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Obama Surrenders on Health Care


Woman who opposes health care reform, yells as she listens to panelists during a health care town hall meeting in Alhambra, Calif., August 11, 2009.

Over the weekend, the Obama Administration waved the white flag on the public option for health care.

He got rolled by industry, and by the crazies who showed up at the town hall meetings.

If they were going to call him a socialist anyway, he should have pushed for single-payer. Instead, he proposed an inferior public option. And even on that, he refused to hold his ground and insist that he would veto any health reform bill that didn’t offer such an option.

As a result, tens of millions of people may be forced to buy private health insurance, or they’ll be fined for not doing so. No wonder the insurance industry is rubbing its hands together.

Rather than Medicare for all, Obama is actually slicing into the Medicare and Medicaid budgets for cost-cutting purposes, though he refused to do the most effective thing to reduce costs under Medicare, which is to demand the right to bargain for drug discounts with the pharmaceuticals.

He sold us out on that one even before the debate started.

Make no mistake: The American people are losing, and the insurance companies and drug companies are winning.

This is the consequence of not taking a principled stand.

Rahm Emanuel notoriously told The New York Times earlier this year, “The only non-negotiable principle here,” he said, “is success. Everything else is negotiable.”

But success is not a principle. It’s an outcome. And by surrendering the principle of Medicare for all at the outset, and by surrendering the right to negotiate drug prices, and now by surrendering even a meager public option, Obama has defined success downward.

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild Editor of The Progressive magazine, regarded as one of the leading voices for peace and social justice in the United States.

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