In contrast with the rapid and vast restructurings in the auto and banking industries, health care “reform” is proving a much harder task for Obama and the dominant, imperialist wing of U.S. capitalists he serves. The hallmark of fascism, tightened, centralized economic control — which, like an expanded military, U.S. rulers need to compete in a sharpening global rivalry — is developing unevenly.
In effect, the government runs GM and Chrysler, and banks and brokers have dwindled to a dominant handful. But individual capitalists have yet to display the sense of “sacrifice” Obama demanded at his inauguration, “giving our all to a difficult task.”
Reforming — especially nationalizing — health care would benefit the U.S. capitalist class as a whole in various ways. It could relieve the major expense of workers’ health care — which, for instance, cost GM $3 billion annually — thereby boosting companies’ profits. By reducing such costs, it could free up capital for rebuilding infrastructure and the rulers’ war machine, as well as make them more competitive with rivals in Europe, Japan and Canada where health care is already nationalized. It also could make people more directly dependent on the government and consequently loyal to it.
Health Battle Shows Narrow Capitalist Self-interest Persists
Reluctant, self-interested capitalists are turning Obama’s health roadshow “town meetings” into bad days on Jerry Springer. New York Times columnist, Nobel Prize winner and leading proponent of economic fascism Paul Krugman lamented: “Angry protesters…have been drowning out, and in some cases threatening, members of Congress trying to talk about health reform.” (NYT, 8/6) “Well-heeled interest groups are helping to organize the town hall mobs,” Krugman continued. “Key organizers include…a new organization called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights…run by Rick Scott, the former head of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit hospital chain.” Such hospitals, and their doctors, will lose big if Obama succeeds in eliminating current fee-for-service — which enables them to charge what the traffic will bear — and replaces it with government-mandated salaries and test charges.
Health insurers, HMO’s — fearing marginalization if a federal plan takes hold — also oppose Obama, who’s trying to carry out U.S. capitalism’s larger, long-term interests. Drug makers, however, love him, for the same reason: profits (not patriotism). Their lobbying group PhRMA has authorized a $150-million advertising budget to back Obama’s plan. Pharmaceuticals “stand to gain millions of new customers from the expansion of healthcare coverage.” (NYT, 9/9/09)
Obama’s consolidation/nationalization effort has succeeded most in auto, where short-term profit has vanished. This has slashed the DuPont’s financial power, whose Wilmington Trust is the largest creditor — meaning loser — in GM’s bankruptcy.
At GM, Obama installed ExxonMobil director Edward Whitaker as chairman. This oil giant is the largest beneficiary of U.S. imperialism’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This may even have engineered the demise of the 95-year-old influence of the DuPont family, which sometimes has been at odds with U.S. imperialists’ broader agenda. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, DuPont president Ellen Kullman quit GM’s board in December, just after Obama’s election.
Greedy Execs Ignore War Agenda for Quick Cash
Many bank executives, like health industry bosses, mainly see the current crisis as an opportunity to get even richer. Frank Rich, another NY Times’ U.S. imperialist pundit, noted, “Nine…bailed-out banks — which in total received $175 billion of taxpayers’ money, but as yet have repaid only $50 billion — are awarding a total of $32.6 billion in bonuses for 2009.” (8/9) He includes Goldman and JP Morgan. The same day’s Times editorialized for government regulation of bankers’ compensation.
CEOs and others who won’t submit to the leading rulers’ greater needs invite the full force of state power upon them. Convicted Enron bosses rot, or have died, in jail. The ever-unfolding Madoff case and last month’s round-up of crooked politicians and rabbis in New Jersey and Brooklyn help the rulers test just how much public sentiment they can stir up against wayward servants of their own class. This includes the potential to spread anti-Semitism in case it’s needed against Goldman for grabbing billions in bonuses.
But in-fighting among the bosses is no mere sideshow for workers. Capitalists’ disciplining of one another punishes the working class in far greater numbers. For every Bernie Madoff or Enron or WorldCom telecommunications exec, tens of thousands of workers lost jobs and pensions. This is especially true for black and Latino workers who, due to racist discrimination, have been thrown on the scrap heap in disproportionate numbers.
U.S. rulers are counting on Obama to impose the wartime economic discipline they require. Viewing his proposed reforms as “progress” would be a serious political mistake. Our Party’s task is to spread the only viable alternative — for workers — to Obama’s “town meeting” message. In short, we must eliminate the profit system which creates all kinds of exploiters of the working class — whether those driving for short-term immediate profits or their long-range imperialist opponents, primarily concerned with saving their system. Destroying capitalism with a communist revolution will take a lifetime of effort. J
Auto and Banks Rapidly Consolidate
In further consolidation, the bosses backing Obama have anointed just two firms, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase, as the U.S.’s flagship financiers. Goldman’s close Washington ties have earned it the nickname “Government Sachs.” And, trying not to be too obvious, once word hit the papers, JP Morgan called off an unprecedented July board meeting in Washington that was to have included Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff.
Behind the scenes, Mellon’s Bank of New York (BNY) and Boston’s State Street, both trustees of Obama’s bailout funds, have become, with JP Morgan, undisputed custodians of U.S. capital. BNY manages $19.5 trillion, JP Morgan $13.5 trillion and State Street $11.3 trillion. Beleaguered Citigroup today comes in a distant and dwindling fourth at $1.8 trillion.
And don’t underestimate former titan, now relatively small Brown Brothers Harriman. This old-money “wealth advisor’s” partners, having bankrolled House banking czar Barney Frank, pull important levers in Washington.