Fixing The ‘Big F*%#ing Deal’

Health insurers won the pot. Reformers need a new game plan.

By Roger Bybee

In a too-loud whisper to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden famously characterized the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "a big f*%#ing deal" at a triumphal White House news conference. On a political level, the new law is [RETURN TO ARTICLE]

  • Reader Comments

    I strongly recommend people look at this excellent article. It is a critique of Obama’s health care reform from the left and it is a devasting indictment. Far from being a step on the road to single payer, much less “socialized medicine” the Obama bill is pure corporate welfare that will lock in insurance company power over the health care system in a way that didn’t even exist previously.

    http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/dimaggio250310.html

    Posted by cabdriverinchicago on Apr 16, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    CabdriverinChicago is absolutely right! We must understand why single payer or Medicare For All was rejected both by Congress and HCAN; the HMOs and other healthcare corporatists bought off a lot of so-called liberal politicians and/or organizations! Obama himself received $20 million from the healthcare cartel in ‘08 for his bid to the White House!

    Folks, single payer could have been a reality if we had a real democracy in this country! The fact is that the corporations have their tentacles around our throats everywhere we look; Congress, the White House and even the Supreme Court. The tentacles reach out to our state and local governments, our news media, our education systems, the entertainment industry and even our places of worship! It is truly tragic that we the people are now WE THE CORPORATIONS!

    We must fully understand the relationship that our elected officials have with corporate bosses and decide that since neither political party represents our interests, it is time to organize, fund and implement a viable alternative to the corruption we have in place now! This is what the corporate bosses fear the most and why their “liberal” flunkies in the DP will do all they can to maintain the status quo! It is up to us to obtain true democracy!

    Posted by Chicano Wobbly on Apr 17, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    It’s clear who really this country. It’s the lobbyists.

    Posted by cabdriverinchicago on Apr 17, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    Well, Chicago Cab Driver, we are certainly on the same page with this issue.

    The only cure for this and nearly all the important issues facing our nation is a Constitutional revision limiting the powers which the career politicians of both parties have seized.

    Their pay and benefits set them apart from all of the rest of us and put them in league with the biggest and most corrupt corporate and union leaders.

    I can’t think of anyone in Congress, even when caught reed-handed who has really been punished in any meaningful way. If voted out they are reincarnated as a lobbyist — this must stop if we are to ever see genuine equality in this country.

    Posted by whattheheck on Apr 19, 2010 at 5:48 AM

    I’m not sure about a “Constitutional revision” but some reforms are definitely in order. We also need to punish crooks more seriously than we have been willing to do.

    Posted by cabdriverinchicago on Apr 19, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    Whattheheck;

    I would not categorize labor unions with corporations when it comes to corruption. Yes, there are some corrupt labor leaders, but they are a minority.

    Corporations on the other hand almost 100% do anything to extract profits from our blood, our sweat and even our tears! When the working class attempts to make legislative reforms, the corporatists buy off the politicians as was done in the so-called healthcare reform issue.

    Corrupt union leaders on the other hand receive kickbacks from corrupt corporations, thus they line their pockets at the expense of the rank & file members and cause great harm to the labor movement. (eg A.Stern)

    Neither a corrupt union leader or a corrupt corporation is good for a democracy. It’s up to us to correct this evil in our country!

    Posted by Chicano Wobbly on Apr 19, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    I’ve read about Andy Stern and the SEIU lawsuit against NUHW locals that wanted to leave the SEIU. I guess you can say that he is heavy handed and authoritarian but not corrupt. The corruption charge is only being levelled at Stern by extreme, anti-labor right wingers like Michele Malkin who always use the corruption charge to discredit the image of unions in general. I did think the NUHW locals in San Francisco had a legitimate cause, however. Stern recently and unexpectedly resigned and there is no clear reason why.

    Posted by cabdriverinchicago on Apr 20, 2010 at 5:44 PM

    Wobbly and Cabdriver,

    My belief is that the biggest thieves are in Congress.
     
    They make the rules covering their pay, their own health care, their own behavior and ethics.  Anyone caught in a scandal gets a powder puff tap on the wrist.

    They pass legislation written by lobbyists which favors corporations and unions.  In return they get campaign money and trips to the Bahamas or the votes each group delivers.

    Congress is set apart from the voters with benefit and pay packages in line with the average CEO rather than the average American.

    Just as the CEO cares virtually nothing about the future of the company he heads, the professional politician or bureaucrat cares only about his own future and to hell with the country. 

    This is evident by a look at our recent history.

    For over 20 years jobs have been sold to the lowest bidder in the global marketplace.

    Corporations get favorable tax legislation. The 2004 American Jobs Creation act wasn’t about creating jobs here, it was about a tax break for bringing corporate foreign profits back here. 

    While our taxes are rising corporations get special treatment.  GE paid NO U.S. income tax this year, yet made $billions in foreign operations.  If you made money on investing in foreign stocks you must pay.

    The union guys got a special deal exempting their members from the cost of the health care bill.  Do you really believe no money changed hands for that purchase of votes? Even the union members will pay through the increased taxes and inflation to pay for the massive cost.  Average purchasing power has been falling since the 1970s.

    We need a Constitutional change to prevent our “representatives” from benefitting by favoring the richest and the “vote deliverers” at our expense.  They must not be allowed to stay on as lobbyists.

    Posted by whattheheck on Apr 21, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    “My belief is that the biggest thieves are in Congress.”

    It’s hard to say. Goldman Sachs gives Congress some stiff competition where theft is concerned!!

    Posted by cabdriverinchicago on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    cabdriver,

    Goldman Sachs and some of the most influential members of Congress are in synch on this. 

    Paulson left as Goldman CEO to become Sec. of Treasury (approved by Congress).  The same with Robert Rubin a couple steps earlier.

    Rubin lobbied to end the restrictions of the Glass-Steagall Act and got Congress to rescind it.

    Paulson got the massive bank bailout rolling before turning over to Geithner.

    Geithner was head of the NY Fed and cozy with all of the above plus Bernanke.

    This whole mess was orchestrated over a couple of decades.

    Barney Frank’s boy friend was an exec in Fannie Mae while Barney was head of the Banking Committee and allowed the agency to gather huge commissions on all the no money down loans. 

    The string participants goes on… and on.

    These are now the people charged with “fixing” the problem!

    Posted by whattheheck on Apr 22, 2010 at 6:20 AM

    “Barney Frank’s boy friend was an exec in Fannie Mae while Barney was head of the Banking Committee and allowed the agency to gather huge commissions on all the no money down loans.”

    I have a problem blaming Fannie and Freddie for the 2008 financial meltdown. Consider what economist, Thomas Palley has to say.

    “The insinuation that Fannie and Freddie were primary movers of the housing market excesses of 2004–2006 lacks even superficial merit. This is because since 2003 both Fannie and Freddie have had limited asset growth, and Fannie’s assets actually fell significantly after 2003…Fannie and Freddie did not cause the crisis. Instead, it was driven by loose and negligent lending by banks and Wall Street. That behaviour was due to lack of regulatory oversight, combined with a failed incentive system that rewards management and mortgage brokers for pushing loans rather than prudent lending.”

    Wall street pushed bad loans knowing that they were going to sell them as bundled securities in the secondary capital markets for big profits. About 60% of those who received subprime mortgages actually qualified for lower interest loans. Bankers had incentives to push higher interest loans on consumers. Studies have estimated that excess interest charges from such lending practices may well have cost the African-American community up to $93 billion, an amount roughly equivalent to the gross revenue of all US Black owned businesses in 2002 according to a US Census Bureau survey at that time. One can only imagine the additional economic growth and benefit to the Black community, and indeed, to the whole society, had all that extra revenue gone to the Black Community instead of to the financial industry.

    I also agree with Prof. Fred Moseley on Fannie and Freddie.

    “Fannie and Freddie should be merged and should remain a government enterprise whose single purpose is affordable housing, without the conflicting purpose of maximum profit, for two main reasons: (1) to stabilize the home mortgage market and avoid the boom/bust instability of private mortgage markets that has brought on the current crisis; and (2) decent affordable housing should be considered a basic economic right. Providing credit for home purchases should be a function of the government, rather than private businesses (whose primary goal is maximum profit, not affordable housing). There should not be enormous profit made on the provision of credit for housing, as has been the case in recent years. Without this huge profit, mortgages would be cheaper and houses more affordable. There was also a lot of fraudulent activity in the housing industry in the recent boom, and this fraud would be eliminated. Therefore, the government should be responsible for this important economic function of providing credit for housing.”

    I believe this policy would solve many current problems.

    Posted by cabdriverinchicago on Apr 22, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    Cabdriver,

    There is no single villain in this.  There were many conflicts of interest and a massive lack of oversight.

    Fannie and Freddie gambled and lost (our money) while paying out at rates which legit borrowers would have received.  And the former limit of $417,000 has just been raised to over $600,000. Taxpayers will pick up the tab again for any defaults.

    ``If Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are holding securities backed by these loans, it is because they were attracted to their yields and not because of a public policy designed to promote affordable homeownership,’’ HUD said in a statement on its Web site. Spokesman Brian Sullivan declined to elaborate.

    As they acquired subprime debt, Fannie and Freddie fed on mortgage-backed securities, rather than buying or guaranteeing individual loans, according to Judy Kennedy, chief executive officer of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders in Washington.

    `Hundreds of Billions’

    The companies could have bought ``hundreds of billions of dollars’’ of loans made to low-income people by banks, some of which were granted with terms that were equal to prime, said Kennedy, whose organization represents financial companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co. of New York, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America Corp. and pension funds. Fannie and Freddie failed to buy $50 billion to $90 billion of apartment-building loans that would also have qualified, she said.”

    Posted by whattheheck on Apr 22, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    Fannie and Freddie were not responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown; it was private sector banks. Subprime lending was at its height from 2004 to 2006. Federal Reserve Board data show that: More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions. Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year. Only one of the top 25 subprime lenders in 2006 was directly subject to the housing law that’s being lambasted by conservative critics. Between 2004 and 2006, when subprime lending was exploding, Fannie and Freddie went from holding a high of 48 percent of the subprime loans that were sold into the secondary market to holding about 24 percent, according to data from Inside Mortgage Finance.

    I might also point out that most subprime lenders were not regulated under the CRA rules so this bit of Carter era legislation was not the culprit either.

    According to the Fed, about 70% of total US mortgages were in the private secondary mortgage market at the start of the financial meltdown in late 2008; they had not been purchased by GSEs. After this period, most mortgage backed securities and other toxic assets were purchased by the federal government in order to recapitalize the banks. This was true to such an extent that economist Rick Wolff pointed out that without federal government injecting cash into the financial system, the entire housing market would have collapsed and thus there cannot be said to be a truely free market in housing after the start of the financial meltdown.

    GSEs were not the cause of the problem. They did, however, absorb much of the aftershock.

    Posted by cabdriverinchicago on Apr 22, 2010 at 5:00 PM