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Obama Pushes Neoliberal Myths on Health Care at Fundraiser

Both of our establishment political parties are scared to death of social democracy and working-class revolts.

Former President Barack Obama speaks to young leaders from across Europe in a town hall-style session on April 6, 2019, in Berlin, Germany.

The media-political complex is all abuzz that multimillionaire heiress and Boeing director Caroline Kennedy has named multimillionaire House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the latest winner of the Camelot Dynasty’s 2019 Profiles in Courage award.

Pelosi is specifically being honored for ramming the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2010 and tacitly being honored for boldly going against the wishes of 70 percent of the US population by actively thwarting a true universal, single payer health care bill to replace it.

Multimillionaire former President Barack Obama, 2017’s Kennedy prize winner, traveled all the way to Germany over the weekend in order to scold what he called American health care “purists” who have the crazy nerve to challenge the status quo. He called the current battle between Congressional centrists, like Pelosi, and progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal a “circular firing squad.”

This is a deliberate mischaracterization on Obama’s part, because the centrists are the ones with the giant guns and the big corporate money, and the progressives are the underdogs with the $27 individual donations and the verbal slingshots. These two intraparty factions are as unequal as society itself. Obama refused to admit that the Circular Firing Squad within the Democratic Party is, in fact, a microcosm of the eternal Class War of the rich against the poor and working class. He instead framed the health insurance debate as a bunch of reckless extremists who unfairly attack the good, the rich, the wise, and the powerful.

Both of our establishment political parties and the transnational oligarchs who own and control them are scared to death of the social democracy and working class revolts now on the ascendant, global movements which threaten to undo 50 years of punitive austerity for the masses and record riches for themselves.

Obama made his latest antisocial remarks in Germany during a fund-raising “town hall” to benefit his own philanthrocapitalist foundation, so as not to be seen as directly interfering with party politics within the confines of the contiguous United States. He had previously met behind closed doors with Congressional freshmen to warn them against Medicare for All and to confront them with the usual “how you gonna pay for it!” bullying tactics. With a reported net worth now in the $100 million range only two years after leaving office, he made it abundantly clear that he and other wealthy people do not want to be taxed one more penny for the greater public good.

Of course, he put it a bit more delicately than that at his Berlin town hall:

“One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States — maybe it’s true here as well — is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be,’” Obama said. “And then we start sometimes creating what’s called a ‘circular firing squad’ where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues.”

The former president said he believes this approach “weakens” movements, and that those that would like to see a progressive agenda “have to recognize that the way we’ve structured democracy requires you to take into account people who don’t agree with you.”

Notice how he cagily redefines “circular firing squad” as a one-sided attack by progressives against the neoliberal centrists, and how it is not the rich and the privileged side straying from our “structured democracy,” but the poor and the indebted. The only weakening he fears is that of the corporate Democratic Party itself, which like any political party, exists mainly to win and adhere to power. In Obama’s world, it is not Nancy Pelosi who’s the shooter and the bully: it’s the progressives representing the interests of the struggling majority.

Only an entitled plutocrat could call the widespread demand by the US citizenry for basic health care an issue of “ideological purity” rather than as a response to a capitalism-spawned public health crisis and threat to our very survival. In Obama’s world, it is more important for the Have-Nots to respect the Haves, who very reasonably expect that tens of millions of people will have to get sick and die prematurely as a good-faith sign of their own co-equal reasonableness.

Obama ended his speech by advocating for patience and incremental change: “We have to be careful in balancing big dreams and bold ideas with also recognizing that typically change happens in steps. And if you want to skip steps, you can. Historically what’s ended up happening is sometimes if you skip too many steps you end up having bad outcomes.”

Obama gave no examples to back up his claim. Again — the only bad outcomes he has to fear are those which might require him and his ruling class cohort to cede power to the lower classes and pay higher taxes. He certainly couldn’t point to any bad outcomes when Medicare passed in the 1960s, and millions of older people were suddenly yanked off their employers’ insurance plans and forced into the new single payer system for retirees. He couldn’t say that it was really stupid, in retrospect, for people to have become eligible as soon as they reached the age of 65 and not have to wait until 80, when the coverage could have been spread downward in pragmatic baby steps instead of skipping all those golden waiting years.

Obama dishonestly and effectively likens guaranteed universal health coverage to corporations like Boeing, which cuts corners and skips steps only to have have its airplanes crash, killing everybody on board. But he can’t talk about Boeing, because for one thing, his benefactress Caroline Kennedy is now in charge of its oversight and auditing board, and the United States was the very last country in the world to, after much insane resistance, finally ground the faulty airplanes while shifting blame for the crashes to the pilots.

Perhaps the latest Profiles in Courage winner, Nancy Pelosi, will now even have the courage not to haul Boeing executives before Congress to face any real consequences.

Even if they do get hauled before Congress, it will be for the purpose of individual congressional showboating and tongue-lashings and slaps on the wrist. For in the just the last year alone, Boeing spent more than $130 million lobbying, wining, dining, schmoozing and arm-twisting these same members of Congress. Its board, besides Caroline Kennedy, is a veritable who’s who of the oligarchy, mainly tycoons from the extracting industries of Big Oil, Big Finance and Private Equity.

The trouble is that Barack Obama, designated celebrity ambassador of global neoliberalism, simply does not lie or dissemble well. Neither does Nancy Pelosi. Just before Caroline Kennedy tapped Pelosi as the latest plutocratic Profile in Chutzpah, Madam Speaker again lied through her teeth in an interview about single payer health insurance and why tens of millions of poor people will simply have to grit their failing or missing teeth and suffer pragmatically in service to their greedy overlords.

As Matt Breunig reports, the big lie that neoliberal centrists keep telling is that “people” love their employment-based private insurance plans. It’s a lie, because private predatory insurance “is a complete nightmare” for those trapped within the market-based, for-profit system.

Among those (in Michigan) who had employer-sponsored insurance in 2014, only 72 percent were continuously enrolled in that insurance for the next twelve months. This means that 28 percent of people on an employer plan were not on that same plan one year later. You like your employer health plan? You better cross your fingers because one in four people on employer plans will come off their plan in the next twelve months.

The situation is even worse for other kinds of insurance. One thing opponents of Medicare for All frequently say is that poor people in the US are already covered by free insurance in the form of Medicaid and that Medicare for All therefore offers them relatively little net benefit while potentially raising their taxes some. But what this argument misses, among other things, is that people on Medicaid churn off it frequently, with many churning into un-insurance.

And that churning is a feature and not a bug, because what is capitalism but constant, cutthroat competition? What are citizens but consumers of whatever the ruling class racketeers deign to dish out to us in the form of spectacle politics and cheap electronic gadgets to merge with our bodies as virtual biological appendages and tracking devices?

Let’s face it. The modern-day robber barons view the population as raw material and commodities which exist not for our own well-being and happiness, but for their voracious, relentless, inhumane profit.

More people than ever, especially younger people, are on to their con. The Profiles in Chutzpah are afraid.

And the best they can do is give each other glitzy prizes in televised galas which they sometimes allow us to gawk at in supposed admiration.

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