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Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!


How long must we put up with this indecisive attitude on the part of Congress? Whom do they work for anyway–health care lobbyists? It is time we told Congress that we want the health care insurance industry to stop fighting the public option. It is time we told some Senators and Congress members to stop obstructing a public alternative to private health care, one that will force the health insurance companies to provide a secure and affordable long-term system. It is time that some members of Congress stopped working for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and began to work for the People who sent them to Congress.

Barack Obama became President Barack Obama because he said that he would, among other things, insure that Congress took up health care reform. That and getting us out of Iraq, which is already underway, were the key points in his campaign. He was elected and he kept his promise. But all of the Republicans…all of them…and a number of Democrats have decided that they don’t work for us any longer. They work for the health insurance companies, for hospital groups, for drug companies and for the American Medical Association. It is time to let politicians know that we will see to it that they don’t work for anyone in government if they don’t get the health care legislation that we need.

And who are these people? We are talking about Senator Baucus of Montana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Representative Mike Ross of Arkansas and his Blue Dog followers. This is too important to the American People to be nice. If these self-serving politicians are more concerned with elections and money, let’s be sure that they know that we will all make it a point to nominate others for their seats next time and back Independent candidates if they should get the nomination. Let’s make it clear that not supporting the People is, this time, fatal to their political ambitions.

And, incidentally, we should not be currying favor with Olympia Snowe of Maine, nor her compatriot, Senator Collins. They are obstructionists to every progressive policy for the people. If they are not downright panderers to the lobbyists, then at the very least their attitudes show them both to be long behind the times. Just as we must put a Democrat in the seat  in New Hampshire of the retiring Senator Judd Gregg, a despicable ,toadying fool.  We need more men and women of and for the People, like the wonderful Senator from Vermont, a true man of the people, Senator Bernie Sanders.

The only way to achieve reductions in health care costs, better health care service and guarantees of health care…in the long run…is to have a government-sponsored alternative that does all those things…cuts costs, guarantees service and offers what Medicare offers at a minimum. That is what a public option will do.

What that means is this: If your health provider is either too expensive or too unresponsive you will be able to opt out of a private system and join a public health care system, basically the same thing as Medicare. This is important because a public health care system will operate with lower costs. So, if a customer of a health insurance company or an employee feels that his or her health care is not offering adequate health care or is prohibitively expensive, they can “opt out” and join up with the public health care program.

In general, this option will bring down health care costs. If this exact kind of option or one very similar is not in the health care bill, experts feel that the other reforms will not be strong enough to bring down costs. There are several versions of a public option included in the four health care reform plans. Some are close to the format mentioned, some are not as strong. In some, for example, only those who lose their current private health care or have no health care and cannot afford a private plan would be able to use the public option.

But the significant fact in all of this is that a number of Democrats, knowing that the public option is essential to real health care reform are not willing to vote for it. The reason Democrats were elected was to complete the Democratic agenda for the people and to overturn the corporate buddy system run by the Bush Administration that had damaged the economy and many, many average citizens.

We spent eight years of supposedly having been given tax breaks but costs of living ate up any tax benefits for the middle class, whereas the very rich paid, as Warren Buffett wrote during this period in the New York Times, less taxes than their secretaries. Then there were the wars and the gas prices and the disaster in New Orleans and the actual extortion of Californians by the energy company ENRON, who blatantly and callously deliberately raise electricity prices until businesses and hospitals and retirement homes were priced into bankruptcy, including other energy companies.

Many of us worked hard, donated money, wrote letters, made phone calls, put up signs and spoke constantly with friends and neighbors and associates to elect Democrats. If some of those Democrats want to follow the narrow, former Dixie-crat policies of people like Jeff Sessions of Alabama and the former Democrat turned Republican, Trent Lott…people who really will only be happy if slavery is reinstituted, then let them become Republicans. It is time for the Democratic Party to embrace the People.

It isn’t difficult to understand. If you want to be an elected official, you are either for the People or for the lobbyists. You are with unions or with management that sends jobs abroad. You are with the patients or you are with the health insurance companies that deny you care. You are with us, the People, or you are with the 12,500 lobbyists in Washington who put George W. Bush in office and whose hundreds of millions of dollars and whose purchase of the media, kept him there. You are with the People or with the hundreds of paid propagandists, from Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity to Coulter, O’Reilly, Malkin and Savage, who spin lies over the supposedly public airwaves every day…to help the rich and damage the poor.

Each of us must figure out what it is that we can do, even if it is only one phone call to one friend to express outrage at what is happening, spreading the word, signing an email petition, doing something. These Senators must understand that they must lead–or get out of the way…permanently. We need health care reform with a public option. But that is only the beginning.

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