In January the 116th Congress will swear in, this time with a Democratic majority in the House. Corporate Dems and even many self described lefties are still celebrating some kind of victory. But it ain’t so. The headline on a November 20 Roll Call article “On Medicare For All Democrats Tread Lightly” says it all. Now that Democrats control the House, they have no real intention of relieving the burden of 30 million uninsured, and tens of millions more carrying fake insurance too expensive to use, and still threatened by bankruptcy with any serious illness.
On health care, the priorities of Democratic House leaders are plugging up some of the minor holes in the Affordable Care Act, a bill written by and for the health insurance companies. Perhaps the biggest failing of Obamacare was that it left 20 million, now about 30 million low income Americans totally uninsured. The Affordable Care Act tied expansion of “benefits,” which are really no more than the ability to buy near-junk insurance policies – to low income Americans to expansion of the existing Medicaid program, which is administered by individual states. That’s a hole you can stampede elephants through, and the Republicans did just that. It left ACA application effectively in the hands of state governments at a time when the number of states dominated by Republican governors and legislatures was at an all time high.
Specially targeted programs are special targets, and when the perceived beneficiaries of the special programs are black they were irresistible targets for the White Man’s Party. “Why are THOSE PEOPLE entitled to some benefit that hard working people like ME aren’t” goes the cry. Never mind that there are more whites on Medicaid than backs – perception is what mattered. Georgia lawmakers made it a red meat issue and passed legislation requiring a supermajority for future legislatures to expand Medicaid. Democrats refused to address the hole they created allowing state level Republicans to block ACA coverage to millions, an outsize number but short of a majority black. They simply used it as another blue flag to wave at election time, along with the one about how Democrats were gonna protect us from a knuckle dragging Republican Supreme Court. We all know how that turned out.
Democrats leading the 116th Congress are the same crew that ruled the 110th elected in 2006. That mob refused to hold hearings on Katrina when they had all the committee chairmanships because they didn’t wish to be identified as the party of “those people.”. They declined to go for the impeachment of Cheney and Bush when they DID have the votes and public support – when many of them were elected to do precisely that. And they led the House when Democrats allowed health insurance companies to write the Affordable Care Act so they aren’t about to champion Medicare For All, which would eliminate 160,000 insurance company jobs while creating 640,000 new positions in health care delivery.
Passage would not be the point in the 116th Congress, given that Republicans still run the Senate and Donald Trump remains in the White House. It’s about educating the pubic, steering the debate and coverage and creating political theater. House Republicans in the 114th and 115th knew this and repealed Obamacare more than 50 times, even when they knew a Democrat-run Senate and a Democratic White House made passage of their repeals impossible. But they dominated the story.
Think of the debate and the political chemistry House Dems would create if they followed the Republican example and passed Medicare For All a dozen or more times in 2019 and 2020, knowing that Repubs would turn it down. But the Dems who will lead the 116th Congress are not fighters, except for the moneyed elite that bankrolls their careers.
Their brand of political theater isn’t about anything their corporate investors – I mean campaign contributors haven’t approved. So expect little movement on Medicare For All from the first Democrat-run House since 2011. When we meet the new bosses in January 2019, theyll be pretty much the same as the old bosses.
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Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and co-chair of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.