Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on health care reform in this country, and, in particular, the "public insurance option."
In March of 1911, after a wave of minor factory fires in New York City, the City's Fire Commissioner issued emergency rules about fire prevention, protection, escape, sprinklers. The City's Manufacturers Association, in turn, called an emergency meeting to attack the Fire Commissioner and his 'interference with commerce.' The new rules were delayed.
Just days later, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The door to the fire escape had been bolted shut to keep the employees from leaving prematurely. One hundred and fifty of those employees died, many by jumping from the seventh floor windows to avoid the flames. Fire fighters setting up their ladders literally had to dodge the falling, often burning, bodies of women.
This was the spirit of the American corporation then. It is the spirit of the American corporation now. It is what the corporation will do, when it is left alone, for a week.
You know the drill. We all know the drill. You get something done at a doctor's, at a dentist's, at an emergency room, and the bills are in your hands before the pain medication wears off. And if you're one of the lucky ones, and you have insurance, you submit the endless paperwork, and no matter whether it's insurance through your company, or your union, or your non-profit, or on your own dime, you then get your turn at the roulette wheel.
How much of it is the insurance company going to pay this time? How much of it is the insurance company-about which you have next to no choice, and against which you have virtually no appeal-how much is this giant corporation going to give you back? What small percentage of what they told you they were going to pay you will they actually pay you? You know the answer. And, you know the answer if you don't have insurance. But do you know why that's the answer?
Because the insurance industry owns the Republican Party. Not exclusively. Pharma owns part of it, too. Hospitals and HMO's, another part. Nursing homes, they have a share. You name a Republican, any Republican, and he is literally brought to you by campaign donations from the health sector.
Senator John Thune of South Dakota? You gave the Republican rebuttal to the President's weekly address day before yesterday. You said the Democrats' plan was for "government run health care that would disrupt our current system, and force millions of Americans who currently enjoy their employer-based coverage into a new health care plan run by government bureaucrats."
That's a bald-faced lie, Senator. And you're a bald-faced liar, whose bald face happens to be covered by your own health care plan run by government bureaucrats.
Nobody would be forced into anything; and the Public Insurance Option is no more a disruption than is letting the government sell you water, and not just Poland Spring and Sparkletts.
But, as corrupt hypocrites go, Senator, at least you're well paid. What was that one statement worth to you in contributions from the health sector, Senator Thune? Five thousand dollars? Ten?
We know what you are, Sir, we're arguing about the price.
What about your other quote? "We can accomplish health care reform while keeping patients and their doctors in charge, not bureaucrats and politicians."
Wow, Senator, this illustrates how desperate you and the other Republicans are, right? Because Senator Thune, if you really think "bureaucrats and politicians" need to get out of the way of "patients and their doctors," then you support a woman patient's right to get an abortion. And you supported Michael Schiavo's right to take his wife off life support. And you oppose "bureaucrats and politicians" getting in the way. And we'll just mark you down on the pro-choice list.
That's a rare misstep for you Senator Thune. No twelve-thousand dollar payoff for that statement!
I am not being hyperbolic, am I, Senator? About the money?
Senator Thune has thus far received from the Health Sector, campaign contributions - and all these numbers tonight are from "The Center For Responsive Politics"- campaign contributions amounting to one 1,206,176 dollars. So much for Senator Thune.
How about Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite? Good evening Ma'am. You are the Florida representative who claimed on the Floor that Democrats had "released a health care bill which essentially said to America's seniors: drop dead."
Now those are strong, terrorizing, words. That's exactly what your Insurance and Medical Overlords wanted to hear. But are you truly worth every dollar of the 369,000,255 of them you have received over the years from the Health Sector? I'd read the rest of the operative part of your speech myself, but your rendition actually cannot be matched
- REP. GINNY BROWN-WAITE (R), FLORIDA: Listen up, America, seniors have special needs. This bill ignores the-ignores the needs of Florida's health care system. We should be fixing what is broke, not disseminate-disseminating-decimating, the care of our senior population.
You can always tell, can't you, Congresswoman, when the hostage is reading her own ransom note, and when she is reading one written for her? So much for Congresswoman Brown-Waite.
There are so many other Republicans, bought and sold-like that unfortunate Congresswoman there-by the Health Sector.
Minority Leader McConnell of the Senate?
You're worth three-point-one million to the Health Sector? A million and a half just for last year's election? And I'm supposed to think you aren't a sellout, a liar, a paid spokesman, a shill, a carnival barker? So much for Sen. McConnell.
Congressman Joe Barton of Oklahoma; $2,660,000, Congressman? That's ten times what Senator Robert Byrd has accepted from the Health Sector. Congressman! What a guy! So much for Congressman Barton.
Senator McCain, one-point-six?
To serve the Hospitals, and serve the Drug Companies, and serve the nursing homes? And not to serve the retirement communities of Arizona? Or the cancer survivors? Or the veterans? So much for Senator McCain.
I could go on all night and never exaggerate in the slightest.
PBS pointed out that the health and insurance industries are spending more than a 1,400,000 dollars a day, just to destroy the "public option" - the truly non-profit, wieldy, round-up and not round-down, government, from helping you pay your medical bills with about a billionth of the recklessness with which it is still paying Halliburton and its spin-offs to kill your kids.
And much of this money is going to, and through, Republicans.
But that's the real point tonight. Not all of it is going through Republicans. Because the evil truth is, the Insurance industry, along with Hospitals, HMO's, Pharma, nursing homes - it owns Democrats, too.
Not the whole party.
Candidate Barack Obama got more than 18 million from the Health Sector just last year. And you can bet somebody in the Health Trust, somebody responsible for buying influence, got fired over what Obama's done.
No, the Democrats are not wholly owned. Hundreds of Democrats have taken campaign money from the Health Sector without handing over their souls as receipts. But conveniently, the ones who are owned have made themselves easy to spot in a crowd.
They've called themselves "Blue Dogs," and they are out there, hand-in-hand with the Republicans, who they are happy to condemn day and night on everything else, throatily singing "Kumbaya" with the men and women who were bought and sold to defend this con game of an American health care system against the slightest encroachment.
Congressman Mike Ross of Arkansas, leader of the Blue Dogs in the House. You're the guy demanding a guarantee that reform will not add to the deficit. I'm guessing you forgot to demand that about, say, Iraq.
You're a Democrat, you say, Congressman? You saw what Sandy Barham said?
Sandy Barham is 62 years old. She's got a bad heart. She's hoping her valves will hold together for three more years until Medicaid kicks in, because she can't afford insurance. Not just for herself, mind you. For her employees. She needs the public option. So do those six people who work at that restaurant of hers, Congressman Ross.
And why should you give a crap? Because Sandy Barham's restaurant is the Broadway Railroad Cafe, and it is at 123 West First Street North in Prescott, Arkansas. Prescott, Arkansas, Congressman Ross. Your home town. You are Sandy Barham's congressman. Hers, Sir. Not Blue Cross's and Blue Shield's, even if they do insure 75 percent of the state and they own you.
The top donor so far to Congressman Ross's bid for re-election next year? The Blue Dog PAC, ten thousand bucks. Second? Something called Invacare, 7,300. Oh, they make wheelchairs and rollers and slings. They're big in slings.
Tied for third? The American Dental Association, another grand, 5,000, as a matter of fact. Your top donors by industry, Congressman Ross? Health professionals: 29,250. Then Pharma and health products: 12,250. And so far in your career, Congressman Ross, your total haul from the health sector is 921,000. That's 90th in the combined list of donations for the House and the Senate, sir, 90th out of 537.
You should be proud, Congressman! Except for the fact, that before you started living off the public dime, you owned a pharmacy. And your grandmother was a nurse. And it turns out you're not Sandy Barham's congressman, after all. You're Blue Cross's. So much for Congressman Ross.
Congressman Bart Gordon of Tennessee. Congressman? Undecided on the public option? At 1,173,000 in donations from the health sector, I'm surprised. You should have already said no and loudly. The only thing you should be undecided about is whether or not you're really a Democrat. So much for Congressman Gordon.
Senator Max Baucus of Montana. Good evening, Senator.
So you're supposed to be negotiating all this out with the Republicans and the hesitant Democrats, to gain bi-partisanship with a wholly-owned subsidiary of the health sector? Bipartisanship that will get you, what? A total of no votes? And your price has been, let's see, 414,000 dollars in donations from Hospitals; 667,000 in donations from the insurance companies, just over a million from Big Pharma, 1,300,000 from other health professional, and 237,000 from nursing homes. When you think of getting 237,000 dollars in campaign contributions from nursing homes, Senator Baucus, do you ever think about whether they subtract that amount of money evenly from all the patients suffering and dying in the lousy ones, or just from a few of the lousy ones?
So much for Senator Baucus.
Sadly, this list could go on almost all night, too.
I could ask Blue Dog Congressman Democrat John Tanner of Tennessee if, since he's gotten 215 Grand from hospitals over the years-if I and the appropriate number of my friends were willing to make it 216 Grand, if we could buy his vote, or would there still have to be an auction? We could bring up Senator Hagan, and Congressman Pomeroy, who at 628,000 appears to represent the insurance industry and not North Dakota. I could bring up Senator Carper and Senator Blanche Lincoln. Senator Lincoln, by the way, considering how you're obstructing health care reform, how do you feel every time you actually see Senator Kennedy?
I could bring up all the other Democrats doing their masters' bidding in the House or the Senate, all the others who will get an extra thousand from somebody if they just postpone the vote another year, another month, another week, because right now, without the competition of a government-funded insurance company, in one hour, the health care industries can make so much money that they would kill you for that extra hour of profit. I could call them all out by name. But I think you get the point. We don't need to call the Democrats holding this up Blue Dogs. That one word "Dogs" is perfectly sufficient. But let me speak to them collectively, anyway.
I warn you all. You were not elected to create a Democratic majority. You were elected to restore this country. You were not elected to serve the corporations and the trusts who the government has enabled for these last eight years. You were elected to serve the people. And if you fail to pass or support this legislation, the full wrath of the progressive and the moderate movements in this country will come down on your heads. Explain yourselves not to me, but to them. They elected you. And in the blink of an eye, they will replace you. If you will behave as if you are Republicans - as if you are the prostitutes of our system - you will be judged as such. And you will lose not merely our respect. You will lose your jobs!
Every poll, every analysis, every vote, every region of this country supports health care reform, and the essential great leveling agent of a government-funded alternative to the unchecked duopoly of profiteering private insurance corporations. Cross us all at your peril!
Because, Congressman Ross, you are not the Representative from Blue Cross. And Mr. Baucus, you are not the Senator from Schering-Plough Global Health Care, even if they have already given you 76 Grand towards your re-election. And Ms. Lincoln, you are not the Senator from DaVita Dialysis.
Because, ladies and gentlemen, President Lincoln did not promise that this nation shall have a new death of freedom, and that government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation, shall not perish from this Earth.
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