Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fools' Gold

Arthur Silber:

I point you again to Chris Floyd's wonderfully brief and entirely accurate summary of what is going on in the health care reform debate. It's no debate at all: whatever happens, certain already immensely powerful and wealthy corporations closely allied with the State will become still more powerful and wealthy. Given the nature of the corporatist system that now throttles every aspect of life in the U.S., that is how the system works. That's how it's set up, and that's its purpose. The fact that insurance companies will reap huge rewards on the backs of "ordinary" taxpaying Americans is not a regrettable byproduct of an allegedly good but imperfect effort at reform, or a flaw that will be fixed at some unspecified future date. And as already powerful and wealthy interests become more powerful and wealthy, the State will also increase its already massive power over all our lives still more. None of that is incidental: it's the point.
The powerful will do whatever they want unless someone stops them. Political leaders will not act because almost all of them have the equivalent of a bar code tattooed on their collective ass. When the corporations need a law passed or not passed they just swipe the politician like a credit card. Payment, meet law. (Or no law.)

How about the people? The last time the people forced the government to act against corporations, foreign peasants were taking over governments, grabbing assets and killing political leaders. That is not going to happen here.

Religious leaders happily grabbed the power and money offered by politicians, modifying their fundamental messages to accommodate corporate desires.

18A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
19"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'[b]"

21"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

26Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?"

27Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."

28Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"

29"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."
We have failed to curb the power of the elite and will continue to fail until we realize the fundamental truth behind this message. We have to be willing to give up what we have to get what we want. We have to give ourselves and everything we have to the poor, metaphorically speaking, to achieve our goals. We have to let go of the desire to ape the rich and be prepared to live like the despised poor to be free of the corporate elite. We have to refuse to work for immoral corporations. Refuse to feed the financial industry while banks bleed us with credit card fees and interest fees. (Usury is forbidden by the Bible, by the way.) Obviously we won't do this, so we have no power--against organizations that depend on the consumer for survival! Without money they are nothing, but we want what they offer, so we submit to their rules. We want 2500 sq. feet houses in the suburbs, not 1200 sq. feet. We want to travel like the rich, eat like the rich, dress like the rich. Why? Because they tell us we do.

We have created a culture of endless spending funded by debt, and therefore must follow corporate rules or lose access to debt. We have to get into debt when we are teenagers to get an education, assume more debt to buy a house for our family, and spend the rest of our lives harnessing ourselves to corporations or live with their all-pervasive influence and control, the only way to afford health care, housing and the "normal" life the corporate advertising has convinced people to consider necessary. The middle class is smoke and mirrors. Without debt many of us would be clinging to survival, crushed by insurance premiums and taxes and inflation. And then we delude ourselves into thinking we are acting freely.

Everything indicates that a public option is the smart move politically and substantively. The Village thought it was dead because they assumed that because a bunch of insane wingnuts disguised as normal, white Real Americans were shrieking at the top of their lungs, that "the people" had spoken. But the people have always been for a public option and the numbers aren't going down.


Now, it's not always that easy, of course. Politicians also answer to the wealthy owners of America, which means that the people's wishes are only one small factor. (The democracy thing sure is adorable.) But in this case, the owners of America are all over the place and the costs associated with both keeping the status quo and passing a plan that will fail are very, very high for them as well as the people. The economy is terrible and people are suffering and desperately looking for some sign of relief. The Republicans made themselves irrelevant. Therefore, this calculation is not so simple and the opportunity is greater.

I have always held out quite a bit of hope that the public plan could be included in the bill and still do. But I can't tell the future and neither can anyone else --- I can't say if it's going to be adequate to stave off failure and I don't know if the subsidies are going to be enough to make any plan affordable to the vast majority of the uninsured. But the political calculation has always favored putting it in because reform will almost definitely fail if they don't. The fact that liberals stayed focused and relentless on the issue required the media to keep asking the question in public opinion polling and keeping the issue on the forefront of the agenda long after the establishment just wanted it to go away. It's been a demonstration of a good progressive strategy.

That doesn't guarantee that it's going to happen. There are egos and sell-outs and traitors galore in the congress and the White House and I think it's clear that these things don't always take a logical path. But the fact that it's still alive at this stage is a hopeful sign. If the liberals stay together it's going to be a gut check for the conservative Dems instead of them -- which "centrist" Democrats are willing to tank the country's best chance to reform the health care system in decades?

It's not 1994, and the Republicans are a mess. There is no political upside to doing their dirty work for them like there was back then. There's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
Digby seems to think that this is a struggle between Republicans and Democrats. That the people pressure their lawmakers and then the lawmakers do what the people want if the politicians want to be in office. Digby does not seem to realize that things don't just happen. People make things happen. People make plans and carry them out, if nobody stops them. Any health care debate is completely and utterly fake, just like the completely and utterly fake debate about invading Iraq. Just look at Megan McArdle. Nobody is waiting to be convinced or studying the facts. They're keeping the masses busy while the real elite get what they want.

That is why we don't have health care. Digby says there is no political upside to withholding health care from the country, as if Republicans are the ones withholding care from Democrats, not the elite that picked the candidates that ran for office, paid for their campaigns, and kept them in mistresses and pork during their "public service." She states the words but does not hear them, does not believe them. Our politicians are bought. We are too weak to fight back unless we are willing to risk corporate punishment. We are not, so we will fail and continue to sink further into corporate bondage. No wonder our tvs and granite counter tops are so important to us. Cages are ugly things.


Downpuppy said...

They used to have this sermon every week at the Baptist church when I was a wee tad.

Nobody paid it no nevemind.

Susan of Texas said...

Yeah, the Catholic churches too, right before they asked for more money.

I think ignoring what is happening to others (and ourselves) is harming us in the middle class far, far more than we realize. It's pretty easy for the middle class to ignore the poor, but that just give more power to the elite.

Batocchio said...

Susan, I hear ya, and these points need to be made. But sometimes I think the divide on the reformers' side - at least on the blogs I frequent - isn't that wide. Mostly, I see those concerned that the fix is in, while others are certain of it. Regardless, I think it's important to fight the good fight and try to build allies. I buy that Bernie Sanders and some others really want reform, but most of Congress is corrupt, and don't fear their constituents enough, either. There's also the matter of morale for activists. I'm not hopeful, but I'll keep pestering Senator Feinstein with other constituents and at least buy my fellow comrades a drink. (I'll also be donating to the Los Angeles food bank again for Thanksgiving.)

Susan of Texas said...

You're right--we should always keep fighting. No matter what is going on on a national or global scale, we can still do a lot of good. Everything we do counts, because everything we do affects other people. For our own sakes as well as for others, we need to do what we think is right.

And maybe that will be what turns the tide in the end.