Who Hijacked Our Country

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Uninsured: Huge Numbers, Zero Political Clout

There are about fifty million Americans who don’t have health insurance. So many people, so little power.

This humongous group could learn something from the National Rifle Association. Three million people snap their fingers, and every legislator in the country collapses into a hysterical blubbering quivering mass.

The uninsured probably outnumber those people who think the Earth is 6,000 years old and the Bible contains only one sentence: “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

And as you’ve probably noticed, that group makes itself heard. (How’s that for an understatement?) Talk about the squeaky wheel.

It’s true that lack of time (they’re probably too busy trying to make ends meet) and money are disadvantages. A Harvard professor of political analysis said: “If I'm in Congress, and I help out farmers, they'll help me out politically. But if I help out the uninsured, they are not likely to help members of Congress get re-elected.”

But I don’t agree completely with that analysis. He’s right that the uninsured — unlike agribusiness, televangelists and the NRA — can’t afford to bribe Congress. If they could, they’d probably be insured.

But one thing they CAN do — right now — is register to vote. And then F$#%!in’ VOTE. You won’t believe this, but in the last election, only ten percent of registered voters said they were uninsured. WTF??? Since the United States doesn’t have 500 million registered voters, there are obviously tens of millions of uninsured Americans who couldn’t be bothered to vote. Or to even register.

I’m all in favor of socialized medicine, even though of course it’ll take away all incentive to work and it’ll ruin the moral fiber of this great nation.

But if any kind of health coverage reform is to have the remotest prayer of ever passing, the people who need this coverage will have to vote. Imagine a group of fifty million voters whom Congress was afraid to piss off. We’d have universal coverage, just like the rest of the industrialized world.

cross-posted at Bring It On!



Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

And why do so many people not register nor vote? Because there is no one to vote for and they know it!!

In all the major races, there are two hand-picked corporate candidates who don't give a wit what Jane or Joe Public thinks or needs. Sure, they might throw a little rhetoric our way, but, once elected, they will screw us. This scenario plays out time and time again.

So, a growing number of Americans say: Why bother? It almost never makes any difference who we vote for. The result is almost always the same.

April 11, 2009 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Rambling Taoist: Welcome back. Long time no see.

I can see why people don't vote, and the 2 major parties are tweedledee and tweedledum, etc. But the 2000 election showed that there really is a difference. As ineffectual and phony as the Democrats are, Republicans are much worse; especially this bunch of reactionary goons that the Republican Party has mutated into.

50 million people united on an issue, and voting? It can't hurt.

April 12, 2009 at 1:29 AM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

The apathy among our voters is amazing.

What we need are good people running for office - good people who start out at the local level and work their way up. Unfortunately, you need a lot of money to be a politician, and money breeds greed, and...well, you know the rest of the story.

April 12, 2009 at 4:23 AM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

Rambling Taoist- I disagree. Things can change, it's not all just one big puppet show.

I believe there's a real chance Obama will be able to get a "public option" health insurance plan passed between now and the mid-terms. If we can get the economy headed back in the right direction that will give him the political clout he needs to make it happen.

April 12, 2009 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

Sorry to have been away so long!

For those of us on the left, there is no doubt the GOP is far worse on some issues than the Dems. That's a given. Yet, it's often hard to tell these days. Take the following two examples.

First, in the last week, Pres. O submitted his budget which called for $21 billion more in defense spending than Bush ever asked for. And just like with Dubya, this whopping amount does not include funds for Iraq, Afghanistan & Pakistan. This is progress?

How much worse could things be re this massive giveaway of taxpayer money to corporate criminals if McCain were president today? It becomes very difficult to argue that the Dems are slightly better than the Republicans when all the bailouts target rescuing big finance at the expense of the rest of us.

April 12, 2009 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Demeur said...

I don't have coverage at present and I vote. Maybe that's why we have two Democratic senators in this state. But we need to get off our butts and let them know we're out here.
The thing I don't understand is why employers who keep complaining about the costs haven't done something. If everyone had coverage the costs would be far less and a benefit to all business. Then I forgot WalMart wants the taxpayers to pay for their employees.

April 12, 2009 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Lew Scannon said...

Lemme see, Rick Warren can get Congress to jump because he doesn't want to pay taxes, but helping out fifty million people is not of interest at all to them. Just shows how upsidedownbackwards our so-called democracy has become.

April 12, 2009 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Carlos: That's what we need, better candidates and less apathy among the population.

J: I hope you're right. If the economy is improving and there's at least a clear prospect of health insurance reform before the 2010 elections, the Democrats should be able to stave off a Republican comeback.

Rambling Taoist: I can't argue with those 2 examples. In some ways it seems like nothing has changed. But in other ways, I see a lot of encouragement. Obama has reversed a lot of Bush's environmental decisions and other midnight rulings.

Demeur: Good point. It seems to me employees and employers are in the same boat with this issue. If employers pushed for better health coverage, it would have a lot more impact.

April 12, 2009 at 4:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lew: I guess taxpayer-financed fire and brimstone is more important than health coverage for 50 million Americans. "Upsidedownbackwards" is right.

April 12, 2009 at 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

i haven't looked at the numbers, but I have to wonder how many of those uninsured are former felons and therefore not eligible to vote, or illegal and not eligible to vote...or kids, and not eligible to vote. maybe not 50mil, but probably a good chunk.

I dunno, at least some of them have a good excuse. I am skeptical of the numbers we often see in the MSM - numbers can be damning, or the con-man's best friend.

April 12, 2009 at 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Kvatch said...

Count me in among those 50,000,000 uninsured. Canned from my employer. Employer gone...so no COBRA.

Uninsured and, after 8 years of immunotherapy, uninsurable.

I'm so f*cked. But I vote and have the means to leave. If Congress doesn't do something quick, I'll have no choice but vote with my feet--I can, and I will, emigrate.

April 12, 2009 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Bee: That's true, there could be some skewering of the numbers. Like the saying goes, "lies, damn lies and statistics." But still, 50 million people uninsured and most of them unregistered to vote -- there's only so much number-twisting they could do. In any case, people need to vote and organize if they want to be heard. It sucks, but that's just the way it works.

Kvatch: That really sucks. Sorry to hear about your predicament. If worse comes to worst there's always Canada. Victoria and Vancouver (B.C.) are both beautiful cosmopolitan cities, and the winters aren't too much colder than San Francisco.

April 12, 2009 at 6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


There is some history behind this. In the 60's working out the poverty programs for the great society - they were surprised at the amount of dirt poor in the South. Southern states are notorious for the low amount of services they give to their residents (in exchange for lower taxes they say - which is only partially true - as the south has low taxes) and the residents seemed to accept it.

Today if an employer wants to relocate or settle to a place in the US with low wages and low expectations of benefits they go south.

My ex wife was from the rural Midwest where only union people get benefits. They were envious of her in California having Health benefits wanted to know how they worked etc.,

The point I'm trying to make is, there has always been a substantial part of the population that has little to none in health benefits - mostly in the Midwest and the South - and HAS HAD NO COMPLACENT WITH IT! At least in the way they vote (mostly conservative locally and Nationally)

Remember Health Benefits are Market Driven, not required. In my part of California, no company would think of not having benefits and could hope to compete for people. Elsewhere...not the same!

With the recent layoffs and downturns/sizing you are getting a whole new type of people added to these ranks. People who used to have benefits and now see how ridiculously priced COBRA is etc.,

A lot of these people tended to Vote and we'll see if they continue to do so and vote with their cardiacs.


April 12, 2009 at 6:54 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

Relinquishing the vote means the same thing as agreeing with all the rotten bullshit. I will vote, and I'll continue to lose on a lot of things, but I'll win one here and there. Maybe I'll win one of the big ones someday. I doubt it, but who knows?

April 12, 2009 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: I think this is tied in with so many rural working class people voting conservative. For some reason, they keep voting for the candidate who loves Jesus and hates homosexuals, even though that same candidate will be keeping working class and middle class families "in their place." That, plus millions of people who don't even vote, period -- the Powers That Be have a good thing going for themselves.

And there definitely are a lot of formerly-employed, formerly-insured people joining the ranks of the uninsured.

JR: True. I think the least we can all do is vote. We don't always get what we want, or we vote for a candidate who gives good speeches and then turns out to be business as usual. But it's just that much worse if we don't vote.

April 12, 2009 at 8:21 PM  
Anonymous S.W. anderson said...

A whole lot of people in this country don't bother to register or vote for a variety of reasons, including ignorance and the attitude expressed by TRT.

Tom, your contrast between the NRA and those without health insurance is an excellent one. Too many without health insurance no doubt believe there's no way that just by getting involved, making demands on officeholders and candidates, they can actually change their situation.

Changing this situation calls for leaders to emerge and start firing up and organizing the rest. Think of Cesar Chavez, who worked to organize exploited farm workers in California years ago.

April 12, 2009 at 11:31 PM  
Anonymous S.W. anderson said...

Rambling Taoist, you're never going to convince me Rep. Pete DeFazio, D-Ore., is no better or different from Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn.

Likewise, I don't buy it that there isn't a nickel's worth of difference between Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.

There is some truth in what you say, but you take it much too far.

What you and many others fail to understand is that it's not all about an officeholder or challenger getting big donations from big corporations, whatever the corporations are and wherever they are.

What it most often is about is a representative or senator watching out for interests in his district or state. That's as old as the republic and not likely to ever change much. Any Texas or Oklahoma legislator is going to watch out for the energy industry. Any legislator from Florida is going to watch out for the tourism industry. That's not just because of campaign donations from those industries, but also because a whole lot of jobs in their states depend on those industries doing well.

This watching out for home interests can be taken to an extreme where it's actual corruption, but usually isn't.

Go back over legislation passed by Congress so far this year and show me where they don't care what people think or need and are just throwing rhetoric our way.

April 12, 2009 at 11:48 PM  
Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

We both may be guilty of taking our positions too far. I will grant that constituent interests are certainly a driving force in congressional decision-making. However, you will have a hard time convincing me that all the Dems in Congress who voted in favor of the War in Iraq, it's continued funding, both versions of the so-called Patriot Act, trade agreements like NAFTA and deregulating high finance to the point that landed us in this economic depression (to name but a few) did so because it protected the interests of the constituents in their district.

April 13, 2009 at 1:39 AM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

Unfortunately, a large portion of the uninsured are ineligible to vote.


Many are from disadvantaged social classes against whom our legal system is skewed and have been convicted of a felony.

Some are resident aliens or illegals.

Most work multiple low-paying jobs and can't afford to take the time off to vote and don't carry the clout with their employer to assert their legal right to have that opportunity available.

You're right, though. An NRA-like strategy could do a lot for that demographic.

April 13, 2009 at 6:13 AM  
Anonymous S.W. anderson said...

Rambling Taoist, fair enough. You make an excellent point that, especially in hindsight, congressional Democrats got it wrong on a bunch of important issues. I attribute many of those regrettable votes to herd instinct and a certain amount of individual fecklessness.

One thing's for sure now: Delivering universal health care will take determination and more political courage than we've seen from many of these characters in recent years.

April 13, 2009 at 12:48 PM  
Anonymous S.W. anderson said...

Thomas, many states, mine included, now mail voter-information materials and ballots to registered voters so they can vote from home without having to ask for time off from work.

I realize this isn't much help to the homeless, but is helpful for many people whose circumstances are like those you described.

April 13, 2009 at 12:54 PM  

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