Pete Buttigieg is by far the billionaires’ top darling amongst all of the Democratic candidates who are running for President, and his stand on healthcare is one of the major reasons for this.
Medical care in America costs over twice as much per person as in any other country, and also twice as high a percentage of the nation’s GDP as in any other country, and yet delivers among the worst healthcare outcomes. Why is this? It’s lots more profitable that way, and these profits get spread around to the most influential parts of the American system, such as lawyers, lobbyists, Wall Street, private equity firms, health insurance companies, and also benefits large corporations that can negotiate big deals with their providers so as to keep their employees on a string. In short: the most corrupt country, America, is by far the costliest and the most profitable for the sickness businesses, investors and for big executives, and they want to keep it that way.
Pete Buttigieg is one of the candidates who proposes a public option, such as Barack Obama did but promptly abandoned as soon as Obama won the election in November 2008. Obama knew that offering a public option wouldn’t be corrupt enough to suit his preferences (or his major funders), so he just dropped it stone-cold on election-day, and assigned to the conservative Max Baucus in the U.S. Senate the design of what would become Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. Baucus was an ironclad opponent of the public option, and this is one of the reasons Obama chose him. Obama had proposed a public option only in order to get elected — not in order to fight for it, which he never did (not even as a bargaining chip with congressional Republicans).
A public option is supposed to be like a mini-Medicare-for-all that’s on the menu for consumers to choose if they want it, but it’s actually just a come-on for voting fools, and fools can easily be taken advantage of, because — well, look, Obama dropped his public option the moment he was elected, and yet Democrats still think he was a swell President; so, with such Party-partisanship driving things, there is never political accountability (another example of this is that Republicans still think that George W. Bush was a good President), because a slick operator such as Obama can always blame ‘the other Party’ — even though he had actually dropped his public option the moment he was elected. He retains the approval from his Party’s voters, even though his ‘public option’ died on his election day in 2008. (Unlike Obama, George W. Bush didn’t even need to blame the other Party, because there were too many Hillary Clintons in it who voted for his policies — people such as Joe Biden — and therefore Bush got more of his proposals passed in Congress than Obama did.)
This is the way America goes to rot. That’s what happens — rot — when nearly 10% of a nation’s Gross National Product consists of sheer 100% waste just in its medical-care system, a system (the U.S. healthcare system) that costs twice as much as in other nations, yet provides inferior care. More than half of the nearly 20% of America’s GDP that’s being spent on medical care is waste. This is an enormous deadweight on the backs of the entire U.S. economy. For example, it causes the U.S. to rank #37 on this scoring-system for the quality of healthcare in 190 countries. All 36 of the countries there that rank higher in quality have vastly lower healthcare costs, both per-capita and as a percentage of GDP, than does the United States. Americans are so deceived by the propaganda, that Gallup recently reported that “Despite poor outcomes, many Americans insist on the supremacy of U.S. healthcare.” And “48% of Americans believe the quality of care found in the U.S. is either the ‘best in the world’ or ‘among the best’.” And “Americans’ perceptions of quality diverge along partisan lines.” Specifically: “67% of Republicans consider the quality of care in the U.S. to be the best or among the best in the world; just 38% of Democrats share this sentiment.” So, while Democrats are deluded, Republicans are super-deluded, by the pro-corporate propaganda, which produces public acceptance and even support for this constant draining of the U.S. economy.
Candidates who propose a public option are actually insincere, because it doesn’t even work the way they say it will. It’s just a sop for gullible and misinformed voters.
A public option already exists in America’s largest-population county, and it’s no great shakes there. On 28 March 2018, John Baackes, the head of the health care plan for Los Angeles County, headlined at The Hill, “From confusion to solution in health care — the public option in Los Angeles” and he concluded that “this style of a public option is a viable solution to the health care chaos that has the nation in its grips. It would not be a matter of starting over from scratch, but rather an expansion of something that is working.” It’s actually an expansion of something that’s failing, disastrously, for America.
On 30 August 2019, The Atlantic ran Ron Brownstein’s “L.A.’s Health-Care Reform Is a Lesson for Democrats”, and quoted Baackes about L.A.’s public-option offering. Baackes said there that because the public option needs to cost a lot more than a single-payer plan does in order to be able to keep the private insurance companies in business, a public option is a compromise between the needs of investors for profits, and the needs of patients for affordability. “Baackes largely seconds the concern that a public option paying Medicare rates would undermine the private insurance market. ‘If it was set up that way, I’d be afraid of it too,’ he said.” He’s caught between pleasing investors, and pleasing consumers, and he’s trying to do both. That’s what a public option is — and it was too pro-patient to suit Obama, so he used it only as a come-on for voters. Instead of Democrats even noticing the deceit, they think that Buttigieg is the new Obama and that Biden is Obama’s heir, and that such candidates are okay, not utterly despicable con-artists, who are trying to copy the appeal of the master-deceiver.
Democrats who think that Obama’s admirers, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, etc., will be less corrupt than Obama was, are wishful thinkers, like all fools are. (And that magazine-article just linked-to there, is likewise Brownstein’s in The Atlantic, which is a Democratic Party magazine, and that pro-Obama article says also that “Obama became the first president to pass legislation moving the nation toward universal health care,” which is an outright lie, because the reality is that the percentage of Americans without health insurance was 14.4% when Obama entered the White House, and was 12.2% when he left it. So, his ‘universal coverage’ started with 85.6% insured, and ended with 87.8% insured — far from the 100% he had always promised. He had moved the needle up 2.2%. Also, very few of the individuals who had lacked health insurance before Obama became President, obtained health insurance under Obamacare — it was all a fraud, nothing like what he had promised. But, after all, Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize for his rhetoric and then invaded Libya in 2011, Syria in 2012-2017, and Yemen at various times — each being a country that had never invaded nor threatened to invade the United States — so, he was really competing with George W. Bush on invasions, too. Both men were actually just lousy Presidents, but the suckers in their own Party refuse to recognize the fact. This idiocy is what partisan politics produces, and it’s destroying America.)
Tinkering with America’s corrupt healthcare-delivery system, like the ‘moderate Democrats’ propose, will inevitably fail to bring that system up even to the international norm, far less beyond it into achieving excellence. The only way to cut healthcare costs in half or more, which is what would be needed in order for the U.S. economy to become truly internationally competitive — we need to cut out America’s enormous healthcare-cost waste — would be a single-payer system, and zeroing-out the health-insurance companies. If you want a face-lift to be paid for by insurance, you should have the money to pay it for yourself and not ask anyone else to pay for it. Socializing such a cost (either by a government or by an insurance company) would be unjust. People who don’t want single-payer, on healthcare, don’t really care about the international competitiveness of the U.S. economy. And they’ve forgotten about justice, altogether. You think healthcare should be profit-based like selling candies or corn-poppers is? Well, such voters should simply become Republicans, and vote in that Party’s primaries, not in a Democratic Party primary. What do we even need two Republican Parties for? Isn’t one of them already enough? Offering two bad political Parties isn’t delivering democracy. But it’s what lots of Democrats seem to want.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.