Monday, March 02, 2009

new henwood 


But I gotta say the news on the financial bailout is disappointing. The Obama administration is clearly going very easy on Wall Street. The much-hyped stress tests aren’t much of anything at all; as a Citigroup analysis put it on Thursday, the tests aren’t onerous and the overall plan looks very bank- and investor-friendly. They’re doing everything they can to avoid nationalizing these busted institutions, and even when they pump money in, as they did with Citigroup the other day, they do it with few obvious strings attached. We’ll know that we’re really in a new era when the administration’s approach becomes a lot less indulgent. Justice requires that, but so does economic recovery.

The outlines of the first draft of Obama’s first budget, though, are more encouraging. To start with, it’s an honest document, which brings the cost of war onto the budget, instead of being covered with the phony emergency resolutions that Bush preferred. Raising taxes on the very rich is a good move. It’s good to see some serious action on greenhouse gas emissions, though I’d much prefer a carbon tax to a cap-and-trade system.


The health care fund, $630 billion over the next decade, is a nice gesture, but it’s still not what we really need, which is a single-payer system. We’ll hear more on this from David Himmelstein in about 25 minutes, but single-payer is the only way you can get universal coverage and cost control, because you get the parasitical insurance companies out of the picture.


Putting all this together: the budget looks like bigger than baby steps in the right direction, the first serious signs at the fiscal level of a reversal of the priorities of the last 30 years. But only a beginning. And it has to get through Congress.

I should add to this that there will be a lot of inside baseball talk of this sort in the future about crafting healthcare legislation and all the players and their various agendas. It should be kept in mind however that there is perfectly good single-payer legislation already crafted (H.R. 676), and that it's likely that this will be systematically left out of the debate as per Luke Mitchell's piece in Harper's.

I've seen it suggested that Obama is somehow paving the way for single-payer by slipping this current round of reforms into the budget instead of a bill. Budgets only need 50% + 1 while bills like H.R.676 would need a 60% majority. It makes sense to me that Obama would want to get as much in at the moment without creating a blowout fight over it, but I don't see at all how this prepares the ground for single-payer. If anyone can explain that to me, I'd appreciate it.

If, however, this once-in-a-generation opportunity to restructure the healthcare system is squandered on "reforms" that leave the insco's intact, then that would be a crying fucking shame and an epic FAIL. As far as I can tell, it looks like that's what's happening.

Plus: more of the FUTURE


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