CRITICS who refer to President Obama's proposed public health plan as socialism have got it all wrong. The menace we face is not a result of the introduction of socialist ideals but the triumph of corporatism--that is, the corporate state wedded to the government. A Faustian bargain has been struck in which the devil is none other than Big Business--the nation's medical and pharmaceutical complex, a $2 trillion per year industry, and Americans' medical health needs are the bargaining chips.
Despite efforts by the Obama administration to keep this under wraps, it's no big secret. When you want to know what's really going on in Washington, you simply have to follow the scent of money. And as in so many cases, the money trail leads right back to Big Business--in this case, the medical-pharmaceutical complex. As Sharon Theimer writes for the Associated Press:
"[T]he administration's multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies have been made in private, and the results were announced after the fact. Both industries promised Obama cost savings in return for an expanded base of insured patients; beyond that, the public is in the dark about details. In some ways, it resembles what his party criticized President George W. Bush for doing with oil and gas companies as Vice President Dick Cheney wrote a national energy plan in the early days of the Bush administration. As the Bush White House did, the Obama White House is refusing to release visitor logs that would let people see everyone going in and out during the thick of discussions over major national policies."
Evidently, the American people have been sold to the highest bidder in exchange for power and prestige. And there is a lot of money to be made off of over-drugged Americans. According to USA Today, "more than half of all insured Americans are taking prescription medicines regularly." That translates to almost two-thirds of women 20 and older, one in four children and teenagers, 52% of adult men, and three out of four people 65 or older.
It's no wonder the medical-pharmaceutical complex, which opposed a health care overhaul under Bill Clinton, has done an about-face with Obama. After all, with the way the Obama administration proposes to structure the plan, with health coverage a requirement for all Americans, the overcharging health care industry stands to make even more of a killing than it presently does. (In fact, according to a 2004 article by Sharon Davis and Mary Palmer, budget analysts for the United States Department of Commerce, prescription drugs are often marked up by more than 3,000%. For example, while the active ingredients in 100 Lipitor tablets cost only $5.80, the consumer price was $272.37--a markup of 4,696%!)
Suddenly, it all starts to make sense. Obama is not running the show--Big Business is. The tail is wagging the dog. Otherwise, why the frantic rush to pass this troubled legislation? Why the secrecy? Why, with the many problems plaguing the nation right now (skyrocketing unemployment, housing crisis, a military spread too thin, wars running up the deficit, shaky foreign policy, Korea and Iran rattling their sabers, etc.), is President Obama so determined to make overhauling health care his number one priority?
This is the new face of power in America: Big Business and Big Government have finally fused into a corporate state. As Bertram Gross, a presidential advisor to both the Truman and Roosevelt administrations, warns in his book Friendly Fascism:
The Chief Executive would neither ride the tiger nor try to steal its food; rather, he would be part of the tiger from the outset. The White House and the entire Chief Executive network would become the heart (and one of the brain centers) of the new business-government symbiosis. Under these circumstances the normal practices of the Ultra-Rich and the Corporate Overlords would be followed: personal participation in high-level business deals and lavish subsidization of political campaigns, both expertly hidden from public view.
Personal participation in high-level business deals? The Associated Press has documented that.
Lavish subsidization of political campaigns? According to the Washington Post,"[d]rugmakers, hospitals and insurers" have been pouring "millions of dollars into lobbying during the second quarter of this year, hoping to limit the damage to their bottom line as lawmakers and the Obama administration wrangle over landmark health-care legislation."
All of this has been hidden from us, the American people? Why? Because the Obama administration has turned secrecy into a new art form. Through its online blog, the LA Times has been "chronicling Vice President Joe Biden's numerous 'private meetings' in the White House and his Delaware home with unidentified people on unnamed subjects. And we wondered aloud how such secret get-togethers differed from Cheney's secret meetings. No answer. But then the other day, as we duly noted here, Biden's White House schedule suddenly stopped listing 'private meetings.' Instead, it began calling them 'meetings that are closed press.' A distinction without any practical difference in terms of contradicting candidate Obama's promised governing transparency."
Without a doubt, we're being bamboozled. Unfortunately, it may be too late for "we the people" to do much about this unfolding nightmare. Obama cut the American people out of the process the moment he started making secret deals behind closed doors with the healthcare vampires. Now, all that remains is for our paper tiger Congress to agree on the final language and pass the legislation.
What can we do?
If you are concerned, start flooding the White House and your representatives in Congress with calls and emails. Let them know you are sick and tired of the corruption in Washington, DC. And if they don't listen, then come election time, throw the bums out of office.
Whitehead is founder and president of the Rutherford Institute.