Transcript: Thom Hartmann: CA could have been our Saskatchewan - how the leeches won. 1 February '12
When it comes to a single-payer health care system - we have to look toward Canada.
The Canadian government didn't just one day say, "it's time for a single-payer system" - and then poof - everyone was covered.
Instead - it was a process.
It was a process that started locally.
It began in 1946 - when Saskatchewan became the first province in Canada to say that everyone should be able to get medical care when they are sick by passing the Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act.
While that was a big step forward - the province actually wanted to do more - it wanted universal health care for all its citizens - it just didn't have the money yet.
So, they waited a few years later - then in 1950 - Alberta saw what was going on and said, 'that's a cool idea, let's try something like that' and they passed their own plan that gave health coverage to 90% of their population.
So in 1957 - the federal government saw what was going on around the nation - and passed the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act - that paid for half of all the costs of any single-payer system that was created by any of the provinces.
After that - by 1961 - 15 years after Saskatchewan - all ten provinces had similar single-payer programs.
Today - Canada has one of the highest life expectancies in the world - and spends almost a third less a year on healthcare than we do in the United States.
They're doing something right up there.
The point here is that a single-payer, universal healthcare system won't be enacted overnight in America - just like it wasn't enacted overnight in Canada.
That's because the for-profit health insurance companies here have latched on to our lawmakers and our economy so tight - it's going to take a lot to pry them off.
And along the way - no matter how much salt we toss on 'em - there will be plenty of setbacks on the road to making healthcare a basic right in America.
And we suffered one of those setbacks this week.
California could have been our Saskatchewan.
For the second time in the last couple of days - a bill to create a single-payer, universal healthcare system in California - the nation’s biggest state - got a majority of the votes in the California state Senate - but didn't pass.
19 senators voted yes - 15 Senators voted no - but the single-payer bill came up two votes shy of getting the type of majority it needed to pass - because in the California Senate you need 21 votes out of 40 members.
To make matters worse - the votes were there - but the Senators weren't.
4 Democratic Senators - Alex Padilla, Juan Vargas, Michael Rubio, and Rod Wright - did n0t vote - they abstained.
Had any two of them voted yes - California right now would be on its way to establishing a single-payer healthcare system.
Not to mention - two Democrats voted no - Ron Calderon and Lou Correa.
So that's six Democratic Senators - six of them who shot down this bill - when the people of California only needed two votes.
The stars were aligned in California for single-payer.
This bill had passed the state legislature before - twice in fact - only to be vetoed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But this time a Democrat - Jerry Brown - was in the Governor's mansion - and Democrats controlled the legislature.
But these six Democrats let us down.
And we have a pretty good idea why.
Keep your friends close - keep your enemies closer.
That's the strategy for the for-profit health insurance banksters that they will continue to use in the coming years as more and more Americans demand a single-payer health care system here at home.
That's how the banksters won in California.
The two Democratic Senators who voted "no" ranked in the top 10 in the Senate in contributions received from the health insurance industry in the last election in 2010.
Lou Correa pocketed $47,100 - and Ron Calderon took in $39,600. They both voted no.
That might not sound like a lot - but for local elections - that's a hell of a good chunk of change.
And one of the Democrats who abstained from the vote - Alex Padilla - he got $36,793 from the health insurance industry in 2010 to win his election - he also ranked in the top 10.
So here's the tragic reality - these weren't contributions - these were investments.
They're the same sort of investments that Wall Street hustlers made in Mitt Romney down in Florida - where just 200 donors raised 30 million bucks for the Romney SuperPAC.
Romney didn't win Florida - his investors won - because if Romney finds himself in the White House - then those investors are going to see big returns - like keeping the capital gains tax loophole in place - or dismantling Wall Street reform - or the Keystone XL pipeline.
In California - for-profit health insurance banksters have, for years, been making an investment in politicians - so that when the day came that the for-profit health insurance model was in danger - as it came this week - the insurance industry banksters would have enough politicians in their pocket to keep the status quo in place.
Some of the six Senators - likely people who want to be life-long politicians and would rather do what's best for their careers than for their constituents - probably didn't want their campaign contributions cut off - so they did as they were told.
Others are from more moderate districts - and are watching their backs knowing that - thanks to Citizens United - one hot-shot health insurance executive can drop ten million bucks into the next election - and that State Senator would be out of a job.
"We the people" lost the health care battle this week in California - with virtually no coverage by the mainstream corporate media - because we can't compete with the enormous money in our politics.
And until we get some statesmen and women who don't care about being life-long politicians - and who are willing to stand up to big money and do what's right - we'll keep losing and losing and losing.
A single-payer health care system in America starts with getting the money out of politics.
That's The Big Picture.