21 March 2010

All else is commentary

Lawyers, Guns, and Money:
A great progressive moment.
I am largely ambivalent about the passage of the health care bill. It seems likely that, whether the bill passed or failed, the window for passing serious health reform will be closed for a generation. Had it failed, of course, the ruling class would have declared the subject closed and decided. With the apparent passage, the establishment--both Serious Liberals and Beltway status-quo-ites--will now claim victory and retire to the sidelines. Earnest progressive boosters of the bill who hope it is some kind of first step are headed for disappointment. The bill does nothing to cure the real disease of American health care, in fact, it enshrines the maximum profitability of health inscos and pharmaceuticals into law. I can't see how you plan to build on that.

With that in mind, it's hard to see how online liberals can hail this as any kind of progressive "victory." That's hardly how I would characterize squandering considerable popular political will for reform by watering it down first in a futile attempt at the unattainable holy grail of "bipartisanship" and later buying off the support of industry-owned conservative Democrats. It was not a progressive victory to allow a small cadre of far right nutters to drive the public debate while whipping the left into line. Backers have sent out the old standby of reformists everywhere, that it provides short-term relief to the uninsured; in this case with the same junk for-profit insurance which already leaves many millions of citizens under-insured.

No, this hardly seems like a victory. While the supposed wild unpopularity cited by opponents is a fiction, the modest new institutions aren't likely to be popular enough to survive the next Republican government. What we have here is evidence for the vacuity of the Serious Liberal admonition to "work within the system." Fellow workers, if this is the best you can do within the system, then it is the best you will ever do within the system. It is time to change the system.