Who owns America? Not you and me, that's for sure, and that's why Americans don't have universal health coverage.
Everybody agrees medical costs are too high, too many individuals are not covered and that the system needs to be fixed. But the people who own America don't want real change, and they're the ones who will tell Congress how to write the next health care bill. Here's how it works.
Americans feel empowered when they hold an election and send the winner to Washington, but the people who keep that elected official in office are the ones who fund the candidate's next campaign. The man or woman with the most money wins more than 90 percent of the time, and most of the time that's the incumbent.
I live in the 9th Congressional District, so I checked Rep. Nathan Deal's campaign donations. You probably voted for this man. In other words, you put him where he is today. But when was the last time you had any face time with him. Can you walk into his office and discuss health insurance with him? Probably not, but I'll tell you who can.
The names are right there on the Federal Election Commissions Web page. Deal took in almost a million dollars in campaign donations in the last election cycle, and that's not unusual. So did other incumbents. U.S. senators raked in even more.
Deal is the ranking Republican member of the House Subcommittee on Health. The Political Action Committees that financed his re-election represent all the major players in today's health system: insurance companies, pharmaceutical houses, biotech people and just about every doctor's association in the country. These people make big bucks from the U.S. health system just as it is. They're not anxious to change the system
Multiply the $912,801 Deal took in during the 2007-08 election cycle by 435, the number of men and women in the U.S. House. Then multiply the millions more needed to finance a single senatorial race by the number of senators, 100. That's over half a billion dollars right there.
That kind of money can buy a lot of face time. Money corrupts and nowhere more so than Congress.
Back when Bill Clinton tried to reform the health care system, the League of Women Voters had a chapter in White County. Before the League endorses an issue, it undertakes a two-year study. Every chapter participates.
When our women gathered in the local library, no one in the room wanted a government health plan; it simply didn't fit with our political philosophy. But after two hours of debate, everyone agreed that we must have a single payer plan. Furthermore, nobody but the government could do it.
Poll after poll show that the majority of Americans agree: A single payer plan is necessary, but that's where they stop thinking. They can't quite take the final step, despite the fact that just about every other industrial nation in the world has government-run universal health insurance.
And it's so easy for big money to sabotage health care reform. Just sow a little doubt. Will you be able to see your own doctor? Will you retain the benefits you have now? Will taxes go up?
Federal law limits the amount of money Political Action Committees can donate to individual candidates but not the amount they can spend on issue-related ads. Once again propaganda money comes from the same big players who donate millions to keep their friends in office.
You and I pay congressional salaries through our taxes, but the big money people finance the elections. They frame the discussion and form public policy. They will decide what kind of health care coverage the country gets, not you and me.
The system is broken, but don't look to members of Congress to fix it. They're unlikely to bite the hand that feeds them.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears every other Tuesday and on gainesvilletimes.com.