The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Notes on the Moral and Political Degradation of America

The news in the last few days has continued the drumbeat of demoralizing events which started in the Bush administration, and with only a few hiccups has continued through the Obama administration.  It is clear that Obama is, fundamentally, Bush’s 3rd term.

First we have the health care “reform” debacle, where it has been confirmed that the White House pushed Harry Reid to accept Lieberman’s ultimatum, not go to reconciliation.  There will be no public option in the Senate bill.  There will be no Medicare expansion.  There will be no cap on yearly limits.  What there will be is a mandate forcing people to buy insurance, some subsidies which can still leave people spending money they can’t afford, and guaranteed issue of lousy plans (Plans where only 70% of the premiums have to be spent on care, for example.)  Unless progressive Senators are willing to filibuster, or House progressives are willing to vote against en masse, something very close to the Senate plan is what will pass, because as I noted some time ago, the White House’s bottom line is that something, anything must pass, and conservative Dems are willing to kill the bill to make sure it doesn’t actually threaten health industry profits in any way, shape, or form.  (Thus why drug importation, which would cost Pharma money, will be made illegal.)

All of this was completely predictable,.  Furthermore the weakness of progressive and liberal legislators, is largely to blame:

Obama and the Democratic leadership’s bottom line is they must pass some bill called “health care reform”.  Unless you threaten to take away their bottom line, they will take away anything that isn’t progressives bottom line

This is negotiation 101, and progressive legislators either don’t understand it, or are spineless.  As a result they, and Americans, have been rolled yet again.  What is depressing about this is that it should be a surprise to no one, but apparently has surprised many.

It is also noteworthy that spending billions on turning brown people into a fine red mist (aka. the Afghan war) is acceptable, but health care (aka. saving actual American lives) is something which can’t cost money.  What an interesting, and clearly evil, set of priorities that reveals.  I guarantee that real healthcare reform would save more American lives than the entire war on terror—assuming said “war” hasn’t cost more American lives than it’s saved, which is almost certainly the case.

Next we have what Glenn Greenwald is calling the creation of Gitmo North, in which people whom the government judges there is not enough evidence to convict, will be held indefinitely without trial.  This is the very definition of tyranny.  Any nation which does this is a nation of men, not laws.  America has forsaken its fundamental premise and proved its degradation.  Yes, this started under Bush, but as Obama embraces this it became a bipartisan project and the new elite consensus.  This is now something which has been confirmed as US policy which is extremely unlikely to change no matter who is in power.

Next we have bankers are giving themselves bonuses larger than the entire economy’s GDP growth this year.  As Peter Morici notes:

How much is $140 billion?

The U.S. economy grew at a $89 billion annualized rate in the third quarter. That was the first growth since the second quarter of 2008 and came to $22 billion in actual growth in the third quarter.

The bankers, after causing the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression, are rewarded with six times the growth accomplished so far in the much heralded “economic recovery.”

Meanwhile, seven million families face foreclosure and 25 million Americans can’t find full time work.

To add this sad state, we have the sad spectacle of Obama lecturing the bankers.  Meanwhile in Britain, instead of lecturing, the government has imposed a 50% tax on bonuses, and France looks like to follow suite.  The British government’s response to threats to move employees out of the country “that’s nice, you do that.”

The fact of the matter, as I’ve long said, is that bankers at the big banks are a net drain on the economy.  Their venality and recklessness has wiped out the entire economic gains of the last decade and plunged the economy into its worst crisis since the Great Depression.

Now I’m not surprised they have the gall to pay themselves these bonuses.  The entire profits of most large banks in the last expansion were based on open fraud.  Of course criminals who have not been punished, but have been rewarded for their crimes are going to continue to steal. What is shocking is that the government is essentially doing nothing.  Obama’s pay czar is a sick joke, especially compared to just taxing all bonuses at 50%. Heck, even taxing bonuses at 50% is sad—they should be taxed a good confiscatory 90%.  A class of people who caused an economic calamity of this magnitude do not deserve to be paid more than janitors.

Why?  Because, as a British study noted, Janitors actually create value.   So do homemakers.  So do assembly-line workers.  Modern bankers, on the other hand, destroy value.  They make the economy weaker.  That isn’t the way it should be, but when you bail out the banks for trillions and they decrease their lending to businesses and increase their credit card interest rates to as much as 29% it’s clear that all they are is parasites, sucking blood from their hosts.

In a healthy, non-degraded society, none of the behavior listed above would be allowed.  Not only would there be confiscatory taxes leveled, there would be massive ongoing criminal investigations into what happened.

In a healthy, non-degraded society, saving American lives by making sure they have health care would be a priority.  Especially since the US pays twice as much per person as many countries which get far better results.  This would be considered much more important than a war in a far away country, because it would be understood that even if you believe that turning brown people into a fine red mist saves American lives, health care would save more lives.  And, done right (aka. single payer) it would even save money.  But that was never on the table, and even the limp-wristed compromise of a weak public option was too much for the rich and powerful to tolerate.  Americans exist to be looted systematically by their elites, and if they die young and live sick, who cares.  They are just sacks of money and the goal of government is to make dipping your hand into that sack as easy as possible for industries which can afford to buy government.

And, last but not least, in a healthy, non-degraded society, the government is not allowed to lock up people indefinitely without trial. If you don’t understand why this is, I can’t explain it to you, any more than it is apparently possible to explain to a plurality of Americans why torturing people is evil, and beyond the pale.  The fact that it can’t be explained any more to many Americans, of course, is exactly why it is fair to call this degradation.

Moral and political degradation.




20 Answers on why the health care bill needs to die for Nate Silver


  1. Ian, you are hot today. We need more moral outrage, instead of the faux concern of so-called progressive leaders that are in bed with the fat cats that fund them.

    Sad to say, but the president and Dem leadership are a disgrace to humanity, just like the previous administration. Obama and the leadership should go before the Hague, along with Bush. Cheney, and the GOP leadership.

  2. The Oil & The Glory

    “It is also noteworthy that spending billions on turning brown people into a fine red mist (aka the Afghan war) is acceptable,…”

    dude the OIL Stealing amerikans have Murdered way more Iraqis than Afghanis or have you forgotten ???

    it is like everybody has forgotten that the OIL Stealing amerikans made up some bullshit LIES and just f***ing invaded and now Occupy Iraq and all of its OIL.

    it is a damn shame that the Iraqis quit killing amerikans. they were getting damn good at it.

  3. Tina

    Thank You Ian

  4. Humanity Burning

    We crossed the Rubicon and there’s no going back. I’m just not sure when we crossed it officially. 9/11 seems a good enough date as the tipping point when our government crossed from borderline dysfunctional with morally bankrupt practices kept mainly to the shadows…to the current system of basket case governance with morally bankrupt practices conducted in the open, and with a Dick Cheney’ish sneer from the elites to “try and do something about it.”

    As Stirling wrote awhile back, we’re going to ride this bucket all the way down.

  5. Stirling also advocates learning to be happy, and he is right. Clearly the legacy parties cannot do that, nor can the bigger parasites upon which they are are parasites. A healthy body is less susceptible to infection. No teebee, avoid the food chain where possible, bag any non-local bank and join a credit union, get off as many big grids as possible and onto as many small ones as you can, et cetera. And run for town council.

  6. S Brennan

    The Oil & The Glory,

    The Sunnis stopped shooting and sued for peace because we armed the Shia to engage in a genocide against their Muslim “brothers & sisters”.

    This Bush/Obama supported genocide [or euphemistically, “ethnic cleansing”] was very successful and as mentioned, it has received bipartisan support, with Obama and his supporters citing it as “a great success” and wanting to “take it on the road” to Afghanistan.

    You got to love Matt Y, Josh M, Kevin D, Digby, etc supporting, however indirectly they claim, a genocide. In Reagan’s time Bush the First organized the genocides, without Reagan knowledge or approval and against the express will of congress. Today, the “Pro-regressive” bloggers, the Democratic President, the Democratic Congress join hands and sing kum-bah-ya as we direct the useless slaughter of non-combatants…BTW, this is not the US Army’s fault, it did what it could to stop this nonsense in early 2003, but Democratic [the current leadership] support for invasion made more efforts suicidal.

  7. Greg

    Ian, please train your sights on Canada. We need your voice here, too. It is all going to crap.

  8. Wow… first time at this site. Good stuff Ian, I am so adding you to my blogroll (no one reads my blog so no big deal, but still…)

  9. Moral and political degradation.

    At this point, I just wonder how far we’ll go before we hit bottom. I already don’t like where we’re at, and on these issues I see us not getting better any time soon.

  10. not all the news is bad. the Pennsylvania Senate Banking committee is holding hearings on a single payer bill. If it passes in Penn we can start the process to a national health care system.

  11. That would be great if it passes, dcblogger. I seem to remember that one of the federal health care bills wasn’t going to allow such things, though. I remember someone offering an amendment that would allow states to set up their own systems, but it was voted down. In fact, Nancy Pelosi wrote in HuffPo that she thought the bill broke Obama’s healthcare promises. I guess she meant the ones he made to drug and insurance companies.

  12. Ed

    I mostly agree with Ian and think the recent rants are appropriate, but have to take issue with this:

    “It is also noteworthy that spending billions on turning brown people into a fine red mist (aka. the Afghan war) is acceptable”

    The Afghans are white. The Serbs were also white. The American elite actually bends over backward to avoid being seen as racist. The USAF is sent against everyone.

  13. Thanks, lambert, for pointing me to this site. Great rant.

    Glenn Greenwald calls it Gitmo North; I called it Gitmo Mini-Me.

    Hey, if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry.

  14. anonymous

    I understand there are tons of blue dogs. But why cant we have JUST 10 OR 11 Senators willing to come out and say they will vote against the Senate bill? I’m sure we could find one or two willing to join a Republican filibuster, but that won’t help because Reid would make them actually filibuster and then have a vote (whereas Republicans and blue dogs merely have to threaten to filibuster and it’s game over). This bill is a Lieberman wet dream with 50 million Americans being forced to buy private insurance, and the rest of us taxed to help the ones who can’t afford it even after it makes them broke.

    The fact that there aren’t even the tiny minority needed to kill this monster TAX (IN THE MIDDLE OF A DEPRESSION) just convinces me that the game is seriously FIXED.

  15. anonymous

    And of topic, Serbs and Afghans are whiter than Egyptians or Indians. But they are not White as far as any white racist American is concerned. Not even racists who claim to be equal oportunity butchers.

  16. anonymous: Yes! Precisely! Where are these progressive Democratic senators who would ever consider killing or filibustering the bill in its present form? Where is this non-Lieberman 60th vote (or 51st-60th, for that matter)? Who are these progressive senators who are failing to negotiate on the people’s behalf?

  17. Anyway, I for one prefer to look at the glass as being 1/100ths full rather than 99/100ths empty. We are now at the point where every sector of the ruling class and governing systemsis being forced to admit openly that it will not compromise, does not see the need to compromise, and so on. This has been apparent to anyone who has been paying attention for at least 20 years now.

    Furthermore, many people otherwise inclined to give them the technocratic benefit of the doubt are not so willing to do so anymore. I hear things regularly on the internet and even in mainstream news that I used to only ever be able to see by reading Zmag or opening a book of Chomsky interviews.

    These are positive developments.

  18. Mandos:

    Furthermore, many people otherwise inclined to give them the technocratic benefit of the doubt are not so willing to do so anymore.

    I have to admit, I’m one of those people. I don’t know how many there are besides me, but I’m less inclined to give the powerful or the wealthy the benefit of the doubt, at least when it comes to policy issues. I’ll still do my best to take each individual situation is it is, but there really is a class war, and we’re losing.

  19. Ian Welsh

    Oil and Glory,

    while I’m not happy with the Iraq war, Obama hasn’t escalated that war, only continued it.

  20. Ian Welsh

    Greg: only so much time. But you’re probably right that I need to look at Canada again. Perhaps in the new year, I have some major projects (which I didn’t work on at all yesterday due to writing all those posts) which I need done by the middle of January, so I can, like, eat and pay rent. Right now I’m not being paid to blog. (Which, actually, has some advantages. “Enough” wouldn’t be possible to write some places that do pay.)

  21. Celsius 233

    Anybody as old (or older) than I am (almost 65) and has any sense of the greater good doesn’t need anybody telling them of the moral degradation of the U.S. both idealistically/morally and in actual day to day reality. That’s why I left 1 month after that fucking moron Bush attacked Iraq. From here, I can’t tell the difference between the U.S. and Iran (treatment of demonstrators), Russia, Denmark, England, Greece, Canada, South Korea, China, Columbia, Peru, or any other country on the planet. The differences are gone; along with the Constitution and the Bill of rights. Habeas corpus is shot through and through and so what’s left? Bullshit, that’s what; you/we haven’t got jack shit; only what the government says. At least where I live there are no illusions about ones rights; they’re whatever the fuck the government says they are; so act accordingly!!!!
    Sign me, one pissed off citizen.

  22. BC Nurse Prof

    Yes, Ian, please address some of our Canadian issues. It seems we are not too far behind in the moral and political degradation department.

    To those in the States: Leave. Do you really have any reason to stay? Haven’t you lost any respect you ever had for the country? Reading Orlov and Kunstler, you can clearly see the path of collapse. You owe it to your kids. Leave. I did. Now I’m thinking I didn’t go far enough. Didn’t my Irish and Scottish ancestors leave their countries when it was time? Brave souls. What are you waiting for?

  23. John B.

    BC Nurse,
    is it as easy as that? I am pretty rooted to my community and locally things are pretty good, but I agree with you that nationally we are in one effed up place…

  24. Ian: FYI: I am a trustee of a large multi-employer benefit plan. We cover from pre-natal to 65. then we continue to pay IN FULL, no copays,for prescriptions until dealth. 400,000 lives covered. 1. Administration cost: less than 7%. (Q. Why do insurance companies need up to 30%) 2. Per capita average cost: less than $4000.

    Our coverage is very generous. There are no copays, no maximums, only coverage.

    Medicare has an administration cost of less than 3%. I would expect single payer to have a similar administration cost.

    We cover 400,000 lives. That is a large enough universe for me to predict that single Payer would cost about the same. Maybe less. $4000 times 300,000,000, people(population of U.S.) is $1.1trillion. At present we are paying $1.4 trillion but not covering 40-50 million people.

    We would caver everyone in the US and save money with single payer.

    Michael E. Katz
    Ft. Lauderdale

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