So... When are we mobilizing for the Public Option?

The Senate is set to begin debate on health care reform later this week. Progressives scored a small (and arguably pyhrric) victory back on November 7: The version of health care passed by the U.S. House of Representatives contained a Public Option. With momentum for the public option finally building to the point of tangible accomplishment last week, what have progressives done to help further the effort?

A boycott of the DCCC has been organized, under the premise that donating to the entire congressional caucus also donates to the 39 democrats who voted against health care reform. Fair enough. You can sign the boycott here. There has been a lot of discussion on the Internet. And we have a well-meaning web site asking for the public option please.

Please? I'm so glad we're being so polite about this.

One person dies every 12 minutes in the United States due to a lack of access to affordable health care. That's 45,000 a year, and over fifteen (15) times the number of Americans who lost their lives on September 11. Despite the average family health insurance policy costing an astounding $13,375 per year (a 5% increase from last year), having coverage can sometimes afford little protection, despite paying tens of thousands of dollars. After all, one is dependent upon a corporation for matters of life and death. And lest we forget that for a corporation, morality is governed not by right and wrong, but by profit and loss on the bottom line, hence the practice of policy rescission. Thanks to exemption from anti-trust laws through the McCarran-Ferguson Act, you know, the same anti-trust laws that are otherwise in place to ensure the American way of life, health care consumers have little to no free choice, and even less recourse in the event of a conflict. One could argue that such healthcare costs are necessary for doing business, but the corporate immorality picture would just not be complete without a list of the exorbitant CEO salaries paid last year:

         Aetna $24,300,000
         Amerigroup $5,300,000
         Centene $8,800,000
         CIGNA $12,200,000
         Coventry $9,000,000
         Health Net $4,400,000
         Humana $4,800,000
         United Health group $3,200,000
         Universal American Group $3,500,000
         WellPoint $9,800,000

It sort of makes you stop and think the next time they decide to not cover part of your bill. We've all experienced it. But then again, I'm glad we're being so polite about this.

So along comes the public option. Single payer is off the table, and when faced with a mandate to purchase health care, there better be a government run alternative for the most vulnerable members of society. If the Republicans have shown us one thing since the days of Regan, it's that unregulated capitalism cannot be allowed to handle matters of life and death. Can you imagine a mandate without a public alternative? I didn't think so. So the question then becomes: what are we going to do about it?

The public option has been a cornerstone of progressive blogosphere discussion for months now. If not for progressives, it would have long since been discarded as too heavy a lift in this political environment. Too bad progressive blogosphere hot air can't pass legislation. I am not bashing the Public Option Please campaign per se, except for the unfortunate adverb use that seems to summarize progressive efforts to date: lots of talk and little action. Sure, there is discussion of a financial boycott, although I hypothesize that passive aggressive politics are never successful. For passive aggressive politics to succeed, you have to assume our politicians are thinking about the future. Back in September a pathetically weak turnout of somewhere between 500 and 1000 people showed up to rally for such critical legislation. With all the talk and the very real possibility of success, don't you think progressives could do more? Heck, Michelle Bachman can get four times the people to show up and rally against healthcare reform, despite overwhelming support for legislation.

Even though there's been very real indication that democrats straying from the progressive agenda they were elected to pursue may spell doom in the 2010 midterm elections, our elected officials have strong reason to oppose the public option in the form of millions in campaign contributions from the health care industry. In the absence of any hard pressure, are we really going to rely on their conscience to make the right decision here? What carries more weight: a show of force, or a threat of (future) force?

The election of Barack Obama was necessary but insufficient for achieving our goals. I know we would rather sit in our pajamas and blog. It's easy and it's what I'm doing right now. It's also easy to hope Barack Obama will do all the heavy lifting for us, even though he always called on us to support him. We need only go back to other eras in Our Nation's history, such as the Civil Rights Era, to observe that political support in Washington, D.C. for an agenda of significant political change cannot succeed without popular action, and right now, the only popular action being seen in Washington, D.C. is one of opposition.

I wish I had a million dollars to organize buses and get the show of force that represents the opinion of the American public on healthcare reform. I wish we could drown out the tea parties with 100,000 people on the Washington Mall. But I don't. I just have my poster board and my witty slogan. I will be there in Washington D.C. if you will.

Tags: health care reform, Public Option (all tags)

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