Last night’s debate was yet another boring regurgitation of the two major corporate political parties’ campaign talking points – this time in town hall format! With lifeless questions muttered by the poor souls in the audience such as whether or not the economic meltdown will hamper the ability of the U.S. to act as “peacemaker” around the world, the debate largely lacked the fundamental disagreements that make for good political theater. One interesting thing that did happen, however, was a question posed by a member of the audience that uncharacteristically provoked a fundamental disagreement between democracy and the parties. In the video below, a woman asks the two candidates, “Do you believe health care should be treated as a commodity?”
This type of question, which claws at the philosophical underpinnings of our neo-liberal systems, almost never happens in the context of heavily corporate controlled election campaigns. It is with this in mind, that I fully expected to hear the candidates do exactly what it is they are to do. If a politician were to respond that health care is not a commodity, that would deliver it back to its rightful place as a human right. If that were to happen, it can be correctly said that tens of millions of people in the U.S. are being denied their rights! This changes the whole philosophical equation since if health care is not a commodity, then the presence of private insurance companies lacks even an iota of justification. If health care is a right, then it must be universal, as suffrage is, and guaranteed under a single payer system. A majority of doctors and people in the country support this notion and system change. You wouldn’t know it from the media or politicians in this supposed democracy. Why?
Private insurance companies hold too much sway over the two major corporate parties through sizable campaign contributions and as such, questioning their role in health care becomes “politically unrealistic,” lest the hand that feeds is bitten. Labor union after labor union can endorse HR 676 to no avail since their influence has diminished over the Democratic party since the 1930’s, and doesn’t even closely rival corporate influence which trumps the supposed “party of the people.” What we are left with, is exactly what the debates revealed last night – that the real issue of change to place hope in gets ignored in favor of Obama’s detailed rhetorical recitation of his plan for health care that solely tinkers with the role of private insurance companies, thus continually legitimizing their role.
To be sure, McCain’s plan for health care is much more beneficial to private insurance interests and would be more detrimental to everyday people seeking to keep or gain health insurance. There is a difference between the two candidates, but as Rahul Mahajan of Empire Notes has said, don’t expect that difference to make a difference. Case in point: Tom Brokaw tossed a follow up to the woman’s question about health care. Given the choice to define health care as a “right,” “privilege,” or a “responsibility,” McCain chose “responsibility,” while Obama chose, “right.” Neither men acknowledged what our prevailing health care system has been and will continue to be regardless of who wins and who implements their policy. Neither men declared health care coverage a “privilege,” which it most certainly is…just ask the more than forty-five million people in this country who don’t have it.