I talked to Ed Schultz today. Those who know me likely find that surprising. They might ask why someone who constantly beats his head against the wall trying to get people to quit listening to the corporate media would waste his time with someone who many regard as the ultimate gatekeeper of the left. After all, they could point out, how else does someone get the privilege of hosting both a national call in radio show and a nationally televised show on the “liberal” MSNBC channel? Most people who understand how the corporate media defines the terms of political debate in the US have concluded that all such shows do is reinforce phony narratives that obscure the real problems and their solutions. Why bother trying to influence these talking heads?
Try as it may to appear otherwise, MSNBC does not challenge its corporate sponsors any more than FOX. Both are little more than echo chambers for what the corporate media defines as the “left” and “right. “Anyone who discusses the issues in terms of how they reflect on corporate power in the US is labeled “far left” at best, and “radical” if they lay the facts out too plainly. When someone like Schultz is the most popular voice for “the left” in the mainstream media, you might conclude that it is time to turn off the radio. I have to disagree. While I don't spend a lot of time listening to the nonsense that passes for progressive talk radio most of the time, I do think there is a value in joining a conversation listened to by millions.
I caught Schultz’s radio show on my way to the store, while changing CD discs of a book on tape. I listen to them when I am driving to escape the nattering of radio pundits on both sides of the corporate media-created left-right divide. He was talking about an issue that is a pet peeve of mine: health care reform. Or rather, he was talking about Obamacare instead of health care reform. Okay, I’ll admit that is a slight exaggeration. Obamacare does insure millions of people. However, it does so at an enormous expense to taxpayers and policy holders, as will soon become too obvious to deny. If partisan Democrats like Schultz don’t start acknowledging that Obamacare is only a short term compromise, they are going to set back the cause of universal health care even more than they did when they fell in lockstep behind the Public Option, despite its being revealed as a bait-and-switch by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in 2009.
Even Harry Reid has admitted that ACA is at best a small step in direction of the only real solution, a single payer system. I pointed this out to Schultz, but he ignored it. Apparently, it didn’t fit with the narrative he has bought into to explain why he is still supporting a plan that bears no resemblance to what he advocated for so strongly in 2009. Failure to quit defending Obamacare before it collapses will cost the Democratic Party dearly in the long run. When health care inevitably becomes more expensive than tax payers will tolerate, voters who know nothing about health care economics will conclude that the Democrats lied to them. At that point, they will almost certainly conclude that the Republicans were right all along in saying that the US can’t afford to provide universal health care, as they do in the rest of the world. That is what happens when the “liberals” on talk radio let politicians and other pundits in the corporate media frame political debate. They just reinforce the fantasy that of the two parties that constitute the Duopoly, one puts the interests of average Americans over those of its corporate backers. When they accept that, they have lost all credibility.
Obamacare is in essence a bailout of a failing insurance industry that was on the brink of pricing its product out of existence due to uncontrolled costs. The typical plans now available to those who have to pay premiums on their own have high deductibles, making them too expensive for many people to use. Even the best plans provide little protection against medical bankruptcy, which is unheard of in countries with single payer. Under the “Affordable” Healthcare Act, the quality of health care coverage is eroding. This temporary measure to hold the line on premium rates is the only thing concealing the fact that Obamacare does almost nothing to control the costs of a private medical system that now consumes nearly 20% of US GDP. It would be more honest to call it the UNaffordable Healthcare Act. That is the main point I wanted to make, but Schultz was having nothing to do with it.
Like all apologists for the Democrats, he trotted out the following arguments: “Obamacare is the only politically possible thing;” “There are some corporate Democrats, but we have to stand behind the party because the Republicans are so dangerous” and “Obamacare is a step in the right direction.” He ignored my argument that it is debatable whether it brings us closer to single payer, even though his good pal Harry Reid said the same thing. He dismissed out of hand the idea that Democrats will pay dearly when its true costs become apparent. His argument for doing so was astounding, even by the standards of corporate media pundits: He claimed that the cost was irrelevant! Apparently, he missed the whole debate about the debt “crisis,” the idea of which Democratic politicians have swallowed as wholly as Republicans. So have the voters. Why does he think Tea Party types keep getting elected?
I am not going to try to go into all the details of the arguments I made, or Big Eddie’s inane responses. I am not writing this to sell the idea of single payer. Anyone who wants to look at the facts will conclude that we cannot afford any plan that allows the medical-industrial complex to keep sucking up 30% of every health care dollar while the total bill keeps rising. Insurance is the cause of the inefficiencies that are the main drivers of health care cost inflation, as Shultz has said many times. The only justification he can give for the idea that voters will accept the costs of Obamacare even while the corporate media and Democrats and Republicans in Congress insist that the nation is going broke is that sees short term partisan gain in defending the program. That is the problem with going along with the "politics of the possible." As long as we ignore the corruption in Congress that led Democrats to arrest single payer advocates instead of inviting them to the health care reform debate, what is possible will never be anywhere near what is necessary.
In promoting the nonsense that all we need to do to solve our problems is vote Democratic, Schultz and other so-called progressive talk show hosts fail their audiences. If they really think Democrats can do the job, they have a platform they can use to push party leadership, just as Rush Limbaugh pushed Republicans to the hard right. Like Rush, they might even affect the outcome of a few elections if they were to be honest about the cost of basing voting decisions only on whether there is a D or an R after a candidates name. If they do not choose to use this power, we have a responsibility to not just tune out or to become progressive versions of ditto-heads (what you might call d-Ed heads). We must speak up and challenge the gatekeepers of the left at every opportunity. It’s not like you have to listen to them for very long to find an opening to make the point. When you hear them abandoning principle and letting the rest of the corporate media define the debate, call them and call them out.
They probably won’t listen, but some of their listeners will. They are the ones we most need to come to the light.