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Mr. President, We Worked for You, Now You Must Work for Us

The Senate Finance Committee was just one vote away from passing a public option, and ensuring that the health care reform that the President signs will indeed be historic. But President Obama and his staffers in the White House apparently couldn’t be bothered. They didn’t make a single call in support of the public option to members of the Senate Finance Committee.

The White House is poised to call the Baucus bill–a bill which leaves no insurance executive behind–"historic." I guess they’re right, as it stands now the Baucus bill will be a historic transfer of wealth from hard-working Americans to millionaire CEOs who’s record of malfeasance is legendary.

Americans ought to have the right to say no to the health insurance industry and their Wall Street-first, customer last behavior. Americans ought to be able to choose insurance that is answerable to the people, not bankers with $53 million golden parachutes.

That’s why it’s crucial that a non-profit public option that is ultimately accountable to the people be included in health care reform. And it’s why it is wholly unacceptable that the White House focused on getting a two-week sporting event to Chicago instead of doing the hard work of making phone calls to Capitol Hill and cajoling legislators into voting the right way.

The White House’s lack of involvement has inspired opponents of the public option within the Democratic Party to declare it dead. Without the President’s involvement, Senators who have taken a large amount of money from the health insurance industry in recent weeks are not afraid of putting campaign donors before their constituents. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) may even be looking forward to the lavish fund-raisers he throws for health insurance CEOs every year.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), a Senator who should be the 60th vote for health care reform, claims that the "public option doesn’t have the votes to pass" while neglecting to point out that the reason it doesn’t have the votes is because he is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by refusing to vote for it.

Last year, millions of volunteers were walking millions of miles and making tens of millions of phone calls. Campaign offices in small rural towns reported thousands of calls a night. The organizers who ran these offices lived off of gas station hot dogs, and stayed up to three in the morning, inputing the mountain of data their volunteers had created.

People from all over the country didn’t do this to make Barack Obama President. While they celebrated his inauguration, the mere fact that a fresh face became the President of the United States wasn’t what they were working for. They didn’t walk miles in the rain, or pick up the phone to dial another number after being called a "N****-Lover" because of some cult of personality. They worked so hard in order to help President Barack Obama achieve the policies he laid out in his platform–a platform which included a strong public option.

These volunteers had their reasons for being committed to the cause. Many experienced trouble with their insurance when they or a relative became sick. Others were doctors who were tired of being stopped from treating diseases effectively by insurance bureaucrats who hadn’t actually seen the patient. And still others were just regular Americans who thought that all of their fellow citizens should have the right to the dignity that comes with being able to receive medical treatment.

Now it’s time for the President to hold up his end of the bargain. It’s time for the President to make the difficult calls to members of the Senate. It’s time for the President to cajole a the public option through a body that is designed to be resistant to change. It’s time for the President to stop focusing on irrelevant things like sporting events, and start focusing on the problems here at home. It’s time for Barack Obama to hold up his end of the bargain, and make calls for us.

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