Friday, March 26

Obamacare -vs- I Could Care Less : a view from Italy

Regardless of what you think about the results of Sunday’s historic vote in America – to provide health care to all Americans, one thing is certain:  most pundits agree that Obama and many in his party ‘put everything on the line’ -- their name, their party, their future - in order to form, what Obama loves to pronounce, “A more perfect union.”  Democrats had been fighting for this cause for decades, with the now-Octogenarian Democratic Michigan Congressman John Dingell introducing a health care bill year after year, picking up where his father had left off.
For someone in Italy (and even countries from Canada to Costa Rica and beyond, the question wasn’t so much about ‘why’ the U.S. should be providing health care, but, ‘why not?’.  This most basic of civil services, with all of its failings, is still a right in much of the civilized world.  But, from where I sit in Rome, this is not the issue.
Instead, I’ve seen two party heads spending the last 18 months fighting – desperately at times – to change their countries.  One, for the good of all their countrymen (even republicans). Another, for the good of himself and his party cronies.  The ‘battles’ being played out night after night in the media could not be so markedly diverse; it’s as is if both were cruising along on magnificent ocean liners; except one was on the QEII and the other, in a strange, alternative world, so upside down that it would appear we were all on the Poseidon.

Berlusconi has proven to be quite adept at pursuing his ad personam laws, especially with a majority rubber-stamping parliament in place.  Over the years, he’s successfully gotten a number of cases against him thrown out, all the while disparaging the judicial arm of Italy’s government.  The pinnacle of his manoeuverings;  passing a law giving people in power immunity from prosecution while in office.  That really makes one confident that politicians will be acting in the best interests of their electorate.

Berlusconi, in his self-interest zeal, has not only maligned the judiciary, but he attacks the free press (those not owned by him, of course) regularly; getting journalists fired, pulling shows off the air, and now trying – as if reading from the Iran manual of media relations – to silence the bloggers (especially those that write mean things about him).  His own channels and the public RAI1 play politics without care for 'equal opportunity on the airwaves'.  Always trying to find a way to skirt the law, his new approach is that all bloggers need to be written up in the ‘albo’ or listing of journalists with degrees in it (and anyone who reads the rot written by many many ‘journalists’ in the Bel Paese will know that’s a real seal of quality).  Even if you wanted to, how you would be ‘let in’, of course, would be up to a government stooge.

And finally, with this weekend’s Regional government elections. Berlusconi’s party has shown such an utter disregard for the rules of law that even President Napolitano, had to intervene.  The party lists of candidates in many cities (including Milan and Rome) were not presented officially, excluding them from the elections.  Berlusconi’s banter:  “It doesn’t matter – we’ll get around this trivial detail.”  And he then held an all-night law-making session to change the laws expost facto, once again showing total disregard for government and the people he supposedly represents.  

It’s good to see Americans taking an interest in their politicians and the political processes – however pathetic – that get them their laws like National Healthcare.  What’s sad is to see an entire country reaching a point of cynicism whereby ‘all politicians’ and politics are alike – and laws are made to suit themselves, not the people.  
With a Prime Minister as the poster child of that “I could care less” cynicism.  
 Berlusconi still remains popular for the very chutzpah he shows at every turn – but, at what price, Italy?


Dave514 said...

Right back at you, Obamacare---but at what price...the US Constitution!


PS Don't think for a moment that I don't want health care reform...I do. But not this abortion and the need, you'll see, for a VAT tax to pay for it. The man is a far left Socialist. This is not what the US is about, never has been.

The hatred for the Democrats now far exceeds what the Democrats had for Bush. It's not based on race either.

Dave514 said...

If your still not sure of the Democrats real agenda read the following that appears in today's papers.


Democratic Senator: Health Care Law to Address 'Mal-Distribution of Income'

After the Senate passed a "fix-it" bill Thursday to make changes to the new health care law, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the influential Finance Committee, said the overhaul was an "income shift" to help the poor.

As Democrats tout the moral underpinnings of the federal health care system overhaul -- ensuring health care coverage for nearly all Americans -- one senator appeared to go off message when he said the legislation would address the "mal-distribution of income in America."

After the Senate passed a "fix-it" bill Thursday to make changes to the new health care law, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the influential Finance Committee, said the overhaul was an "income shift" to help the poor.

"Too often, much of late, the last couple three years, the mal-distribution of income in American is gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy and the middle income class is left behind," he said. "Wages have not kept up with increased income of the highest income in America. This legislation will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America."

That contrasted with the arguments Democrats have been making in the past year for reinventing the health care system: to expand health care coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans and tighten regulations on insurance companies while reducing the federal deficit.

But some Republican critics have suggested the overhaul is taking the country down the path to socialism. The nearly $1 trillion legislation pays for itself in large part through new taxes on the wealthy.

Baucus' statement could give Republicans ammunition as they seek to repeal the law and regain control of Congress in the November elections.

GOP strategist Matt Schlapp, the White House director to former President George. W. Bush, told that Baucus' statement reflected the "duality" of a responsible Democrat who understands the ramifications of tax policy on Americans but has a "foot in the camp of the most radical and rabid big government activists that are advocating for some breathtaking policies."

"It's interesting," he said. "He's not the senator I would use as the poster boy for radical and misunderstanding of market dynamics."

Irreverent Italy said...

For all it's faults (and there are many, esp. w/o a public option & no caps on how the insurance cos. will rape us in premiums - just like Wall Street w/o caps went quickly back to business as usual), it's still a step in the right direction.
It's also - by representative govt - the Majority vote, even if 'teabaggers' & their hypocritical ilk outhysteria the rest of us'.

Now, don't shoot the messenger, but I think Frank Rich sums it all up pretty well here:

In which he so accurately asserts,

"As no less a conservative authority than The Wall Street Journal editorial page observed last week, the bill’s prototype is the health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what used to be considered Republican ideas."

And, finally, like Rush says 'he'll move to [socialized health care, ndr] state Costa Rica, you also tell me to 'stay in Italy' - virtually no greater bastion for socialized govt - high taxes - govt spending - graft & corruption exists in the developed world.

Why you would think that's a better option than capitalist USA is beyond me...

But then again, GOPers - in their hype - don't usually think logically.

Of course, seen from a point of view of the Bush&Co. deficit spending, Italy does seem like a paradise.

Ggnitaly84 said...

LoVed your article francesca! well said and i totally agree ( as an american living in italy and also passionate about us politics and italy) .. I think only fox news and the like use the word "obama care" and liken the new bill to stalinist russia.. I prefer BBC world and the like to get the most "umbiased news" ,i do the think the bill is a step in the right direction to get everyone covered and cutting those costly emergency room visits down!

Berlusconi is a disgrace and its obvious this man is abusing/has abused his time in office. To openly challange ALL of the magistrates in your own country and change the laws to your delight thats some kinda power. I do hope for someone who can knock mr. crony ( berluscrony ) off his throne... we shall see!

Irreverent Italy said...

I like that Berluscrony....but, I'm afraid the right doesn't have the monopoly on such abuses. See: ex-Rome Mayor Rutelli's wife who ran all the parking spots when they were - suddenly- instituted throughout all of Rome!

But, he never divested himself of his media empire...and that, as oft-indicated in the Economist, is the real issue here.

Grazie! FM

Beki said...

I would ask, "Why are the Italian people letting Berlusconi get away with it?", but, from my experience with asking that question for the 8 years of the Bush reign of terror, I know that the answer is a dismal one.

I hope the Italians don't wait until their country is beyond repair before replacing him.

Anonymous said...

Who could disagree with "Mad"?

Anonymous said...

Berlusconi looks from America and Mexico close to Mussolini, only without the imperial ambitions and the fascistic trappings.

Irreverent Italy said...

Au contraire, or al contrario, he definitely has imperial ambitions, and his V.P. is a former fascist...