Yesterday morning, I opened my copy of The Guardian to learn that various tranches and services of the British National Health Service were being outsourced to private providers and, leading the fray for tenders, was none other than our old friend, Humana – AKA Bill Frist Inc.
I was drinking my coffee at the time. I didn’t have a Pepsi moment, and I didn’t vomit in my mouth. I simply smiled wryly, because I’d seen this coming.
The NHS has been an albatross around the neck of the Conservative Party in Britain since Maggie Thatcher chopped dental and optical services from its auspices back in the 1980s, and Cameron wanted to take this further. Last summer, there were stories abounding here of how the Tories intended on reforming the NHS, how it was working at a loss – things everyone had known as truisms for a long time, but things no one would think of addressing because, well, because the NHS here is the Third Rail of Third Rails.
And when the GOP started airing pejorative commercials in the US, railing against rationed medical treatments and long waiting lists, basically presenting the NHS and all like her in a pretty crass light, Cameron flip-flopped and came out fighting for the NHS. Well he should do, because his oldest child, who had recently died, was born with severe birth defects and had depended on the NHS for care and treatment. Then and there, Cameron vouchsafed the safety of the NHS under any potential Tory regime.
Well, the Tory regime is a reality – albeit, officially it’s a coalition with the Liberal Democrats; but more and more, instead of the pundits referring to a ConLib pact, they’re calling the coalition “ConDem” in a clever jeu des mots.
Because, under the guise of austerity moves, this government – cleverly caricatured by the resident Guardian cartoonist as consisting of Cameron as a louche and depraved version of Gainsborough’s Blue Boy wickedly enticing Nick Clegg, depicted as a rosy-cheeked and cheerfully ignorant version of Pinocchio, to come and play in his termite-infested sawmill – is systematically dismantling any and all entitlement schemes from the government.
This is Thatcherism Mach II: Trickledown – the Sequel.
When the coalition took control of things, once again Cameron reiterated that the NHS would suffer no cutback in services. Then, in the special emergency budget, Camerons Treasury wonk, George Osborne, an independently wealthy trust fund child who’s never worked a day in his life, blithely announced that all government departments must cut budgetary spending from between 25% and 40% – except the Defense Department, which would only suffer cutbacks of 10%. Of course.
And, of course, this would mean immense numbers of civil service and outsourced contractors being laid off prematurely – some permanently – in this age of recession.
Now, it’s not rocket science and I’m no economist, but saying that the NHS wouldn’t suffer any cutback in services, and then saying that that same department has to cut its budget by between 25 and 40% … doesn’t that kinda sorta mean that somewhere along the way, services are going to be cut? You can make as many paper-pushers redundant as you want in the NHS, it still stands to reason that x amount of nurses or doctors or some sort of specialist personnel won’t be being hired, that various forms of surgery/treatments/drug therapies won’t be implemented because of lack of funding.
As painful as it is for me to say it, and as many times as Progressives who don’t know have accused me of lying, the GOP’s commercials last summer did have a bare ring of truth about them; because here in the UK, in some areas, healthcare is rationed, there are waiting lists for surgeries and treatments. It’s simply a postcode lottery, and your quality of service reflects how well your health authority has managed its budget. My primary healthcare trust is a pretty good one, but a pregnant woman still has to have her labour monitered up to a certain point in one hospital, before she’s transferred, at breakneck speed, fourteen miles to another hospital in order, actually, to give birth.
The announcement that Humana were entrenching themselves in the tendering process confirmed suspicions I’d been having for the past few months, when every night on commercial television here, you see no less than five different advertisements for private health insurance, and when – out of the blue – commercials for Viagra have started to appear. (Contrary to life in the United States, prescription drug remedies aren’t advertised on television in the UK or in Europe.)
The NHS wouldn’t actually cut services to the public; instead, they would outsource them to private entities, probably for a fee. That would, at least, justify the increase in NHS contributions we’ve now had inflicted on us – yes, America, the NHS is NOT free; we pay an additional tax called the National Insurance to cover this – but the public was surreptitiously being edged and manipulated into buying into private health insurance schemes.
I’d love to give the clever ConDems the benefit of the doubt and say they’re gently edging us into a more French-like, hybrid system, but knowing Thatcher’s children as well as I do, I know this is nothing more or less than what it actually is … a CON. It’s incremental change that will inch along until one day someone will blink and realise that the good old NHS just ceased to exist somewhere in the first five-year fixed term (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) of Blueboy Cameron and Pinocchio Clegg.
The British public had been had. They had been, in local parlance, tango’d.
Last Sunday on Meet the Press (a venerable national treasure of a program which has managed to go from the sublime to the ridiculous in the two years since the late Tim Russert’s death), Robert Gibbs, the President’s Press Secretary sounded a codified clarion call to Democrats, grassroots, elected and electable: there was a very real possibility that the Democratic Party could lose control of the House.
NUDGE. NUDGE. WINK. WINK … HELLOOOOOOO?
Immediately, he said that, the cable news boys and girls went into meltdown, along with the Wicked Witch of the West’s lovechild, Arianna Huffington. Like Chicken Littles rolling about in orgasmic frenzy, they all screeched simultaneously that Gibbs admitted weakness, he admitted weakness, there he goes, I heard him, he said it … You get the picture, illustrated with a myriad of nameless, anonymous sources, all offering different insight, opinion and second guesses.
The Fox minions affected the smug smirk of “I told you so”, intimating that this was all the more reason straight-thinking people should vote Republican in November. The MSNBC contingent and Mother Huffington huffed and puffed and clicked their teeth, not saying, but clearly intimating that it really wasn’t worth the bother at all to vote for such losers.
People still able to think for themselves (and to read Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post) got the message loud and clear, coming – not coincidentally – on the back of the President’s campaign trips to Missouri and Nevada in support of Robin Carnahan and Harry Reid, and the message is this: Nobody’s guaranteed a win, and the Democrats aren’t entitled to even assume they’ll retain control of the House. Just like on a sports team, intimating that players have to fight for a place in the starting eleven, makes them keen, hungry to attain it. So, the Democrats hoping to retain their House seats should go on the offensive. So, the Democrats hoping to win a House seat should drive that offensive home. So the grassroots supporters should turn OFF the cable guys, stop listening to the rhetoric of a Keith Olbermann who doesn’t vote, stop reckoning that Bill Maher always speaks the truth when he admits Obama’s achieved more legislatively than FDR at this point, but in the next breath says he’s done nothing and endorses Romney, and stop listening to Arianna Huffington’s purrings and subtle ad hominem musings about Barack Obama, mindful of the fact that she is, was and always will be a Republican at heart. (Listen, the original Damascene conversion was hearsay handed down at best; at least hers, which took place on November 3, 2004, was, first and foremost, a money-making venture to fill a niche against Matt Drudge). Voters have to think for themselves, and listen to the candidates.
It’s nerve-wracking that Nancy Pelosi allowed herself to fall prey to her own hubris in reacting to this message personally. It’s as though she didn’t see the forest for the trees.
The ammunititon is all there for the Democrats – the GOP’s refutation of Wall Street Reform, their determination to repeal that and the healthcare reform, their embracement, through Congressman Barton’s apology, of BP and big oil, the overt ambition of the Queen Mother of snake oil salesmen, Darrell Issa, to bring articles of impeachment against Obama.
But most of all, the big bazoomba is this: the Republicans are running without any iota of an alternative plan to put this country back together. They are running on NO and that’s running on empty. They are running on lies and innuendo and hate and something one drop short of out-and-out racism. They don’t give a rat’s ass about the people. It’s the power they want.
John Boehner can sip from a styrofoam cup and demand to know, “Where are the jobs?” But what is his answer? As a politician who questions, he should be questioned too. If he’s as dissatisfied with the jobs situation, as an elected official, he must have some inkling of an alternative, workable plan. It would be too much to believe in a conspiracy of dunces, to believe that private enterprise is holding off hiring and potentially restoring the economy a smidgeon, just to ensure that there might be a GOP victory in the House after November, thus making it look like a trump card held up the collective Republican sleeve … would it? And yet, how many of us remember the coincidence of Iran releasing hostages days after the inauguration of that Republican saint, Ronald Reagan.
As the Brits would say, pull the other one. It’s got bells.
So bells ought to be ringing, and the Democrats and their supporters should come out swinging. We have ample enough ammunition at our disposal – and also enough to shoot ourselves in the foot.
We can’t be had like the Brits were had in May by their sinister, yet cackhanded coalition. The big tent of the Democratic Party has to buck up, suck up and sure as hell not fuck up … or risk being tango’d from the tanning bed of John Boehner.