United States

Obama’s Phony Fight

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Obama White House and the insurance industry are putting on a big show for the public, with both sides pretending to be engaged in a battle royal over the shape of healthcare legislation. In reality, the insurance corporations have already won the war. But for political reasons, it’s necessary that the insurance companies and the White House act like professional wrestlers. And like TV wrestling, it’s all fake.

The insurance profiteers put out a paper last week, claiming the Senate Finance Committee bill shepherded by Obama’s buddy, Max Baucus, would cause premiums to go up 18 percent or more. President Obama then put on his angry face, and threatened to withdraw the insurance industry’s exemption from anti-trust laws. It sounded like a throw-down of epic proportions, but it’s just sound and fury, signifying nothing, as Shakespeare would say. The healthcare battle has devolved into a charade; the game has been fixed since early on in the Obama presidency.

Obama made his deals with the hospital corporations, the drug cartels and the insurance companies back in the spring. He promised the insurance racketeers they could have what every gangster craves: a captive market of consumers who would be forced to buy their shoddy products. The so-called “individual mandate” is the biggest prize any monopoly-seeking industry could ever hope for. It’s was a centerpiece of Hillary Clinton’s healthcare platform during the presidential campaign. Back then; candidate Obama opposed forcing everyone to buy into private insurance schemes. But President Obama was soon singing Hillary’s tune, and it was sweet music to the insurance profiteers.

Obama seemed to be holding out for some kind of weak public insurance “option” that would cover the neediest Americans, while forcing all the rest into the private sector’s money-sucking machine. But the president has essentially dropped that public option fig leaf.

The Baucus plan is a naked transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars from the people’s pockets to the insurance firms, a transfer enforced by the raw power of the state. It is the diametric opposite of single payer healthcare, which would draw the largest number of Americans into a single pool dedicated to the health and wellness of all. Instead, privatized national healthcare converts every citizen into a customer of giant corporations, whose goal is maximum profits.

The Baucus plan, which was nurtured at every stage of development by the Obama White House, is the greatest victory in history for the insurance companies—greater even than Congress’s 1945 decision to exempt insurance companies from federal anti-trust laws. That’s the law Obama is making all those loud noises about changing—but it’s a hollow threat, for public consumption only. Anti-trust laws are designed to prevent monopolies. But President Obama is hell-bent on awarding private insurers an unprecedented monopoly over coverage of every American, and the privateer’s profits will be fully subsidized by the people.

Obama’s brand of insurance reform will have the same effect as his finance reform: massive transfers of wealth to corporations until the people’s ability to pay is broken beyond repair.

Glen Ford is Black Agenda Report executive editor.

—Black Agenda Report, October 19, 2009