Maybe with the passing of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, President Barack Obama will find the inner strength to go on the offensive against the avalanche of lies and outright distortions against medical reform that includes a public option.
A public option based upon the principles of the current Medicare service would insure the forty million plus Americans who are not adequately covered. This can be a lasting legacy to the work of Senator Kennedy who had championed medical reform for over twenty years.
Diplomacy is fine as a strategy among people who respect dialogue and debate based upon fact. However when people show up at town hall meetings across the country with signs depicting the President as Hitler and cloud his medical proposal with misconceptions—such as the fiction that it would pay for abortions, care for illegal residents, and demand early death counseling—it is all but impossible to expect that logic will prevail.
It is documented that the insurance and drug companies are spending tens of millions to defeat any proposals that dare to threaten their stranglehold on the nation’s health care system and limit their huge profits. It is also clear that a sizable number of citizens have jumped to attention and are following the marching orders of the right winged media and political elite in their opposition to the President’s goals of insuring the uninsured citizens of this land.
Along with other outright lies, too many Americans have accepted the distortion of a public option. One wonders if those critics in their “life and death opposition” understand that Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Veterans hospital system are all public options. And the government runs all of these public options.
Reaganomics gave to the country the proposition that “government is the problem.” Too many confirmed adults have bought into this fantasy without question, forgetting, if ever knowing, that we, the people, are the government.
That which we receive comes from elected representatives who once in office, all to often, do the bidding of corporations—rather than the will of the people. A crucial part of the national debate on healthcare must include making public the enormous campaign contributions that our elected officials receive from insurance and drug corporations. In any other context, these monies would be viewed as outright bribes. This arrangement can easily determine their votes at crucial moments in our nation’s history—such as now.
As President Obama contemplates the difficult decision ahead, I strongly suggest that he consider these points:
First, remember the millions of young people and not so young who contributed five, ten, and twenty-five dollars and went door-to-door on your behalf. One example is my daughter and three of her friends who drove from New York City to Philadelphia to volunteer during a crucial weekend of your campaign. This type of citizen’s participation was duplicated all over the country. These people do not represent the moneyed interest.
Second, forget about a second term. Work for the people now. Do that which is right, just, fair and needed for the great majority who put you in office rather than the elite few—bankers, CEOs, and the economic elite five percent who see their tax breaks being jeopardized. Remember, President Franklin Roosevelt fought against organized money and organized mobs to get his populist legislation passed. You must do no less. Franklin D. Roosevelt is a better example than Abraham Lincoln in this 21st century context.
And finally, stop listening to the same people who caused this economic mess—bankers, CEOs, real-estate brokers and the wealthy few who have benefited from and were saved by billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. The same people who are now recovering and reverting back to their same selfish actions that got us here in the first place. Few understand, for example, that Goldman Sachs’ 3.5 billion dollar profit for the past quarter is actually part of the stimulus money they received from AIG. In effect, our tax money aided them to become profitable.
Mr. President, backbone, spine, guts and more are needed immediately. You are not the Senator from Illinois anymore. You are the President of the United States even though a significant portion of the misinformed population will never accept this fact.
So in your address to the nation next Wednesday, you must in no uncertain words make it clear that you will veto any medical bill brought to you without a comprehensive public option that will also cover pre-existing conditions.
“The Last Lion” for Massachusetts, Senator Edward Kennedy understood the need for total commitment to win this fight we are in. If you are to contribute to his legacy (and early support for your presidency), go on the offense.
Mr. President, don’t look back because the people are leading: on the issue of medical care for the underserved, you are playing catch up. And it is past time to take off the verbal gloves and wrap your language and actions around winning.
Haki R. Madhubuti is the author of Liberation Narratives, the Publisher of Third World Press, and University Distinguished Professor at Chicago State University.