Volume 20, Number 11
NYC Subway Workers
Outside The Bomb
Malai Joya Interview
Peltier: Silence Screams
Responsibility & Guilt
Gabriel matthew Schivone
Shock, Awe, and Antioch
George j. Bryjak
Guatemala '07 Election
Black Caucus Demise
Crackpots & the Left
Men and Abortion
Eleanor J. Bader
Guthrie's Live Wire Reviewed
In the Valley of Elah Review
Genocide in Iraq?
Health Care Hokum
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Health Care Hokum and U.S. Political Culture
The false and disingenuous specter of “socialized medicine”
Could United States political culture be any more degraded? According to leading presidential candidates of the Republican Party, the Democrats are advocating dangerous “socialized medicine” and “government-run health care” when they call for universal health insurance in the U.S. George W. Bush and other leading Republican politicians have used the same (supposedly terrible) terms to justify their Dickensian opposition to Congressional legislation that would expand a state-federal children’s health insurance program (the so-called SCHIP system).
Never mind that the John Edwards/ Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton health care plan would seek to strengthen employer-provided health benefits and could generate new markets for private policies purchased on an individual basis. The Edwards (et al.) plan would create a Medicare-like government option to compete with—not replace—private insurance companies. This might lead to a socialized health insurance some day if everybody were to choose government insurance—unlikely, given (among other things) the Democrats’ failure to advocate exploiting public sector economies of scale by opening the existing 43 million-strong Medicare program to anyone who prefers government over private insurance.
But even a fully government-funded Medicare-style/ single-payer health insurance plan would not be “socialized medicine.” Fully “socialized medicine” happens when doctors, nurses, and other medical staff are employed by the government and when drugs, medical technology, and other basic medical means and materials are provided by the public sector. Nobody in the Democratic Party is advocating such full-blown socialization. Under the United States’ relatively successful and popular Medicare program, the government pays for senior patient care and sets reimbursement rates, but the system’s beneficiaries receive medical services from predominantly private doctors, clinics, and hospitals. In a similar vein, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) that Bush denounces as a Trojan Horse of medical Bolshevism typically provides care through private health plans and private doctors, clinics, and hospitals.
Meanwhile, for what it’s worth, George W. Bush and an army of other Washington politicians who denounce “socialized medicine” receive regular care from the federal government’s National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. As Philip Boffey notes, “politicians who deplore government-run health care for average Americans are only too happy to use it themselves...” They do not dare call for the privatization of the nation’s large number of government-owned and -managed Veterans’ hospitals and clinics, which generally provide comparatively high-quality and low-cost care. They are understandably cautious about advocating for the privatization of the nation’s really existing single-payer health insurance plan for Americans over 65 (Medicare). At the heights of Orwellian absurdity, Mitt Romney calls the Edwards/Obama/Clinton plan “European-style socialized medicine” despite numerous strong similarities between the Democrats’ plan and the health care program he touted and passed as the governor of Massachusetts.
Romney’s xenophobic reference to “Europe’s” evil health care “socialism” is interesting given some facts of life and death within and beyond what Hendrick Hertzberg calls “the only advanced capitalist democracy on earth that does not guarantee health care to its citizens.” Hertzberg continues, “We spend twice as much [on health care] as the [single-payer] French and Germans and two and a half times as much as the [single-payer] British, yet we die sooner [despite greater per capita national wealth] and our babies die in greater numbers. Thirty-eight million Americans were uninsured in 2000; now it’s forty-seven million. Employer-based health insurance is increasingly expensive, stingy, and iffy” (the New Yorker, October 2007).
“Tell Me Something Interesting”
But bad political faith on health care is hardly restricted to the Republican side of the narrow U.S. political aisle. In rolling out her plan, which heavily plagiarizes John Edwards’s proposal (issued many months ago), Hillary Clinton has made repeated references to her supposedly heroic effort to face down the big bad insurance companies and deliver health care for the masses in the early 1990s. She’s “been there before,” she claims, fighting the good populist fight against big health care capital on behalf of the people. Never mind that the four largest health insurance companies—Aetna, Prudential, Met Life, and Cigna—helped draft and fund the indecipherable and corporate-neoliberal “managed competition” scheme the Clintons briefly advanced and then completely dropped to pursue such lovely social programs as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the elimination of poor families’ entitlement to federal cash assistance, and the beefing up of the nation’s burgeoning prison-industrial complex.
Her early 1990s health-care plan, should have been called “All Power to the Big Five Insurance Corporations.” As Robert Dreyfuss of Physicians for a National Health Care Program (PNHP) observed at the time, “the Clintons are getting away with murder by portraying themselves as opponents of the insurance industry. It’s only the small-fry [insurance companies] that oppose their plan. Under any managed-competition scheme, the small ones will be pushed out of the market very quickly.”
One of many low points in the Clinton administration’s pathetic health care campaign came when Dr. David Himmelstein of PNHP told Hillary Clinton that more than two-thirds of the U.S. population had evinced support for an American version of single-payer health insurance. “David,” a dismissive Clinton said to Himmelstein, “tell me something interesting.”
Having come up with a plan that embodies the worst of bureaucracy and the worst of “free enterprise,” and having seen it fail abjectly because of its abysmal and labyrinthine complexity, the Clintons dropped the subject of health care for good. The president threw away the pen that he told Congress would only sign a bill for universal and portable coverage, and instead proposed no bill or remedy at all. Thus was squandered a political consensus on health care which had taken a decade to build up, and which had been used by the Clintons as a short-term electoral vehicle against a foundering Bush I.
Obama’s Preference for “Voluntary” Solutions
In 2006 Edwards’s other health policy plagiarist Barack Obama told David Sirota that he rejected Canadian-style single-payer health insurance partly on the curious grounds that such a welcome social-democratic change would cause employment difficulties for workers in the private insurance industry. Similarly, could this mean that he supports the American scourge of racially disparate mass incarceration on the grounds that it provides work for tens of thousands of prison guards? Or that the U.S. should maintain the illegal operation of Iraq and pour half of its federal budget into imperial “defense” expenditures because of all the soldiers, mercenaries, and other workers who find employment in endless war and the military-industrial complex? How about people working for the gun industry and the gun lobby, which the famously cautious Obama and the other leading Democrats refused to challenge after the shocking atrocity at Virginia Tech? How about the people who manufacture cigarettes or the violent video games that do so much to fuel school shootings and military enlistments?
Did the “progressive” Senator really need to be reminded of the large number of socially useful and healthy alternatives that exist for the investment of human labor power at home and abroad—wetlands preservation, urban ecological retrofitting, drug counseling, teaching, infrastructure building and repair, safe and affordable housing construction, the building of windmills and solar power facilities, and the list goes on?
In a 2006 interview with Time’s Joe Klein, Obama expressed interesting misgivings even about the Massachusetts non-single payer plan for universal health insurance. He told Klein that “voluntary” solutions are “more consonant” with “the American character” than “government mandates.”
Never mind that, as Noam Chomsky noted in 2006: “A large majority of the [U.S.] population supports extensive government intervention [in the health care market], it appears. An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that ‘over 2/3 of all Americans thought the government should guarantee everyone the best and most advanced health care that technology can supply’; a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 80 percent regard universal health care as ‘more important than holding down taxes’; polls reported in Business Week found that ‘67 percent of Americans think it is a good idea to guarantee health care for all U.S. citizens, as Canada and Britain do, with just 27 percent dissenting’; the Pew Research Center found that 64 percent of Americans favor the ‘U.S. government guaranteeing health insurance for all citizens, even if it means raising taxes’ (30 percent opposed). By the late 1980s, more than 70 percent of Americans ‘thought health care should be a constitutional guarantee,’ while 40 percent ‘thought it already was’.”
Obama, it is worth noting, received $708,000 from medical and insurance interests between 2001 and 2006 (Center for Responsive Politics, 2007). His wife Michelle, a fellow Harvard Law graduate, was a vice president for Community and External Affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals, a position that paid her $273,618 in 2006.
Single Payer as Beyond the “Mainstream” Pale
It is symptomatic of the United States’ debased and corporate-crafted political culture that no candidate with a serious chance of running a viable campaign is willing to endorse the most obvious, fair, progressive, and simple health insurance solution—an extension of the single-payer Medicare (the Canadian and “European”) model to the entire U.S. population. That policy would certainly be welcomed by a significant majority of U.S. citizens and would not involve the implementation of that neo-McCarthyite bubagoo, “socialized medicine.” But since single-payer is considered too radical for the big money masters of the U.S.’s so-called “advanced capitalist democracy,” it is off the table of serious political and policy discussion—kind of like the number of Iraqi civilians murdered by Washington’s criminal war for oil and power. Dennis Kucinich and others are free to discuss single-payer all they wish, just as long as the discussion can’t be meaningfully or respectfully heard—except beyond the officially designated lunatic fringe of our self-contradictory “market democracy.”
Paul Street is vice president for Research and Planning at the Chicago Urban League. A writer and ZNet commentator, his articles and essays have appeared in Z Magazine, Monthly Review, the Journal of American Ethnic History and Dissent. He is the author of The Vicious Circle: Race, Prison, Jobs, and Community in Chicago, Illinois, and the Nation (Chicago Urban League, 2002).
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
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MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
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ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
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CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
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CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
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LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
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HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
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VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.