View Full Version : U.S. Issues Ralph Nader v. Kucinich on why this health care bill sucks

03-22-2010, 12:45 PM
..AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Congress member Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who will be voting for the healthcare reform bill, and longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Both of them, Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich, have run for president of the United States several times.

Ralph Nader, your response to the healthcare reform bill and Congress member Kucinich’s position?

RALPH NADER: Well, this is the latest chapter of corporate Democrats crushing progressive forces both inside their party and against third parties. There’s nothing new here. It’s being pointed out in my former running mate’s autobiography, the late Peter Camejo, which is coming out in a couple weeks from Chicago.

What we’re seeing here is a legislation that doesn’t even kick in until 2014, except for one or two items on staying with your parents’ insurance policy until you’re twenty-six. That means that there will be 180,000 Americans who will die between now and 2014 before any coverage expands, and hundreds of thousands of injuries and illnesses untreated. This bill does not provide universal, comprehensive or affordable care to the American people. It shovels hundreds and billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the worst corporations who’ve created this problem: the Aetnas, the CIGNAs, the health insurance companies. And it doesn’t require many contractual accountabilities and other accountabilities for people who are denied healthcare in this continuing pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world.

For the drug companies, it’s a bonanza. It doesn’t require Uncle Sam to negotiate volume discounts. It allows these new biologic drugs, under patent, to fight off generic competition—that’s a terrible provision. And it doesn’t allow reimportation from countries like Canada to keep prices down.

Congressman Kucinich’s points are not respected, either. There is no public choice or public option in order to keep prices down, so it’s an open sesame for these giant insurance companies that are concentrating more and more power, in violation of the antitrust laws, over the millions of American patients. And it doesn’t safeguard the states from the kind of litigation that’s heading toward Pennsylvania and California, that are now trying single payer.

So what we should recognize is nothing is really going to happen in this bill, if it’s passed, until 2014, because there’s a gap here, including a presidential campaign and the contest in 2012 and a congressional elections in 2010, for the single-payer supporters in this country. Majority of the American people, majority doctors and nurses, support single payer. They’ve supported Dennis Kucinich all over the country on this. They have supported singlepayeraction.org, which I hope a million people will visit in the next few days in their outrage over what’s happening here.

So I think what we have to do, Amy, is see this as a four-year gap before this bill kicks in and try to get the single payer as a major issue in the 2010 campaign and as a major issue in the 2012 campaign and try to save some of those 180,000 Americans that will die because they cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed or treated. And that figure comes from Harvard Medical School researchers.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ralph, I would like to ask you, though, what about the issue that Representative Kucinich raises, that at least if this bill is passed, there will continue to be debates and battles in Congress over reform of it, whereas if it was to be defeated, then the likelihood is that for years down the road there would not be another effort at healthcare reform?

RALPH NADER: I think both—you know, the Democrats are basically saying, if you don’t pass this bill, we won’t have a chance for another ten and fifteen years. And if the bill is passed, they’re going to say, “OK, that’s behind us. We now have to pay attention to all the other issues on our plate.” So the mindset of the Pelosis and the Hoyers, the people who run the House of Representatives, is that this is it for ten or fifteen years.

And the American people have got to say, no, this isn’t it. Now, Dennis is—you know, Dennis is subject to retaliation if he didn’t support this bill in the House of Representatives. And, you know, you have to have empathy with him on that. He’s got a subcommittee. He’s got to live with these corporate Democrats. But the American people are not subject to that kind of retaliation, and they really have to mobilize now, at the state level, try to get some of the state bills through and demonstrate the effectiveness of full Medicare for all with free choice of doctor and hospital. There’s no free choice of doctor and hospital under this. There’s all kinds of exploitations that the health insurance companies and drug companies are going to be free to continue their ravenous ways over people who are at their most vulnerable situation, when they’re sick and injured. So, you know, we really have to look at this—

AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Kucinich, your response to what Ralph Nader is saying, that this is a boondoggle for the health insurance companies, that that’s what this is all about, and that you did this because you’re subject to serious retaliation in the House?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, I wasn’t thinking about anyone retaliating, because, as I said, I’m looking at a picture of, does this enable us to keep the healthcare discussion going?

Now, Ralph Nader, who is someone who I respect greatly, is right when he says that we need to continue to move forward with a single-payer movement. That’s what I want. That’s been what I’ve worked my politic—almost my entire political life towards. And so, I support what he said in that regard and look forward to working with him. We need to—well, while it’s said there’s, you know, an ongoing discussion about healthcare if this passes, we need to make sure that happens, particularly at a state level. And, you know, that’s why I’ve also fought so hard to try to keep the ERISA pre-emption waiver alive as an issue, but it’s not happening in this bill.

And I realize, as does Ralph Nader, not just the limitations of this bill, but why the whole system is wrong. But, you know, there’s a point at which you are in the system and you have to figure out, is there a way to try to use the moment to move in a direction that gives you a chance to keep pushing the point and not lose total legitimacy by taking everything over a cliff, at least working inside the system. And so, that’s kind of what I’ve been faced with here. But it’s beyond me. This isn’t about me. When you have to make a vote that’s decisive, then it is about what you think. But I just tell Ralph Nader that I appreciate his continued integrity and willingness to keep pushing single payer even at this dark moment. And I agree that’s what we need to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Kucinich, if your vote was that important—I think many progressives feel that the White House responds to conservatives who withhold their vote and changes, like on issues of choice, if that’s what it’s going to take to get the bill passed. What about having held out to the end and demanded—you know, put your demand on the table, since this is so critical to the White House?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Yeah, you know, I—I mean, I, frankly, was quite surprised that as we were approaching a moment of decision, people wouldn’t budge on the question of the public option and wouldn’t budge on the question of a ERISA waiver. Remember, I was one of seventy-seven Democrats who said—progressives who said, look, if the public option isn’t in the final bill—this was the bill that we passed last year—you know, I’m not going to vote for it. Well, there are only two members of Congress who actually kept that pledge. I was one of those two. So now—and, you know, the other one was Mr. Massa, who’s no longer in the Congress. So now I’m basically left standing alone with a position that I’ve held consistently.

And, Amy, I’ll tell you that one of the things that surprised me the most is that even though they said everything’s on the line and even though they said it could come down to one vote and pointed at me and said, “That could be your vote,” they still wouldn’t budge on it. So then, I’m—and I mean, I tested and probed and talked to everybody, all the way down the chain of leadership, to see if there’s any way, and frankly, it’s mystifying, except to say that they’re keeping a for-profit system intact. There’s no air in here to try to find a way to get to a not-for-profit system. So I have to make the decision within the context of where we are and to see if, you know, by making that decision, down the road that we can keep the healthcare debate going. But this is about a for-profit system, something I don’t endorse. But the opportunity to stay in the debate about single payer is still there, without anybody using it as an excuse to say, “Well, you took the whole thing over the cliff, and who wants to talk to you about anything anymore?”

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ralph Nader, what about this issue of the—

RALPH NADER: Well, let me just say, you know, Dennis—

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ralph Nader, what about this issue of the seventy-seven other members of Congress who pledged not to support this bill? We’ve had quite a few of them on this show—Raul Grijalva, Anthony Weiner. What about the others who also have gradually agreed to support this bill?

RALPH NADER: They’ve all caved. They’ve all been put into line by the majority rulers in the House. So that’s not going to change, Juan.

What—I think Dennis Kucinich has been known as the great dissenter in the Democratic Party—against the criminal wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, for impeaching Bush and Cheney, for single payer, on and on. His subcommittee hearings, which are almost never covered by the press, provide a standard for what House subcommittees should be investigating all over the country. But I think he owes an explanation to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of progressive Americans, many of whom who watch this show, who have clinged to Dennis Kucinich as the great dissenter, as the principled person, as the person who will hold the banner high. “The Star-Spangled Banner” has this phrase, “And the flag was still there.” But for the progressives in this country, they want to keep saying, “And Dennis Kucinich was still there.” So I would like him to go all over the country, after this malicious vote by the Democrats in the House, and address audiences all over, starting a complete new wave for full Medicare for all before this bill kicks in in 2014, so all the members running for reelection in 2010 are going to have to face it.

And I hope people will visit the videos that are on singlepayeraciton.org to show how many of his colleagues react when they’re confronted with a reporter asking the question, “The majority of the American people, doctors and nurses want this system. They want free choice of doctor and hospital. They want the insurance companies displaced with full single payer. Why aren’t you for it?” You look at their faces as they try to squirm out of that. That’s the moral position. They know it. But they’re caving into the enormous lobbying power of the drug and insurance companies, which are deploying over 2,000 full-time lobbyists on Capitol Hill as we speak...