Al Giordano of The Field has recently chimed in with his opinions on what needs to be done on health care. And he displays quite a level of disgust with progressives that want to "kill the bill". Even Bill Moyers and Matt Taibbi don't come out unscathed.
Meanwhile, any actual progress in improving the lives of the poor and and the working class must be, according to them, halted, even demonized, if it doesn’t simultaneously and immediately overturn the existing reality of corporate domination of our world.
Earlier this week, he had gone into the details of the legislation that everyone should read, whether you agree or not with him. This guy's been in the trenches in South America battling for human rights, so I wouldn't just dismiss what he has to say if you don't agree.
(If you're wondering, Al has given me permission to repost his entire diary here on DailyKos. I'm reposting most of it with some comments interspersed.)
Giordano begins by blasting the venerable Bill Moyers and Matt Taibbi for failing to recognize the "little people" that will actually be affected by this bill.
The December 18 edition of the Bill Moyers’ Journal television program offered a fairly representative example of the incoherence of this position. Moyers opened a panel discussion with this question to Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi:
"Let's start with some news. Some of the big insurance companies, Well Point, Cigna, United Health, all surged to a 52 week high in their share prices this week when it was clear there'd be no public option in the health care bill going through Congress right now. What does that tell you, Matt?"
Moyers’ first and central "concern" was not how health care reform might affect the lives of real people, but over whether it causes corporation stocks to rise.
Taibbi’s response contained the same myopic focus:
"Well, I think what most people should take away from this is that the massive subsidies for health insurance companies have been preserved while it's also expanded their customer base because there's an individual mandate in the bill that's going to provide all these companies with the, you know, 25 or 30 million new people who are going to be paying for health insurance. So, it's, obviously, a huge boon to that industry. And I think Wall Street correctly read what the health care effort is all about."
In both – question and response – there was zero consideration of what happens to the folks down below. Their eyes are raised - blinders attached - only to view the circus up above. And it is precisely the corporate mass media that has programmed them and others to obsess that way.
Unfortunately, it seems a lot of us have been taught to think this way, inside the box, so to speak.
As one who has spent the past 35 years organizing and writing against corporate power - with some concrete successes, some notable failures, and a lot of trial and error - it remains a central goal of my life’s work to dismantle the "uber-State" of corporate power, which means replacing the capitalist system with, well, "something else." (I do have a more developed view of what "something else" could be, but it is a conversation mostly worth having with those who are already thinking that far ahead. I will offer, below, some general thoughts.)
The born again anti-corporatists, however, almost universally stop short of acknowledging that capitalism is the root problem. Moyers prefaced his question with this very denial: "This is not capitalism at work. It's capital. Raw money, mounds of it, buying politicians and policy as if they were futures on the hog market."
Sorry, Bill, but, yes, that is precisely what defines capitalism at work.
And it is how capitalism has functioned for a very long time.
As Barnet and Mueller predicted back in the seventies, wealth has increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few and, with it, corporate power over people and their governments.
The cadre of progressive bloggers who share Moyers’ half-developed vision – that corporate power must be stopped but who don’t offer a shred of suggestion or vision about what to replace it with – type their denouncements furiously on computer systems produced by Microsoft or Apple. (True, some nobly use Linux and free software, but nonetheless on components made by corporations in non-unionized sweatshops in developing world countries.) Their demands for anti-corporate purity from others are patently hypocritical from the get-go.
A case in point: Keith Olbermann – who of late has shared this born again anti-corporatism tendency - issues his ranted communiqués from the studios of General Electric-owned NBC. If we were to apply Olbermann's own yardstick honestly to him, we would ignore anything he says and simply report how GE stock rises or falls corresponding to each of Keith’s televised speeches. Ah, but that would make us as silly as the caricature of himself he has invented.
Ouch. I do disagree with Giordano here, because I think given the society we are in, we're all hypocrites to some extent. I'm an environmentalist, but I don't drive a hybrid (still drive a 20th century car because I can't afford a new one), and I'm sure there are multiple other things I could be doing to reduce my carbon footprint even more. Am I then being hypocritical? Yes, I admit it. Of course, I will also say that if someone thinks they're an environmentalist, they'd better be at the very least a vegetarian, lest they be branded a hypocrite. But we can play this hypocrisy game all day long, and get nowhere other than the Land of Anger and Hurt Feelings.
Well, at least Giordano does say this is a product of our society itself, and he doesn't expect us to change overnight (maybe not even in our lifetime).
The unspoken truth is that college educated North Americans are not yet ready or prepared to live and work in a post-capitalist society. They have become weak and deformed around the corporate produced technologies and luxuries to which they have become accustomed and dependent. And so there is a vague call from these quarters for government to provide them these luxuries and technologies instead. Yet coming just two decades on the heels of the failed Soviet experiment one sees little evidence that those making the call have thought through how exactly state run health care, for example, would be operated much differently, qualitatively, than corporate run health care today.
Alternatives like workplace democracy (in which the workers collectively appropriate the means of production) have proved difficult-to-impossible to sustain in such an individualist society as the USA. Post-sixties back-to-the-landers on the hippie left and post-eighties survivalists on the Christian right both pretty much failed to develop sustainable models of getting off the grid of corporate capitalism. Despite their attempted indoctrinations and home schoolings of their spawn, both found themselves abandoned and rejected by their own children in a single generation.
More success has been enjoyed in the so-called Third World, and particularly here in Latin America where various alternative models – from Zapatista autonomy in Chiapas to Venezuela’s twenty-first century socialism to Bolivia’s indigenous-infused variations on the Venezuelan model – have emerged over the past couple of decades. I’ve considered it important work to document their successes and expose the efforts of capitalism and its empires to squash them. Still, while these models have provided glimmers of hope, it would be a terrible exaggeration to claim that utopia has surged from any of it so far.
It is almost impossible for me to imagine so many United States citizens being able to make the individual sacrifices necessary for the common good that are made in those lands. The human species, in developed world societies, has devolved far too dependently on the corporate systems and technologies to be able to unhook from them successfully, at least not very rapidly. And so, as substitution for almost any proposed models of reorganizing US society from the college educated progressives, we get these vague, mostly incoherent, demands for things like "single payer" or a "public option" on health care which would not demonstrably do things much differently than corporate insurers, except that it would be the very debilitated US State – with its own problems of bureaucracy and authoritarianism - doing these things instead.
And now he gets to the heart of the problem, the beef he has with progressives who say "kill the bill", where feelings of revenge have overtaken sound policy decisions.
Would single-payer and public-options still be preferable? Yes, but with the proviso that the improvement would be at the margins, and they, too, would create new problems to solve. I have yet to see a single-payer health proposal, for example, that honestly admits that removing insurance corporations altogether would cause hundreds of thousands of Americans that work for them to become unemployed. Where is the necessary plan to retrain, retool and provide jobs for those workers? Who has even mentioned it, much less developed a plan or a proposal?
In seeking to dismantle the military-industrial complex, for example, the peace organizations, think tanks and labor unions have at least paid a bit of attention to the idea that the same factories that make jet fighters could be producing mass transit systems and solar collectors and such. But in a society that needs to reduce its paper pushing and bureaucracy to reduce costs, what can be done with a class of non-unionized workers that is trained in nothing except menial paperwork? (The same considerations need to be raised for the financial services industry: the calls over the past year to stop bailouts and allow those companies to crash and burn have not included the necessary answers to the question: And what then happens to the workers in the banking and financial sectors? They’re really not trained to do much else.)
In lieu of any real plan, we are offered "feel good" solutions of lashing out against corporations. Lost in that discourse: the people down below. That is what has defined the health care debate on parts of the blogosphere. It doesn’t matter to some that 30 million people who don’t have any health insurance at all will now have theirs subsidized. To them, if the insurance corporations also benefit from it, then it is a moral "evil" that must be stopped.
Now, I think Giordano has simplified the debate that's been going on, though he does say this applies to only "parts" of the blogosphere. But gawd, I've read way too many back-and-forth's in the last couple weeks here where someone will mention the 30 million uninsured getting some amount of coverage, and a response pooh-poohing that notion because, yeah, it's a boon to the insurance companies.
Next, Giordano steps into territory where I'm more in agreement, that we've lost a chance to frame this properly, and strategically speaking, calling everything a loss is downright demoralizing, which we're seeing reflected in the polling numbers now. (Here's a disconcerting question: Had progressives like Anthony Weiner not been so upfront in saying the Medicare buy-in was even better than the public option, would Lieberman still have killed it? Did we shoot ourselves in the foot by waking the sleeping Joe?)
Also forgotten in this born-again anti-corporatism is what Alinksy, Gandhi and others have demonstrated: To create and sustain successful political movements and revolutions, you have to turn small triumphs into ever increasing larger ones. If you don’t have victories along the way and call them that, the people lose hope and motivation to back any movement or revolt.
And yet that is precisely what the bill-killer tendency (and we will surely see them behave the same incoherent way on future battles: immigration reform will be next) is pushing: This sense that nothing is progress, nothing can be defined as a win, and that winning itself is evil if it doesn’t overturn everything. Even that might be understandable if they had a coherent plan for what winning would really look like, for what kind of society and system they would build to replace corporate capitalism. But they don't have even a skeletal blueprint yet.
My own view after a lifetime of study and praxis is that capitalism must and can be replaced not by "one big idea" or system, but by many different decentralized systems, designed by their participants, that reflect and protect the character of the different cultures on the planet on the most local level possible. Each must respect the autonomy of the other. In most, direct worker ownership of the means of production would probably be the silver bullet that replaces savage capitalism: What the anarcho-syndicalists, Situationists and others once called a society based on Workers Councils.
Are North Americans ready for that? I don’t think so. Not yet. Could you imagine Keith Olbermann as an equal member of a collective workers’ ownership of GE? Or Arianna Huffington bringing workplace democracy to her online newspaper? How many days do you think they would last as peers of equal co-workers? I don’t mean to single them out. They’re emblematic of a larger group of people that are too programmed to whine and pout and offer tantrums instead of hard work.
And so I continue in this South of the Border laboratory, learning what can be learned from movements that are more successful in defeating or at least limiting the control by the corporate uber-State, documenting and reporting their advances, recruiting and training like-minded workers of authentic journalism to do the same, waiting and hoping that someday my compatriots up North will stop thinking that bitching is itself a political stance and get to work on the heavy lifting of building the new society out of the ashes of the old.
In the meantime, I think the only way to nudge them in that direction is with incremental victories, like the one pending on health care, and the upcoming one on immigration reform, where the usual suspects will whine anew all over again (the proverbial making of perfection into the enemy of the good) and the newly resurgent multi-racial working class of the US left will be knocking on doors, putting together phone banks, and organizing instead of ranting.
There is actually a lot of progress going on in the United States, but it is hard to see amidst the smokescreens and media distortions, and even harder to hear above the din of what is now a mechanized industry of poutrage that has created its own market niche inside the capitalist system. That tendency's credo ought to be: We have met the corporation and it is us.
Now, just because I already know someone's going to make this mistake, let me state again that I don't agree with everything Giordano says. But I also feel very strongly that he's made some very good and compelling points that cannot be ignored or easily rebuffed, and that Kossacks should read what he has to say, and mull it over before accepting or rejecting his opinion or still staying undecided.
In fact, I just may disagree on his central tenet of "it's the corporate capitalism, stupid". Because, well, I'm a capitalist. It's just that I want sufficient government oversight and regulation to prevent things from getting too out of whack. And that as someone with a Masters degree in mathematics, any time I hear someone extolling the virtues of the "free market", I gag a little, because I know there's no such thing. Here, it can even be proven; it's called the Prisoner's Dilemma, a classic game theory problem. A truly unfettered "free market" applied to even the simplest 2-player scenario would result in mutually assured destruction. If you want a real life example, tariffs are the simplest contradiction to the concept of a "free market".
As for the "vision" he says that we don't have, I'll make this proposal: the Swiss model as the ultimate goal (at least for now). Heck, even Taiwan's system is better than here, as my mom discovered last year when she suffered a stroke there. And she's already on Medicare here.
I'll close this with a sobering thought explaining why he still wants to pass this bill, from his prior diary asking what Ted Kennedy would do.
And if this once in a lifetime chance to get the foot in the door with a health care law through Congress falters, it will likely be another 60 years before there will be another.
The unsubstantiated claims that this bill can be ripped up and the process can start anew ignore the lessons of the last six decades of US history. As Ted Kennedy understood, every issue has its moment and the iron has to be struck while it is hot. When "Hillarycare" crashed and burned in the 1990s, was there a second chance a year later? Nope. Not until now. If this bill gets killed, the game is over. That’s the fire that the bill killers are playing with.
Do it for the 30 million uninsured. Or if you don’t really care about poor and working folks (as seems evident to me reading the bill-killers’ "look at ME!" discourse) then at least go out and win this one - or get out of the way - for Teddy.
Update: Sorry to disappoint, but I'm taking some nighttime Sudafed now, and going to sleep until dinnertime, as I've been fighting through a head cold yesterday and today. Hate to cut 'n' run, but I'm about to zonk out.