The White House Has a Problem With Its Base

When things went to pot with health care reform, the President was off touring Africa. It’s not that the President shouldn’t go abroad and strengthen America’s standing in the world. It is that he should think about timing. This week the President went decided to go abroad to try and get the Olympics to come to his hometown. Meanwhile, at home, the public option–something 65% of Americans supportwent down in flames at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Worse, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sent out a condescending and ill-timed e-mail to supporters of the public option the moment after it failed, and the President’s organization started downplaying the need to hold insurance executives accountable. To my eye, all of this sent the message that the President apparently thinks two weeks of sporting events on Lake Michigan is more important than a lifetime of access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

This, of course, isn’t intentional. But it’s the result of a White House that has a hard time understanding the framing of issues. It seems like the White House tends to spend more time fighting battles with fringe media figures than it does talking to its progressive base about policy making decisions.

The result is that the progressive base is alienated from the President’s policies. People are generally unwilling to part with their time and money unless they know that their efforts will yield tangible results. Progressive activists are not going to volunteer for Organizing for America if they believe that the health care reform package will not do anything to stop the abuses of the insurance industry.

The fact that the progressive base hasn’t volunteered for Organizing for America is evident in the number of Facebook supporters the group has. Last year, the President’s official Facebook page garnered over six million supporters., a portal for activists to plan events and network with each other, had over a million unique users. Organizing for America’s Facebook page has a whopping 5,655 members as of 12:50 this afternoon.

The Baucus bill–the bill which Barack Obama wants desperately to declare "historic health care reform"–will ensure that future Presidents will have to deal with the issue of health care reform. The bill mandates that private insurance be purchased. There are no restrictions on premium increases, medical loss ratios, or executive salaries in the Baucus bill. Without these consumer protections, the premiums Americans pay will keep rising at four times the rate of inflation.

The "historic" health care reform will do nothing to stop the subsidizing of high executive salaries and eight-figure beach homes by the American people. The "historic" health care reform will do nothing to stop the fact that, with wages stagnating, every premium is a wage decrease for American workers.

The "historic" health care reform being considered by the Senate Finance Committee offers no mechanism for holding insurance companies accountable. The law may say that they can no longer deny care to the sick, refuse to insure people who had the misfortune of being born with genes that lead to chronic illnesses, or set arbitrary caps on how much medical care a person can receive. But without a non-profit public option that puts people before profits, health care reform is doomed to be the anti-stimulus, a bill which takes money from American workers and puts it into the off-shore tax shelters of CEOs.

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