A year after Obama’s triumphant election, hauling substantial majorities in the House and Senate on his coattails, the progressive sector sits trying to warm its hands before the bonfire of all its hopes. An awful “health reform” bill has cleared the House and is now headed for marriage with some even more ghastly Senate version from which we may be saved only by a filibustering Lieberman, Obama’s initial mentor in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the White House is furiously denying reports from such well-regarded correspondents as David Martin of CBS that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will get “most, if not all,” of what he wants. Instead of giving him the boot for insolent public challenges to the civilian executive power, Obama will order the dispatch of about 40,000 new troops (CBS’s figure) to Afghanistan, representing a long-term commitment as fateful as Lyndon Johnson’s surrender to General Westmoreland’s request in Vietnam nearly half a century ago.
The progressives poke about among entrails of the House health bill and find evidence of mini-victories like the survival in vestigial form of the “public option”–a fetish phrase guaranteed to raise a loyal cheer whatever the realities, which in this case aren’t hard to discover.
As Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, put it in the wake of the House vote, “The principal beneficiary is not Americans’ health but the bottom line of the insurance industry, which stands to harvest tens of billions of dollars in additional profits ordered by the federal government.” Or as Representative Eric Massa of New York warned before the vote, “At the highest level, this bill will enshrine in law the monopolistic powers of the private health insurance industry, period.”
And of course the House bill reduces public protection for women, with its rollback of reproductive rights in the antiabortion amendment. The “public option” remnant? It will be available to about 2 percent of people under age 65, mostly those now not covered who buy insurance on their own.
It is as ridiculous to claim that this “health reform” bill has anything substantive to do with beneficial social change as to believe there have been any encouraging shifts in foreign policy since the Democrats took over. Only recently we had the surreal spectacle of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claiming in a press conference that what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements, which he has just described–no new starts, for example–is unprecedented in the context of the prior two negotiations.”
Obama’s Afghan policy evolved on the campaign trail last year as a one-liner designed to deflect charges that he was a peacenik on Iraq. He formed a foreign policy team mostly composed of Clinton-era neoliberal hawks, headed by Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke. Then he ordered 17,000 new US troops to be deployed to Afghanistan.