipients.

Both parties, by large majorities, passed the bill. Sometimes the protests were more than verbal: "For Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., then powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, it all boiled over on a hot day in August when he failed to sell the new coverage to elderly activists at a seniors' center on Chicago's North Side. Brandishing canes, some waving signs saying 'Rottenkowski,' they chased the sweating, panicked lawmaker to his car. When they surrounded his car, he got out and ran down the street." This is from an article by James Kuhnhenn for Knight-Ridder in 2003.

So, our current Congress and in this case, only the Democrats, are creating a healthcare bill that forces millions of Americans to buy private insurance. Remember, the tax the seniors were upset about was an increase in already existing income tax and only affected a portion of them. Signing up with private insurance companies is not something people are in any way accustomed to and, as there is a captive market, it is unlikely to be cheap.

There are estimates of the costs all over the web. But it is clear to me that a standard American family of middle income is looking at thousands of dollars. Of course, those who are young and have few health problems may resent being forced to buy health insurance out of what is often a very limited income. To twist the knife just a little more, it is quite likely that the enormous amount of money this will bring to the insurance companies will not remain unnoticed and uncommented on.

If these individuals decide not to buy the required insurance, there are penalties. These penalties are likely to be resented, well publicized and notorious in the media when enforced.

Now, if the bill contained some cost controls or a public option, if it lowered the age of Medicare eligibility--something that would indicate to Americans some kind of cost control or benefit--a politician might have something to say to enraged constituents, some argument to make about shared sacrifice and brotherhood. But those have been stripped from the bill.

Let's summarize: solely the Democratic members of Congress will create a healthcare plan requiring millions of Americans to buying private insurance companies under penalty of law without serious cost controls or a public choice, while publicly enriching already unpopular insurance companies.

Whenever Congress passes a law, for instance, the Defense of Marriage Act, some people will be upset. Some will get mad and some will act in the political sphere to change the law. On the hand, let's make people do something they don't want to do and cost them thousands of dollars a year--they might get very upset.

The Democratic Party could enrage a large proportion of the American population and consign itself to minority party status for the next thirty years. And I'm not talking 45 percent minority, I'm talking 25 percent minority status. I'm talking about astonishment in the press when any Democrat is elected to anything. I'm talking about electoral suicide, party destruction down to school boards and city councils.

Is this really a good idea?

James Pilant

southwerk.wordpress.com<br />Rogers, AR

Dec 17 2009 - 7:49pm