The gradual elimination of the public option by mattsteinglass
November 23, 2009, 5:30 am
Filed under: Health, Netherlands, Politics

As Robert Reich details, the slow elimination of the public option as any part of health care reform is a demonstration of the complete dominance the private health insurance industry has retained over the process. What this means is that essentially creating more or less universal coverage in the US is going to mean putting another 30 million Americans on private health insurance, and having the taxpayers pay their premiums. In theory, later down the road, now that the government is picking up the tab for everyone’s health care, we could start forcing private sector reforms to bring down costs. That’s what happens in, say, the Netherlands, with its all-private universal health insurance system. But the problem is that the process of health sector reform has conclusively demonstrated that private industry has so much power in the American political system that it’s beginning to seem implausible that Congress could ever vote to force cost reductions on any private industry, the health industry included.

Ultimately, one should start to hit a point where taxpayers refuse to subsidize private industry any more. To date, this point has been put off by deficit spending. At some point, however, it’s going to become impossible to do that anymore: some years down the line, government borrowing needs will become so astronomical that they will start to force bond yields up again and crowd out private investment. At that point, business interests will start to balk. Then the government will be faced with a choice: raise taxes, or cut services. What will happen at that point?

Taxes on the politically powerful wealthy will not be raised sufficiently to meet the government’s debt needs. Rather, taxes will be raised on, and services will be cut for, the politically powerless. That means the poor. The poor will pay higher taxes and receive less medical care and worse education. The government will eliminate infrastructure investment. That’s how America works. It’s a two-class society, where class divides are reinforced and exacerbated by the control of the wealthy over the political system.

I’m married to a Dutch woman, so I have the option of moving to the Netherlands, a far more egalitarian society with a government that, up to this point at least, has largely proven itself up to the task of facing the country’s major social and political problems. (We’ll see what happens if Geert Wilders wins the next elections.) In some ways, I would prefer to live in America. And I could in fact prosper in America: I’m a skilled professional from the upper sector of America’s class distribution, so I could take advantage of my background to make a lot more money than I could in the Netherlands, and not have to kick much back in taxes to provide a social infrastructure or educational opportunity for the poor. America’s political system would allow me, as a member of the elite, to siphon off more of the country’s wealth. I’m pretty sure I could live well in America. But that’s because of the extent to which American society has become corrupt and exploitative, and joining up with a project like that is in many ways pretty unattractive.

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I also find the direction we’re taking in this country to be morally objectionable. I’ve got an elite skill and some means, but I’d much rather pay higher taxes in Canada and not have to worry about becoming impoverished by illness (or be forced to pay into private health industry greed). We have few choices in this country. It’s not really the land of the free, is it?

I’m so glad I like snow!

Comment by hannalee

The narrative of political power seems a lot vaguer to me. The rich and the big corporations seem pretty dependent on the poor to send them corruptible legislators. Wasn’t that kind of what the last 8 years were about? Righteousness to the poor and uneducated in exchange for complex financial derivatives and war?

Comment by citifieddoug

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RE:As Robert Reich details, the slow elimination of the public option as any part of health care reform is a demonstration of the complete dominance the private health insurance industry has retained over the process.

You are joking?

First of all Robert Reich is a racist…he is the one who said white males shouldn’t get construction jobs created by Obama’s Stimulus…..of course we knpow now, no private sector jobs were created…..even Reich was fooled by Obama

Secondly, if Obama was about to nationalize your business,take away your business and income, wouldn’t you fight back?

Thirdly, once the three stooges, obama, pelosi, reid, get their feet in the health care door….it’s over for private health care in America….just as these clowns view the Constitution as a living growing, evolving document, the government health care documents will be ever growing and evolving….and consume everything….

Comment by andylevinson

[…] True/Slant – The gradual elimination of the public option […]

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