I've enjoyed some of the debates here discussing some of the current divisions within the left as "progressives" vs. "corporatists", a.k.a. neoliberals. I'd like to throw my $.02 in the ring, however, in favor of a different kind of frame for this debate.
I think a legitimate point can be made that it's only a very ideological kind of progressivism that demands single payer health care or the public option only because we want to eliminate private health insurance. If that were all that it was about, I would have to agree with Obama's statement that the public option is just an ideological symbol that's not very important practically.
For me, however, the question of "corporatism" is more direct and practical than that; it's a question of political corruption. The basic question that should be considered is whether a particular law or policy advances the public interest, or has been corrupted such that it only advances private interests
I think we miss the point if we allow corporatism to be subsumed into an age-old left/right ideological battle. Corporations are not in and of themselves evil. First of all, you would need to separate out for-profit from other kinds of corporations such as nonprofits, worker's cooperatives, etc. But even with respect to for-profit corporations -- I don't consider them to be inherently good or bad.
The for-profit corporation is organized for the purpose of maximizing profits to its shareholders. It's up to government to establish a legal and regulatory playing field that aligns that goal with broader societal goals.
To state this another way, if we have good laws and regulations, then our corporations will do good things in order to maximize their profits. If we have bad laws and regulations, then they will do bad things in order to maximize their profits. If a corporation can make a billion dollars inventing new energy-efficiency technologies, one certainly will. And if it's possible to make a billion dollars denying people health care, then there will surely be one (or more) who will do that as well.
Understanding this brings the focus back to government. Government is (supposed to be) organized for the public interest. Whether you are a "progressive" or a "corporatist", or even a conservative or a teabagger, nearly everyone has to agree that the basic goal of government is to serve the public interest.
But a corrupt government does not serve the public interest; it serves private interests first and foremost, even to the detriment of the public interest. To make the point most clearly, think for a moment about the classic archetype of a corrupt, Third World dictatorship. In that case there is barely any concept of the public interest. Government power is used entirely to serve the private interests of the dictator and his croies, and the rest of the society suffers mightily.
I think the real issue, then, that the anti-corporatists are getting at is corruption -- the idea that government is not passing laws and implementing policy in the public interest, but is instead primarily serving the private interests of those corporations that have the money and clout to successfully exert their influence. I would also say that to the extent that there is any potential common ground with the teabaggers, it is also on this same point: that government power is being used not in the public interest, but to serve particular private interests that hold power in Washington.
Bringing us back to the health care bill, then, it should not be a question of opposing the health care bill because it doesn't do enough harm to private health insurance corporations. The real question, and the only question, that we all want to answer is whether on balance the legislation is in the public interest, or whether it's been corrupted to the point that it serves only the private interests of the for-profit medical industry, to the detriment of everyone else.
I must admit that on this particular question, I'm still undecided, partly because it's still a moving target, and partly because it's so complex. I think it's interesting, however, that in retrospect, I was unable to cite a single example in response to Seneca Doane's diary asking for examples of good federal legislation passed in the last 30 years that challenged corporate interests -- aka good, non-corrupt, federal legislation.
I'm not real confident that in ten years, I'll be citing this health care bill as an exception to that trend . . .