The last question President Obama was asked at his July 22 press conference by Lynn Sweet, columnist and Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, was a perfect softball toss that sent the media hounds scampering after it.
What a convenient distraction at a time when Obama really needs to deflect growing criticism about his health care reform policy–or lack of one.
Sweet, hailing from Obama’s home base in Chicago, was a perfect choice to ask the last question. She asked, “Recently, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge. What does that incident say to you? And what does it say about race relations in America?”
What a nice set-up query about the totally unrelated story of his friend’s arrest. In his affable style, the president replied, “As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in the society.”
Such a popular and worthy legislative cause. And who would dare find fault with Obama’s critique of the Cambridge police? (except the Cambridge police) It did the trick. His comment on that incident took the lead in many news cycles. His lack of details and clarity about his health care reform “policy” got lost.
America’s health care crisis is serious and deserves a thoughtful, honest public discourse. Yet the president danced around the issue of providing health care coverage for everyone.
In response to a question from Chuck Todd, Obama said “I want to cover everybody. Now, the truth is that unless you have a — what’s called a single-payer system, in which everybody’s automatically covered, then you’re probably not going to reach every single individual…” then he went on to blame some people who would arrogantly refuse to be covered by health insurance.
Who would refuse to get health care treatment when they need it if it was available under a single payer system? When the president talked about how poorly the American for-profit insurance industry compares to other advanced countries, he didn’t mention that these other countries have a single payer health care for all system.
President Obama said, “We also know that with health-care inflation on the curve that it’s on, we are guaranteed to see Medicare and Medicaid basically break the federal budget. And we know that we’re spending, on average — we here in the United States — are spending about $6,000 more than other advanced countries where they’re just as healthy.”
He added, “And I’ve — I’ve said this before. If you found out that your neighbor had gotten the same car for $6,000 less, you’d want to figure out how to get that deal.”
True. This is exactly what we the people are trying to do. We want that deal. With so many successful models around the world, why can’t America adopt the same health care for all program?
In addition to this rather serious omission, the president also took several more opportunities to blame Medicare and Medicaid for the problem.
President Obama said, “It’s about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.”
He also said, “Already we’ve estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health-care programs. This includes over $100 billion of unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare.”
What the President failed to mention is that the for-profit health insurance industry spends billions on executive compensation, marketing, advertising and lobbying Congress to prevent any reform that would reduce the staggering amount of profits they make on denying sick people coverage.
Corporate greed and Casino Capitalism on Wall Street, Mr. President, is where the waste is found. The day after his press conference, Wall Street continued to rally, reporting higher than expected profits.
On his blog, Robert Reich wrote, “What’s pushing the stock market upward? Mainly, unexpectedly positive second-quarter corporate profits. But those profits aren’t being powered by consumers who have suddenly found themselves with a lot more money in their pockets. The profits are coming from dramatic cost-cutting — including, most notably, payroll cuts.”
The money changers are happy, and Americans are losing their jobs, which means they’re also losing their health insurance.
In his July 10 testimony before Congress, former 20-year insurance company executive Wendell Potter said, “…the industry has consolidated to the point that it is now dominated by a cartel of large for-profit insurers. The average family doesn’t understand how Wall Street’s dictates determine whether they will be offered coverage, whether they can keep it, and how much they’ll be charged for it…To help meet Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations, insurers routinely dump policyholders who are less profitable or who get sick…They also dump small businesses whose employees’ medical claims exceed what insurance underwriters expected.”
Face it. In this shill game–lacking a champion in the White House–the American people are losing.