Congress Pulls the Trigger
Three years ago, You were Time's Man of the Year. By next year, you could be Public Enemy #1.
For years, journalist Michael Collins has been calling them “the Money Party.” It’s a mere paraphrase of Gore Vidal’s very correct assertion that there are no Democratic or Republican parties- There’s only the Corporate Party and the only difference between the two is how fast their knees hit the carpet when a lobbyist walks into their office. I would amend that to say it depends on how fast they can make a well-heeled corporate interest cum against the back of their throat.
In order to see just how evil and hostile our Congress is to their constituents, one need look no further back than the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act in the spring of 2005. The bill, written by self-dealing lenders seven and a half years before it passed, was essentially a veiled piece of sarcasm that preemptively sought to paint Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public as criminals or potential criminals for “abusing” the bankruptcy protection laws while these self-same, self-dealing corporations as the poor victims whose Plan B was always the bankruptcy courts, corrupt, irresponsible entities that were given the same protections that are rightfully ours.
The “consumer protection” part of the bill only protected those consumers of shrinking private incomes, namely the credit card companies who largely wrote the bill. They were still able to hike APRs up to 36% and even the subsequent credit card reform bill of this year does little to alleviate these crushing Tony Soprano-like interest rates. It only forces the credit card companies to give you a little more notice before capriciously jacking up your APR whether or not you’re a good customer.
Regarding election reform, it’s long been noted that lawmakers (especially, audaciously, Republicans) and the corporate mainstream media are more prone to believe or to have you believe that the real issue isn’t election fraud perpetrated every other year by multi billion dollar, Republican-connected vote tabulation companies and an army of shadowy, partisan operatives, it’s voter fraud. Forget the fact that only a handful of voter fraud cases were ever prosecuted by the Justice Department between 2002-5. Diebold, ES&S and Sequioa Systems aren't the bad guys. It's ACORN.
We’re also the Dillingers, Bonnie and Clydes and the James Gang. We’re the ones who abuse the bankruptcy system. We’re the ones who bully poor credit card and banking giants. We’re the ones who abuse the election laws. Yet we’re also the ones who have to bail out Wall Street to the tune of trillions and finance two losing wars thousands of miles away for trillions more whether we want to or not.
It can be said that the only truly criminal act perpetrated by the national electorate is when we keep voting into office actual criminals and corporate stooges (from now on referred to as “members of Congress”) and it’s that brief, shining moment when, ironically, we’re appealed to by these earnest, hopeful candidates and incumbents who never think beyond the next election cycle. It’s the one time that we can be trusted to “do the right thing” when we walk into the polls.
How many times in the movies have we seen henchmen and accomplices spring the bad guy from prison or do him some other favor only to see the bad guy turn around and shoot his naïve benefactor in the back? Last Saturday night, the people that we elected to Congress, did it again and this time we can’t blame the Republican Party.
In the dead of Saturday night, the House passed their version of a health reform bill that, frankly, makes Max Baucus’ first health care proposal look like a bleeding heart liberal/socialist piece of legislation by conspicuous relief. One of the most alarming aspects of HR 3962, that passed 220-215 (219 Democrats and one Republican voted for it) are the purely evil sections 7203 and 7201. The less evil of these sections, 7203, calls for $25,000 in fines and up to a year imprisonment for “defying” the federal mandate for getting insurance. That's the misdemeanor. The felony? A quarter of a million dollars in fines and up to five years in prison.
You read that right. A quarter of a million dollars in fines and 60 months in prison for being put in the position of choosing food or your mortgage over health care that are hardly any cheaper than the bloated rates we’re already paying. Add to that the nonpartisan CBO’s projection that any government-run public option would wind up being even more expensive than those offered in the private sector. Add to that the fact that Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans had shoehorned language into the bill that allows individual states to opt out of the public option, a tack favored by the President. It’s called “the trigger option”, so-called because it would trigger the implementation of said so-called option if the private sector doesn’t meet certain conditions.
And those of you who are actually found guilty of the crime of not buying over $100 of health insurance every week will lose their jobs and earning potential. For up to five years, we will not be contributing to anything other than a prison economy. We will not be paying taxes. We will not be paying child support if we already are. And when we get thrown into the prison system, who gets to foot the bill for the health care that we'd defiantly refused to get?
You guessed it: Joe Sixpack and John Q. Public, aka the already burdened US taxpayer.
The Draconian 7203 and 7201 are supposed to be mere threats, deterrents to prevent us from cruelly withholding and willfully denying poor HMOs who are just trying to get by like the rest of us.
But what difference does that make to the rest of us who are held at gunpoint and told, "Don't worry. We won't really shoot you unless you refuse to jump ten feet into the air"?
According to the latest projections, this $1.3 trillion health care bill (HR 3962) passed in the House would force you to buy insurance if you don’t have it already, raise premiums and allow states, including those that have near-monopolies in the health care industry (such as Maine, for instance) to drop out of the program. Essentially, it’s a massive individual mandate without anything resembling a public option and co-ops would essentially be shouldered and jostled out of contention. It would be very easy to imagine health insurance giants leaning on state-level lawmakers to opt out of the federal program.
Perhaps the Republican Party had the right idea about this, all along: Perhaps the last thing we need is health care “reform.” At least under the status quo, 48,000,000 of us can’t afford health insurance but no one’s proposing putting us in jail for the crime of being indigent or fining those that can’t afford even $5300 in annual premiums or $15,000 for family plans (the cheapest single and family plans under the ratified House bill) to the tune of $250,000.
The last such early Christmas present to the health care field, the $800,000,000 gift-wrapped present to Big Pharma from Congress and George W. Bush was just a precursor, a warmup. It was obvious from the gitgo that any health care “reform” would be a massive corporate giveaway seeking to create a captive customer base of hundreds of millions for a part of the private sector that is already richer and more powerful than most national GDPs. And the pre-emptive supposition that any working or unemployed man who chooses to feed his family or pays his mortgage to stave off foreclosure for another month is a potential criminal is plainly the most despicable legislation to come down the Beltway in years. Specifically, four and a half years.
I mentioned the bankruptcy bill of 2005 for another reason. A 2004 Health Affairs study discovered that out of 1,660,245 people who filed for bankruptcy the year before, around half of them did so because medical bills made them default on credit card or mortgage payments. And almost 73% of those people already had health insurance. At the very black heart of the bankruptcy bill was the need for health care reform, something that took four more years to seriously address.
But We the People are under siege by our own Congress. They have met the enemy and do so during every election cycle and it is us.
The House passed a bill last Saturday that forces you to buy health insurance at rates higher than what we’re already paying, without a real public option and credit card companies can still charge you up to 30% interest even if you’re a good customer. It’s impossible to see how this miraculous “jobless recovery” will pan out when unemployed, underemployed and struggling working families are saddled with crushing home lending rates, rising credit card payments and an unwanted mandate that seeks to burden these same families with at least $15,000 in corporately/Congressionally-mandated health care costs that at least now are optional and with little to no real chance of successfully filing for bankruptcy protection. And to somehow be able to do all this with the unemployment now officially at 10.2%.
What I’m proposing here isn’t Monday morning quarterbacking. This is real. The Democratic Congress did this to us last Saturday after the C-SPAN cameras were turned off for the night. It was as if they shot us in the back of the head Soviet-style so as to leave behind no witnesses or to take a bigger cut of the heist. While I’m not lauding the GOP’s motive for opposing it, it can be said that this time, unlike 2005, they didn’t have a hand in this Satanic bill that seeks to enslave and imprison American consumers both literally and figuratively. And why we’re not marching on Capitol Hill right now by the tens of millions, torches, ropes, buckets of hot tar, bags of feathers and pitchforks in hand is anybody’s guess.
And why is it that the only people whom we’d seen come out in full force and in full-throated, well-organized opposition to health care reform was the clearly insane, criminally stupid and willfully ignorant radical factions known as astroturfers and teabaggers?