The table is set for the Senate to cut the heart out of health care reform, with an ailing Ted Kennedy pitted against Max Baucus, recipient of $3 million from the industry over five years with a platoon of former staff members working as lobbyists for them.
Unless the White House rallies constituents to rise up, the Senate sellout will come from lawmakers hiding behind surgical masks--so-called compromises that will effectively kill what the President has called a public plan "to keep the insurance companies honest."
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich lists some of them:
"One of their proposals is to break up the public option into small pieces under multiple regional third-party administrators that would have little or no bargaining leverage. A second is to give the public option to the states where Big Pharma and Big Insurance can easily buy off legislators and officials, as they've been doing for years. A third is bind the public plan to the same rules private insurers have already wangled, thereby making it impossible for the public plan to put competitive pressure on the insurers."
All these ploys, plus others to give lip service to a public option but keep it on ice indefinitely, are being lined up to placate voters but serve the interests of the health insurers' and medical providers' lobbies.
If the President is serious about Change, here is his chance to prove it by going head to head with the bought-and-paid-for Senators of both parties who are still playing their old games and counting on real health care reform as being too complicated for the American public to understand.
Nothing will shake up the power of Washington lobbyists more than an uprising on this issue, and the President will have to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ted Kennedy in what he told the Democratic Convention last summer is "the cause of my life."