Looking backwards, "dreamers" often look most practical
David Moberg, one of our best labor-oriented writers, has posted a must-read article about how unions had tried to push industry to better use technology to create more fuel efficient vehicles in the 1950s, and to push for legislation to enact national health insurance legislation during the 1970s.
And here is Harold Meyerson, who I have admired since the early 1980s--back when our hero Michael Harrington would show up at a Democratic Party convention to talk about building a Debsian socialism with reference to utilities, automobiles, oil and gas, and building mass transit and revitalized labor movement--discussing how Americans are way ahead of elite politicians on the importance of seeking to reverse the trend of growing income inequality. Meyerson does not say, but I think he would agree that the three most important public policy proposals one should support to reverse income inequality are the following:
1. Enacting a single payer medical insurance program (aka Medicare for All). This frees workers from the fear of lost insurance, gives people a chance to take risks in their employment to pursue their dreams or at least better opportunities, etc.
2. Enacting labor law reform legislation to make it easier for workers to join unions and maintain union representation.
3. Restoring tuition subsidies for Americans to attend college for little or no money. Elite politicians and advisers have forgotten what elitists such as James Conant Bryant knew in May 1940: that upward mobility from the 1930s through the early 1970s was significantly helped through a tuition-free higher education. But lefty Stanley Aronowitz reminds us that we cannot turn over education policies to back-room, elite technocrats and expect results that will exceed the period of the 1940s through 1970s.
Finally, a last article from the great American Prospect magazine: Paul Starr, a sociologist who knows his stuff, provides an inside look at the debacle of Hillary Clinton's attempt to help her husband enact a national health insurance plan. The article is far nicer to Hillary than is warranted, however, and I remain on the side of the commenter "DrSteveB" who said the following in a comment responding to the article:
"They (meaning the Clintons) compromised with the insurance industry from before the beginning of negotiation, and got nothing guaranteed in return. They refused to even have single payer on the agenda. From as early as the pre-innaugural economic summit, single-payer was not even allowed to be discussed among the range of theoretical options. Their hope was to co-op the insurance companies and big business. There was a brief moment when they had some of big business, but they never had the insurance industry. It was classic triangulation, by seeming ever so moderate by writing off the left.
"But alas, they forgot to actually get the guarantee of agreement from the insurers ahead of time. In effect, they compromised without even negotiating.
"Meanwhile they lost the base and grassroots.
"One thing we have learned is that the insurance industry and republicans will oppose any plan. It does not matter if it is an already compromised plan such as a mandates, or a more rigorous plan such as single payer.
"Same is playing out in California: Kuehl's single-payer plan was sidelined by the Demoractic leaderhsip who passed a truly mediocre pre-compromised plan. That plan still got not a single Republican vote, is still opposed by the insurance industry, and will still be vetoed by the ever-so-moderate Republican governor.
"Meanwhile single payer is the only plan with a real grassroots movement.
"Oh and by the way, back in 1993-94, the CBO analyzed single payer as the plan making the most sense economically, the only way to cover everybody (universal) and provide real coverage for all that is needed (comprehensive) and control costs. That analysis is still true.
"Support Conyers HR-676, which has about 80 cosponsors including Rangel (chair, Ways & Means), Expanded and Improved Medicare for all (real unversal via single payer).
"p.s.: it is not 1994 anymore."
There are two telling stories that emerged during and after the health care debacle of 1993-1994: First, when Dr. David Himmelstein, a leader in the single pay movement, tried to explain the simplicity and effectiveness of a single pay plan, Hillary said dismissively, "Tell me something interesting, David." See, she knew what reality was--and David was a naive dreamer.
Then, a couple of years later, Hillary and Bill traveled to Italy and Hillary arranged for her and Bill to meet with Gore Vidal, who lived in Ravello, Italy at the time. Vidal, during their meeting, found Hillary to be a much nicer person in private than her public personna. But he took the opportunity to tell her she, not people like Himmelstein, are the ones who are naive. In this interview from Playboy magazine (sorry for that link, but Vidal did say this publicly elsewhere), Vidal even used the same word I used to describe her attempt to secure health insurance security: "debacle."
"PLAYBOY: Hillary Rodham Clinton visited you in Italy. You discussed the failed attempt at creating a national health service. What happened?
"Gore Vidal: The health care proposals of the Clintons and the subsequent debacle show corporate America at its most vivid, protecting its turf and destroying anyone who tries to discipline it.
"Of course it was a conspiracy, though Hillary's phrase, "right wing," hardly defines it. I said to Hillary, "If you had made the insurance companies public enemy number one, the advantage--and perhaps victory--would have been the public's." She said, "We tried to be fair to everyone." Challenged by an attempt to bring the U.S. into the civilized world--all other first-world countries have national health programs--the insurance and the pharmaceutical companies, together with some high-spirited members of the American Medical Association, vowed that the U.S. will never have such a service. Why? A third of the costs for most health care under the present system goes to insurance companies for filling out forms and filling up their bank accounts, with not a Band-Aid for us. Then, just to make sure no other politician would try to give the American people anything for their tax money, they set out to destroy the Clintons personally with various lurid charges--necrophilia is in the wings--while taking endless legal actions against them, to bankrupt everyone. Those involved have now got the message: This is America. No one challenges the rich and their corporations. The only public money that can be spent for the public is for military procurement--that's how we've accumulated $5 trillion worth of debt. The Clintons were taught an expensive lesson about their humble place in society. Just another pair of lawyers in a government of lawyers for the benefit of lawyers. It is unlikely any president will ever again try to give the people anything for their tax money. Other than a war, of course."
And what has Hillary learned from this? Nothing. She continues to think there is a need to be "fair" to behemoth international financial, insurance, oil and telecom interests. No, Hillary, that's not the way to frame the question. The question is not "Am I fair to every interest?" The real question is "What public policies are we going to pursue to undermine the power of international corporate behehmoths and increase public power and public rights?"
"Dreamers" like Kucinich understand that. Gore, and to a lesser extent, Edwards have learned to begin to understand that. And people we admire throughout American history, including FDR, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eugene Debs, Earl Warren, Jefferson and RFK understood that. What wealthy right wing jerks like to say of the poor applies far more to them: "It's for their own good."