Tom Hayden : Health Care a Big Win for Progressives

Grab of CSPAN screen. Image from gothamist.

We achieved what was possible:
Health care is victory for progressives

Passage of a trillion-dollar health care package means a trillion dollars not available to the Pentagon for their long war.

By Tom Hayden / The Rag Blog / March 26, 2010

This is not the time for progressives to mourn the defeat of single-payer or the public option, it is the time to cheer the health care victory as an important victory and prepare to stop the right wing in their tracks and discredit their religion of market fundamentalism. It’s the time to push further against that same fundamentalism by demanding such reforms as regulation of Wall Street and a rollback of the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance — all before the November election.

We did not achieve what was politically impossible, Medicare for All. Insurance companies and Big Pharma will benefit from the health care legislation, but the Machiavellians always get their pound of flesh in exchange for conceding reform. We added new health protections for millions of Americans, opened possibilities for further health reforms, and avoided the beginning of the end of the Obama era, which frankly is what the unified right-wing is still trying to bring about.

It is the nature of social movements to fragment and decline when they achieve victories which fall short of their hopes and dreams. It is the nature of counter-movements to become more dangerous and unified when they feel threatened with decline.

There is plenty of analysis of how the public came out ahead in this final package despite all its flaws and chicanery. Let me add one fundamental point no one has mentioned:

Passage of a trillion-dollar health care package means a trillion dollars not available to the Pentagon for their long war.

In his book making the case for the U.S. as a modern Goliath, the conservative political philosopher Michael Mandelbaum wrote of his fear that Sixties social programs will undermine the appetite and resources for empire, which he described as an American “world government.” [MM, The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World’s Government for the 21st Century, Public Affairs, 2005]

“Democracy [will] favor butter over guns,” Mandelbaum worried. As programs like health care expand and social security cutbacks are fought, “it will become increasingly difficult for the foreign policy elite to persuade the wider public to support the kinds of policies that, collectively, make up the American role as the world’s government. Foreign policy will be relegated to the back burner,” he groused.

We have no moral right or even competence to be “the world’s government,” of course. The more we invest in our domestic needs — health care, schools and universities, environmental restoration, green jobs — the more unsustainable become trillion-dollar wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and beyond. The seeds of an alternative foreign policy lie in building an alternative domestic one.

[A political activist for more than four decades, Tom Hayden is director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center . A founder of SDS and a former California State Senator, Hayden is the author of The Long Sixties (Paradigm, 2009).]

Thanks to Carl Davidson / The Rag Blog

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4 Responses to Tom Hayden : Health Care a Big Win for Progressives

  1. b.f. says:

    Didn’t military spending on a long war and Pentagon automated battlefield war preparations just continue to increase–even after the Medicare law was passed in the early 1960s and U.S. government spending on health care for the elderly also increased?

    Progressive feminists apparently have a different take on the recent health care bill than T.H. does. As NOW President Terry O’Neill said in her March 21, 2010 statement, titled “Health Care Reform Victory Comes with Tragic Setback for Women’s Rights”:

    “As a longtime proponent of health care reform, I truly wish that the National Organization for Women could join in celebrating the historic passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It pains me to have to stand against what many see as a major achievement. But feminist, progressive principles are in direct conflict with many of the compromises built into and tacked onto this legislation.

    “The health care reform bill… fails in many important respects. After a full year of controversy and compromise, the result is a highly flawed, diminished piece of legislation…This bill is only a timid first step toward meaningful reform.

    “Fact: The bill contains a sweeping anti-abortion provision. Contrary to the talking points circulated by congressional leaders, the bill passed today ultimately achieves the same outcome as the infamous Stupak-Pitts Amendment, namely the likely elimination of all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion…

    “Fact: President Obama made an eleventh-hour agreement to issue an executive order lending the weight of his office to the anti-abortion measures included in the bill…This executive order helps to cement the misconception that the Hyde Amendment is settled law rather than what it really is — an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. It also sends the outrageous message that it is acceptable to negotiate health care reform on the backs of women.

    “Fact: The bill permits age-rating, the practice of imposing higher premiums on older people. This practice has a disproportionate impact on women, whose incomes and savings are lower…

    “Fact: The bill also permits gender-rating, the practice of charging women higher premiums simply because they are women. Some are under the mistaken impression that gender-rating has been prohibited, but that is only true in the individual and small-group markets. Larger group plans (more than 100 employees) sold through the exchanges will be permitted to discriminate against women — having an especially harmful impact in workplaces where women predominate…

    “Fact: The bill imposes harsh restrictions on the ability of immigrants to access health care, imposing a 5-year waiting period on permanent, legal residents before they are eligible for assistance such as Medicaid, and prohibiting undocumented workers even to use their own money to purchase health insurance through an exchange…

    “Fact: The bill covers only 32 million of the 47 million uninsured in this country, does not contain a meaningful public option and provides no pathway to a single payer system like Medicare for all. Democratic negotiators crumpled before powerful business interests and right-wing extremists…

    “We call upon President Obama and elected officials in both houses to commit to a process of steady improvement of our health care system that will result in true reform with universal coverage, realistically affordable rates and no discrimination. We still have a lot of work to do before we can genuinely celebrate.”

  2. Pollyanna says:

    I also see nothing to celebrate in this handout to Big Pharma and insurance companies! My rates are going up and my coverage is decreasing. For the first time maybe in human history, citizens of a nation are to be forced to purchase a private product or be financially penalized. Isn’t this grounds for some serious revolt, or are we truly spineless?

    If I’d had any higher expectations, I’d be awfully disappointed.

  3. Brother Jonah says:

    The legislation is a win for America and Americans, all of us, even the Tea Party. It represents a tidal change in the way Health Care is viewed, not as a commodity to be sold only to those who can afford it, but as a Human Right. For 35 years now the Republicans have had a majority in Congress OR the presidency, and for about 23 of those years, Both. They’ve not done a single thing to change the way the Poor are discarded once we become ill or injured and no longer profitable to their Corporate Masters.

    That will change. This is a major starting point. When Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, School Lunch Programs and federally subsidized Public Education were put in place in the Early sixties the Leaders of the Tea-Mob whipped up the same kind of frenzy against such legislation. Same with Civil Rights legislation.

    It’s not a hollow threat, the Corporate Masters can always get dupes to do their violence for them. They shot two of the Kennedys, and Martin King, using the same anti-Worker classist racist CRAP rhetoric. The ones who are egging on the Tea Party, giving them free airtime on Fox News, for instance, are the same ChickenHawks who “supported” the VietNam War, just, you know, not with their own presence, service or putting themselves in any kind of physical danger. Rush, Glenn, George W, Newt, Richard Cheney, Huckabee, Romney, Giuliani, O’Reilly, Hannity, Rove, Wolfowicz, Nugent… ChickenHawks all.

    They didn’t resist the Draft, had no conscientious objection to killing other People for profit. They were just to yellow to do it for themselves, so they sent others to do their for-profit killing.

    Even their deceased “heroes” Reagan and John Wayne did the same thing in World War 2.

    As Solomon said, “there is nothing new, under the sun, that which is, was before, and will be again.”

    They’ll not win. The change might seem small, with each step. If we look back over the past three centuries or so, we’ll see how mighty those small steps add up to be.

    We can’t see the future, just see how History has shaped the present, and make some crude calculations.

    My wife died from officially Multiple Sclerosis, unofficially it was from Poverty, and its conjoined twin No Health Care. That was in early 1986. Two years later Bush Senior boasted that “America wasn’t ready for a president named “Mario”, meaning that only the White English Cartel had any chance of ever running anything in America. Someone who is half-“white”? And the son of an Immigrant? IMPOSSIBLE! Two months ago the Tea-Party declared Health Care to be DOA.

    And immediately, the Corporate Insurers jacked up their rates in celebration, Anthem/Blue Cross jacked theirs up 20 percent here in Colorado Springs, one of the nesting spots of the Tea-Party Chickenhawks. That’s how they reward loyalty, I guess.

    By doing so, they shot their wad. That’s a Black-powder Musket reference, by the way, in a smoothbore you pour in the powder, then put in a wad of cotton, then tamp it down with a ramrod, then drop the bullet down.

    Tamping it down sometimes causes the powder to detonate. If you do that with the ramrod in your hand you lose a finger or two. It’s how Jesse James wound up with only 9 fingers.

    But they shot their wad. Tipped their hand, showed their cards. Every move they make now is almost predictable, including the Terror Threats against Democrats.

    Anticipated and countered.

    They’ll not win and Health Care will be expanded.

  4. Alan L. Maki says:

    This is no win for anyone except the health insurance industry, doctors, HMO’s, hospitals and everyone who profits from healthcare.

    We are living in the 21st Century and socialized healthcare’s time has come.

    Tom Hayden is willing to excuse everything Obama and the Democrats do… its time for building an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans with peace, real healthcare reform and jobs with the enforcement of affirmative action at the top of the agenda countering the Wall Street drive for maximum profits.

    A socialized healthcare system would create up to ten-million new jobs with funds cut from ending these dirty wars.

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