Cuba: Revolution, Sabotage & Un-Normal Relations

revolutionLeader of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, has died on his own terms, after surviving at least 638 assassination attempts by the CIA. Unlike the glorification of brutal theocratic leaders like Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah, the establishment will be giving no accolades to Castro. 

Capitalism’s defenders vociferously attack Cuba as a freedomless dystopia, while downplaying the country’s amazing achievements under socialism.

You cannot look at Cuba in isolation without understanding the long history of economic and political sabotage in the country on behalf of the U.S. Empire. From the crippling embargo, to the sponsoring of political dissent to the creation of an immigration policy designed for defection, the U.S. government has done everything in its power to undermine Cuba’s success.

Despite its severe economic restrictions, Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. and a near perfect literacy rate of 99.8%. Cuba’s system of free preventative healthcare is one of the best in the world.

The country’s philosophy of medical solidarity trains anyone to become a doctor, and has sent the world’s largest contingent of medical professionals to fight Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. From Haiti to Pakistan, Cuba is usually the first country on the front lines helping with every natural disaster and medical emergency. Today, more than 50,000 Cuban healthcare workers are operating in 66 countries around the world.

Because it provides basic amenities like food, shelter and healthcare for all citizens, Cuba also has one of the lowest crime rates in the Western Hemisphere.

Cuba is not perfect, yet far from the “police state” it is painted to be. I didn’t see one police officer when I was there, and people spoke freely about their discontent with the government. There was even a government sponsored art space that was full of cutting, self-reflexive political commentary.

In a three part series finale to Breaking the Set, I explain the history of Cuba-U.S. tensions and highlight underreported aspects of society and culture in an on-the-ground report.

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Cuba Part I: Revolution, Sabotage & Un-Normal Relations

BTS explains the history of Cuba and U.S. attempts of regime change, and talks to average Cubans both in Havana and in Miami about their views on the state of U.S. relations. Featuring an interview with Kenia Serrano, a high ranking Cuban parliament member, about everything from internet access to the crackdown on free speech in the country.

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Ebola Solidarity & Castro’s Daughter on LGBTQ Rights

BTS covers Cuba’s exemplary medical achievements with a Cuban doctor and students at the Latin American School of Medicine, an international medical school that trains anyone to become a doctor for free, as well as the U.S. programs that actively undermine international health efforts. Featuring an interview with Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raul Castro, and director of Cuba’s sex ed program CENESEX about LGBTQ rights in the country.

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The Evolution of Revolution

BTS focuses on reforms to the country’s economic and agricultural models, giving an overview of how Cuba’s cooperative and food system works, as well as operating private enterprise. Feauturing an interview with Ricardo Alarcón, Cuba’s former minister of foreign affairs and president of the People’s National Assembly of Power.

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@AbbyMartin

Used & Betrayed – 100 Years of US Troops as Lab Rats

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.49.07 AMOn Memorial Day, politicians will speak at ceremonies all over the country and repeat their favorite mantra: “Support the troops.”

This pledge is hammered into the American psyche at every turn. But there’s a hidden, dark history that shows that the politicians are in fact no friend to service members–but their greatest enemy.

An easy way to prove this is to look at how they so quickly betray and abandon their soldiers after purposely ruining their lives, and even after using them as literal lab rats. 

In this disturbing chapter of The Empire Files, Abby Martin documents decades of experimentation on unwitting US troops—from nuclear tests to psychotropic drugs—as well as knowingly exposing them to deadly poisons, from Agent Orange to sarin gas.

Most infuriating is that the hundreds of thousands of veterans seeking help from the government for the side-effects of these tests are always met with lies and denial. Be prepared to be armed with info and pissed off about how veterans are really treated in the US Empire.

 

Used & Betrayed: 100 Years of US Troops as Lab Rats

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FOLLOW // @EmpireFiles & @AbbyMartin

WATCH // YouTube.com/EmpireFiles

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BP’s Oil Spill: Criminal Negligence, Thousands Still Sick & A Gulf Graveyard Left Behind

BP dead flickr user thierry ehrmannAfter BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion to the government, and another $9.2 billion in penalties since its catastrophic oil spill, a new ruling has put the corporation under fire again.

A US District Judge has found BP grossly negligent and it’s subcontractors, Halliburton and TransOcean, negligent for their roles in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent dumping of more than 210 million gallons of toxic sludge into the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and countless marine creatures in the process. Under the Clean Water Act, the new ruling could effectively quadruple the penalty per barrel spilled that BP will have to pay.

BP’s criminal negligence shouldn’t come as a surprise. After nine years at sea, company management acknowledged that the Deepwater drilling rig was in decline and presented a quote “intolerable risk” to safety, yet chose to do nothing. Halliburton also plead guilty to the destruction of key evidence related to the company’s shady cost-cutting practices like failing to inspect the well’s cement mixture, and using only six of the recommended 21 centralizers to secure the site.

Besides the massive damage that’s been done to the environment as a result of the BP disaster, the health impact on humans continues – largely because of the decision by BP and the EPA to spray nearly two million gallons of a dispersant called Corexit onto the water, making the oil 52 times more toxic, according to the Environmental Pollution Journal.

All this aside, BP’s contracts with the Defense Department have more than doubled in the years since the disaster.

Even though the media is fatigued with its coverage of this disaster, Breaking the Set went down to the Louisiana Gulf Coast to see how the region is faring nearly five years later and to investigate the spill’s lasting damagesWe learned that hundreds of thousands of people are still sick, and that the oil industry has turned the once vibrant shore into a graveyard.

Abby

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BP’s Oil Spill: Criminal Negligence, Thousands Sick & Gulf Graveyard Left Behind

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Exclusive coverage includes interviews with Jorey Danos, a sick clean-up worker who was exposed to a toxic chemical dispersant known as Corexit, award winning toxicologist Wilma Subra, Gulf Restoration Network’s Jonathan Henderson and Clint Guidry, President of the Louisiana Shrimpers Association.

We also reached out to BP, which provided the following statements:

Q: Why were cleanup workers refused respirators and even threatened with termination if they requested them, according to multiple interviews with clean-up workers and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network?

A: We certainly do not and would not retaliate against workers. BP worked closely with OSHA, the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other US government agencies to take extraordinary measures to safeguard the health and safety of responders.

Workers were provided safety training and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and were monitored by federal agencies and BP to measure potential exposure levels and to help ensure compliance with established safety procedures.

Response workers applying dispersants received training on work procedures and PPE usage designed to minimize exposures, and were provided respirators and other PPE.

Workers who were not exposed to dispersants may have asked for a respirator, possibly in the mistaken belief that it would provide an extra level of protection and safety. This is not true. Perhaps the most important consideration in voluntary respirator usage is the potential physiological burden placed on the user. That was particularly true given the hot working conditions encountered during the response.

Due to the extensive controls in place, there was little potential for worker or public exposure to dispersants. More than 30,000 air monitoring samples were collected by the Coast Guard, OSHA, NIOSH, and BP as part of a comprehensive air monitoring program to evaluate the potential for human exposure to dispersant and oil compounds. The results showed that response worker and public exposures to dispersants were well below levels that could pose a health or safety concern.

Additional Background: OSHA advises that, “in workplaces with no hazardous exposures, but where workers choose to use respirators voluntarily, certain written program elements may be necessary to prevent potential hazards associated with respirator use. Employers must evaluate whether respirator use itself may actually harm employees. If so, employers must medically evaluate employees and, if necessary, restrict respirator use…”

For these reasons, respirators typically are not provided to people who do not need them, and who have not passed the required tests for fitness to wear the equipment. In consultation with NIOSH and OSHA, BP developed guidelines to help determine when PPE, including respirators, was to be used. Known as the “PPE Matrix,” this guideline was made available on several websites, including websites for BP and OSHA. Under the PPE Matrix, respirators were to be used in specifically- identified situations, including during the application of dispersants. There were times, however, when the potential risks associated with using a respirator outweighed the benefits since air monitoring data indicated that worker exposures to chemicals of concern generally were well below occupational exposure limits, and respirator use could place physiological stress on the body. In those cases, protection was provided by work practices and procedures and the use of other PPE.

A paper reviewing OSHA and NIOSH’s response to the accident can be found here.

Q: Why was the public told that Corexit was as harmless as Dawn, when five of the ingredients in it are linked to cancer, 33 are linked to skin irritation and 11 are respiratory toxins, according to expert toxicologists, Wilma Subra and Dr. Susan Shaw?

A: The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Corexit, where human exposure characterization is addressed notes, “Based on our recommended product application and personal protective equipment, the potential human exposure is: Low.” Also, Section 16 of the MSDS characterized Corexit’s general product risk- “The human risk is: Low. The environmental risk is: Low.”

The same ingredients contained in Corexit are also found in common consumer products such as household cleaners, food packaging, hand lotion and cosmetics. The product ingredients alone do not determine if a compound has created a public health concern; there must also be exposure to a compound at levels and for sufficient duration that could cause harm.

The results of extensive monitoring conducted by federal agencies and BP show that response workers and the public simply were not exposed to dispersant compounds at levels that might pose a health risk.

Due to the controls in place during dispersant application operations, there was little potential for public or worker exposure when dispersants were applied to the oil offshore. This was confirmed by the government findings as previously mentioned.

Q: Why has the active cleanup of Louisiana’s coast officially ended when thousands of tar balls continue to wash on shore?

A: The Coast Guard ended active cleanup after an extensive four-year effort. Even so, we remain committed and prepared to respond at the Coast Guard’s direction if potential residual Macondo material is identified through the National Response Center reporting process and requires removal. We have teams and equipment at staging areas in Grand Isle, LA and Gulf Shores, AL ready to rapidly respond as necessary.

Additionally numerous studies and reports have documented the presence of tar balls along the Gulf coast in the decades before the Deepwater Horizon accident, and during our cleanup efforts we continued to find tarballs that did not contain residual Macondo oil.

Q: Why have only 148 people received any medical claim whatsoever well over four years after the disaster and why is the average benefit only $1,600 dollars, when doctors such as Michael Robichaux has studied hundreds of patients and observed long term and possibly lifelong health effects in the process?

A: BP and the PSC consulted with medical experts to determine compensation amounts and formulate a list of the conditions that, according to scientific evidence, could be caused by exposure to oil or to the dispersants used in the cleanup. Compensation for these listed conditions is subject to the clear terms of the MSA. As is common in class action settlements, the settlement program did not begin processing and paying out claims until all appeals were exhausted, which occurred earlier this year. As to Dr. Robichaux, his allegations were considered and rejected over a year ago by a New Orleans federal court, which found that the doctor “wholly failed to provide any competent evidence in support of the assertions he makes.”

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Follow me @AbbyMartin

Art by flickr user Hierry Ehrmann

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From Squawk Box to CSPAN – Cutting Through the Beltway Bubble & Democracy Gap

LadyLibertyByRobChandanaisFailed ideas, infighting, and glimmers of hope.

I found myself watching CNBC’s Squawk Box the other morning and an Ohio Republican named Ron Portman was on. He was being beamed in from the Russell Rotunda in Washington, with its columned grandeur and air of gravitas. What a lovely backdrop for the savaging of America. Portman is the Republican prototype. Innocent eyes. Puritan earnestness. Flour white face. Bland coat and tie. As part of that long-running hit, the GOP Weekly Address, Portman announced a seven-point plan to create American jobs. He said his program would spark an economic recovery, a whip that political hacks never tire of using to flog the presses. Here are his seven sterling steps to the next big boom:

1. Adopt “Common Sense” Healthcare Solutions

Portman didn’t go into much depth on this one, but a majority of Americans would agree. Although Portman and the people might fall into a bit of a quibble over what exactly “common sense” meant. For Portman and his colleagues, common sense healthcare means leaving it to the market, where the all-important profit margin invariably dictates stingy coverage and unaffordable premiums. For many Americans, health is a sacred human right that ought not to be subjected to human greed. But more to come on that front…

2. Power America’s Economy

Note the pun in this one? Clever. This is mostly about fracking, faster permitting, and exporting liquid natural gas (LNG). None of which are the slightest bit helpful from a climate change standpoint (See Gasland and this fast-track special for more on that). As the powers that become ever more enthralled by “energy independence” and the wondrous profits it promises our billion-dollar petro giants, the work of committed anti-frackers may be increasingly marginalized by the enormous financial incentives to fracture the bedrock of the earth, no matter how many poisoned aquifers result.

3. Begin Living Within Our Means

This is more fearmongering around the Koch brothers’ deficit reduction campaign, a bipartisan con if there ever was one. Without mentioning the elephants in the room—the military budget and the periodic trillion-dollar bailouts of corrupt mega-banks—Portman wants to slash the deficit in other ways. Gee, I wonder where those cuts will come from? Perhaps “reform to entitlement programs”? Republicans like nothing more than anything that will “encourage personal responsibility,” a perpetual refrain of Senatorial millionaires. Perhaps Goldman Sachs’ Jamie Dimon can be brought in to help make this case to Main Street.

4. Reform Tax Code to Spur Economic Growth

This is especially farcical coming right after the harangue about cutting debt. It must be acknowledged that cutting taxes cuts government revenue, which pays for programs that must otherwise be sustained with loans or—as the GOP prefers—not sustained at all, but rather demolished altogether. Yet “reform tax code” is itself code for lowering taxes on corporations and individuals, with particular callouts for cutting taxes on the rich. It’s not as though taxes are already pretty low by historical standards, and when you begin factoring in deductions, you soon arrive at globally competitive corporate rates, and occasionally discover that your multinational owes no tax at all. In any case, this concept is based on the fallacy of trickle down economics, that the more money you put into the pockets of rich people, the more they will spend creating jobs for poor people.

Perhaps Portman and his rabid neoclassical colleagues have been napping since 2008 and missed the mortgage meltdown, the too-big-to-fail bailouts, and the aftermath, when banks sat on more than a trillion dollars in government money since they had what is sometimes referred to as a “liquidity preference.” As political economist Alan Nasser has noted, nobody likes to invest in a crappy economy. Hence the need for Keynesian stimulus. But that would require government intervention, a terrifying scourge at which we’ll soon arrive. Even Obama seems to believe jobs can only come from the private sector, as he famously touted in 2009. But set reality aside, and let’s embrace failed economic theories in the hopes that uneducated workers will fall for the ruse of tax cuts one more time. Viva a falsidade!

5. Unburden the Economy from DC Regulations

This is perhaps the most comical point, especially when Portman tosses around terms like, “regulatory relief” as though American business is simply hamstrung by the myopic interference of our frothing socialist government. It’s not as though the lack of regulation, happy encouraged all through the Clinton years, led directly to the mortgage meltdown and the subsequent horror show, thanks to savings and investment bank mergers, lax lending standards, unregulated derivatives and commodities markets, and toothless criminal regulation of premeditated mortgage fraud, pension theft, and so on. And it’s not as though the history of British, American, and German, not to mention Korean, Japanese, and Chinese industrialization was dependent precisely on regulation in the form of protectionist measures such as import tariffs and currency and price controls.

6. Create Competitive Workforce

This is another laugher. As if Barack Obama isn’t already fast-tracking America labor toward Third World status. Have any Republicans been paying attention to the jobs being produced by the Obama-conomy? Part-time, low-wage, low-skill, high-turnover, nontradeable service positions. In other words, bartenders, wait staff, and bedpan emptiers. Or, to put it another way, we’re only creating jobs that can’t be exported. A Chinese laborer in Shanghai can’t bring a beer to your table in Des Moines, no matter how cheaply he can be had.

Of course, Portman’s bullet points on the workforce ignores the need to generate good jobs, and instead offers a fog of rhetoric about consolidating job training programs, consolidation being a synonym for cutting programs, as is the call to defer decisions on how to allocate training monies to states, where Republicans control the majority of legislatures. There is some logic to this: why train people for nonexistent jobs? Portman’s colleagues also smuggled education beneath the banner of a competitive workforce—another strange inclusion. Why waste money educating the population? But the purpose of mentioning education is, as always, the desire to enervate the Department of Education and empower the privatization of education, primarily by creating more charter schools.

7. Increase Exports to Create More American Jobs

Perhaps the only way to do this on a mass scale would be to drive wages down far enough for America to be competitive with Bangladesh and other nations were factories routinely collapse on top of their employees. Of course, ten buildings have collapsed in Harlem in just the last five years, so perhaps the analogy isn’t so apt. If this is indeed the goal—and the president does frequently harp on exports—this may be as much of an admission as point six that the bipartisan objective of our government is to pauperize America. Then feudal conditions can be implemented. Fiefdoms overseen by CEOs instead of Lords. We vassals can trade our labor for subsistence, never wondering where the surplus goes (who reads Marx anymore?). And perhaps then we will proudly become the world’s sweatshop, filling shipping containers with the plastics craved by Indian parvenus and Chinese arrivistes. It has been suggested that in a few years a Detroit autoworker will be competitive with his Chinese cohort. Should we rue the day, or accept our reduced privileges, even as our corporate moguls, untethered from their employees by labor arbitrage, soar above us in private sky fleets, while their state minions monitor our hoods from hovering drone helicopters, awaiting the advent of a tepid protest?

Hope Springs Infernal

But then you see Senator Dianne Feinstein making a speech before Congress that accuses the CIA of spying on the Senate. This is mighty surprising coming from one of Edward Snowden’s biggest haters on Capitol Hill. I suppose so long as the spying is done on low-wage, low-profile Americans, it’s fine. But once the surveillance community turns its wanton eye to Congress and its bevy of millionaire influence peddlers, the ethics take a sharp U-turn. Feinstein was plenty irate at the thought of Obama’s paramilitary “agency” impeding her committee’s investigation into its torture habits after 9/11. Anxious to further impair its public reputation, the CIA has accused the Senate of criminal activity and asked the DOJ to investigate. Nothing like getting out in front of a scandal, right?

But there’s always a harsh rebuke in store for a freethinker. This one comes in the form of CIA Director James Brennan, who openly scoffs at Feinstein’s accusations. A bemused Brennan claimed that illegal, clandestine activity is far below the ethical code of the CI—but wait, isn’t illegal, clandestine activity the heart of the CIA’s mission statement? You hear him tell a CSPAN staffer that Congress ought to be careful not to inflate its description of what the CIA has done. Yes, Mr. Brennan, because prudence has long been the byword of the Central Intelligence Agency. We all remember how careful it was in assessing the threat of Iraqi WMDs—it’s not as if it played fast and loose with the facts in the lead up to the Second Iraq Oil War.

What is occasionally mind-boggling is just how close these federal agencies actually come to seeing the truth—and even stating it. The Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR, released last week, provided a summary of international threats. The authors were remarkably clear-eyed in noting that Al-Qaeda has vastly expanded its influence across the Middle East. Then, in a staggering admission, they conceded that destabilizing events in the region, such as wars in Syria and Iraq, were the leading causes of Al-Qaeda’s resurgence. It’s only the smallest of leaps from here to the question, “Why is the Middle East unstable?” Answering this question would lead our brave military leaders to the nearest mirror. But the leap is never made, the question left unasked, and the dark visage never glimpsed. This habitual lack of self-incrimination is increasingly a device employed by the White House.

Few presidents have spoken the truth with more regularity than Barack Obama. He has talked about the uninsured, income inequality, the trouble with surveillance, the need to reboot American manufacturing, and on and on. It’s clear, in some compartment of his brain, he knows what’s wrong with America, but is incapable of acting to fix it. It’s as though, in his incrementalist philosophy of political change, merely stating the truth is an innovation worthy of the name ‘progress.’ He might feel differently if his most secret conversations were being openly compiled by the dismissive Mr. Brennan.

The Subversive Breakout Session

Thankfully, there are pockets of sunlight, blades of brightness that slice through the dark cloud of ignorance that darkens the beltway day. A couple weeks ago, the irrepressible Senator Bernie Sanders hosted a hearing on healthcare, an event expressly designed to cast scorn on Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). Sanders assembled a Benetton ad of healthcare experts from around the world—Taiwan, Canada, Denmark, Australia, and one dismayed and defensive defender of the ACA. This paladin of corporate interest increasingly retreated to some fortuitous study on infant mortality, only to see it quickly discredited by a bored academic seated along that dire row of socialists.

One after another, goaded by Sanders, the guests dispassionately extolled the virtues of free publicly funded healthcare—taking time, as one Canadian did, to disparage elements of their system (prescription drugs) foolishly left to the private sector. From lower costs to higher outcomes, the case was made. Eventually, the sole guest defender of the ACA and a couple of Republican Congressmen—condescendingly bemused by this minor specter of socialized medicine—argued that all of these Benetton nations were simply benefiting from America’s prodigious research budgets and thus able to offer free care. The implication being that only private industry was driving the medical innovation that saved lives. Nobody bothered to mention that vast funding for R&D comes from the government itself via taxpayer dollars. In any event, Sanders soon closed the proceedings and the foreign guests were sent packing, while the transcript of the festivities were hurled down Orwell’s memory hole. But trust me, this actually happened.

The Continental Divide

While there’s plenty of media coverage now—thanks to Occupy—about the gross inequalities of American incomes, very little coverage is given to another gap: the democracy gap. Or, to frame it otherwise, the gap between what Americans say they want and what American politicians give them. An abyss has opened between our desires and our policies. A majority want universal health care. We get the ACA. A majority want us out of other countries. We get clandestine coups. A majority want more spending on education. We get bigger Pentagon budgets. If polls like those of Pew or Gallup are to be believed, Americans generally don’t get what they want. Examining some of the debates underway in the beltway bubble is enough to illuminate you to this fact—you needn’t poll anyone. The story of our anti-democratic drift also occasionally surfaces, like a bubble from a gaseous swamp, amid the general miasma of mainstream media. The stray left-wing blogger. A labor union old-timer scribbling in a socialist rag. The curious senator with a bottomless ire for injustice. If only there were some force multiplier by which we could clone and amplify their voices. But then, something like that would have to be called democracy.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry. He lives and works in New York City and can be reached at [email protected]

Photo by Flickr User Rob Chandanais

“Obamacare” and the Bogus Healthcare Debate

OBAMACAREcharlesfettingerThe biggest secret of politics in the United States is that a majority of the population is to the left of both major parties.

This can be amply demonstrated by comparing public opinion on a host of issues to the policies pushed by corporate and political elites. Whether it’s US aggression overseas, raising taxes on corporations and the Super Rich, expanding social services or any number of other issues, there is a vast disconnect between the people and those who purport to represent them.

This perhaps more than anything explains the widespread lack of public interest in voting. Rather than a result of apathy or ignorance, as many elite pundits arrogantly assert, public withdrawal from the electoral process is actually an informed choice. Since people often rightly view voting as a lose-lose proposition, voter turn-out in the United States is significantly lower than anywhere else in the industrialized world, plus millions who do vote do so with little enthusiasm.

On no issue is the disconnect between elites and the public more striking than health care. For decades, public opinion has favored a single payer system such as exists in every other industrialized country. Simultaneously, corporate elites and their representatives in the two major parties have been waging an unrelenting war on the people’s right to comprehensive health care. Their goals are to privatize Medicare, destroy Medicaid, and shift the cost of employment-based plans in both the public and private sectors to workers.

This disconnect is what lends the discussion about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) now before the Supreme Court such a comical tone. Amidst all the pathetic cries about Obamacare, nowhere is it mentioned that millions of those who oppose PPACA do so not because it’s a Marxist-Leninist attack on individual liberty, but because they recognize the law as a sell-out to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. President Obama did not call on those who live and work on the frontlines of the health care crisis – nurses, social workers, public health advocates, the uninsured, the insured who have been denied necessary care – to write the bill. He delegated that task to insurance industry representatives, and they have been salivating ever since at the billions in additional profits they will reap when PPACA goes into effect.

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Abby Martin Breaks the Set on Obamacare: Where Corporations Come First

The Democrats’ claim that there was no political will for a public option, let alone single payer, was Elite Speak for those of us in charge don’t care what the public wants. No one who’s paying the slightest bit of attention should have expected otherwise. Candidate Obama received $25 million from the insurance industry in 2008, after all, roughly four times as much as John McCain. And as most reasonably bright nine-year olds understand, Met Life, Pfizer and the rest of the ruling class are not in the business of financing Marxist-Leninist revolution.

Following the lead of the rest of the world is off the table in the boardrooms of the Super Rich even though the lack of a single payer system has been an important factor in the decline of US industry’s competitiveness (Swedish, Japanese and German automakers, for example, do not have to pay a dime for workers’ health insurance). Instead, the 1% has moved much production overseas while attacking the living standards of those domestic industrial workers who remain. The massive shift of the costs of employment health plans to workers has been a major piece of the unprecedented upward redistribution of wealth that’s occurred in this country over the last forty years.

Regardless of what supporters of PPACA may say, our health care system will remain wholly inadequate. Costs will remain out of reach, care will still be denied, needed services will remain at unacceptable levels or disappear altogether, women, people of color and children will be disproportionately impacted, and the overall result will be a further deterioration in living standards for the vast majority.

Momentum for single payer is far from dead, however. Like all efforts for social justice, the push for single payer received a tremendous infusion of energy from the Occupy Wall Street movement. Among other things, Occupy shone much-needed light on who it is that really owns this country. If that light continues to grow brighter, the openings for real health care reform – not to mention many other necessary social changes – increase.

Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-winning author. Write him at [email protected]

Photo by flickr user charlesfettinger