A war of words

Corporations subvert democracy and stifle health-insurance reform

Mr. Carroll recently graduated from CSU, Chico, with a master’s degree in American history.

President Barack Obama has found himself in a pitched war of words over his universal-health-care plan. He, like many Americans, may be wondering why this battle has become so acidic. Is it the simple stubbornness of outnumbered, beleaguered Republicans? Is it distrust of government, perhaps a holdover from the Reagan era? Or is it an example of corporate greed once again trumping the public good?

The debate has many potential repercussions for Americans. Harvard Medical School researchers recently stated that 45,000 Americans die annually due to lack of any or decent health care. With numbers like these, why would this even be a debate?

Clearly, we can prevent needless deaths by providing adequate, affordable health care to all Americans. But the debate has become more complicated than just what is best for all Americans. Giant health-insurance companies have become involved, wielding money and influence over numerous individuals in both political parties. They will spend terrific amounts of time and capital to ensure that they do not inherit any more competition and remain at the top of the health-insurance food chain. This dialogue has become a microcosm of many of our social ills.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not advocating the abolition of corporations, but rather increased regulation. Many corporations provide products, services and jobs that we all benefit from. And even if we wanted to, corporations are so entrenched in our society it would be almost impossible to be rid of them completely. But history has shown that unregulated corporate behavior can be damaging—witness the Wall Street collapse.

The broader question posed by the health-care discussion is: How long can democratic government and unregulated corporate behavior co-exist? The two systems have antithetical principles, and we all suffer as a consequence. Democratic government is theoretically supposed to be government by the people, for the people, with the majority of the population benefiting from citizenship. The corporate ethos is to make as much money as possible, with the company and its shareholders in mind. The consequence is that profits sometimes trump what is best for most Americans.

Simply put, corporations should not be allowed to be involved in the democratic process: no contributions, no lobbyists, no subverting democracy in order to become richer. If we removed health-insurance corporations from the universal-health-care debate, there would no longer be a debate, only universal health care for all Americans.