Baucus v. Democracy

By David Swanson

I can’t recall a better corporate news video segment in at least the past decade than the story that Ed Schultz just aired on MSNBC in which he interviews Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and Senator Debbie Stabenow on the topic of healthcare reform.

Here’s video.

Sure, Ed slaps a gratuitous insult on the heroines of Code Pink, says he’s against protesting and “getting arrested” as a rule but thinks it’s OK if doctors in suits and “educated professional people” do it, and pretends to believe (or actually believes) that President Obama favors considering the possibility of creating single-payer healthcare. But the heart of this story is the gaping chasm between majority opinion and the corporate agenda of the United States Senate. And Ed Schultz hits it out of the park.

Ed goes after the health insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, and the HMOs. He plays video of activist Kevin Zeese speaking up at the recent Senate Finance Committee hearing and being arrested. He explains perfectly what single-payer healthcare is. (I recommend this flyer (PDF).) And he denounces the anti-democratic exclusion of single-payer advocates by Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

And then Ed brings on Margaret Flowers who absolutely nails every question he asks, and he asks the right questions. Flowers lists the polls showing that over 60 percent of Americans and 60 percent of physicians want single-payer, explains that PNHP has 16,000 members and is part of the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Healthcare which has 20 million members. Flowers points out that the next senate hearing is on March 12th and that advocates are asking for at least one supporter of single-payer to be included.

That sort of mention of an upcoming event and very nearly inclusion of exactly what people can do to improve their country is rare indeed on our televisions. Let me take it a slight step further: Senator Max Baucus’s phone number is (202) 224-2651.

After Flowers, Senator Stabenow comes on to give a perfect representation of an evasive, dishonest, sleazy senator, claiming not to know why single-payer advocates have been excluded, condescendingly encouraging them to keep shouting even though her gang won’t listen, and pretending that “lots of folks” in her state want to keep the insurance they have — as if trading it for completely comprehensive and completely free coverage (paid in taxes by businesses) would constitute some sort of a loss, would have a down side. Schultz dismisses the senator and lays out his position:

“Does Senator Baucus have his head screwed on wrong, or what? Does he not know that the majority of Americans want single-payer? Now I don’t care what the conservatives want when it comes to healthcare. They had their chance, and look where we are right now.”

This is the will of the majority of Americans versus the antidemocratic corporate agenda of Senator Max Baucus. Schultz makes that crystal clear. Of course, the Senate (and usually the House too) normally act contrary to the will of the majority of Americans, but it is very useful to have that pointed out once in a while, even if pointed out in a manner that suggests it’s a rarity.

Schultz then appeals to President Obama to “nudge” Senator Baucus, despite the fact that Obama hasn’t supported single-payer since before he entered national politics, didn’t support it as a candidate, and has adamantly opposed it as president, himself excluding any single-payer advocates from discussion forums until threatened with protests. In addition, a president should not make legislation, and a president is further removed from the people than even a senator.

Schultz may be confused about Obama and about the proper division of labor among our branches of government, but he hammers Baucus beautifully, pointing out that Baucus has taken more money from pharmaceutical and health insurance companies than any other Democrat in Congress (even if it is pocket change compared to what Obama has taken):

“Baucus got $183,000 from health insurance companies and $229,000 from drug companies,” Schultz concludes. “May I remind you: they were at the table.”

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