Universal Health Care : Fighting Off the Republicans and the Ghost of Milton Friedman

The Republics show an almost religious devotion to the doctrine of economist Milton Friedman.

The fight for universal single-payer health care: where we stand

Obviously the Republican ideologues in the Senate are going to be an ongoing problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell gives off an aura of Tomas de Torquemada with a near religious dedication to the doctrine of Milton Friedman.

By Dr. Stephen R. Keister / The Rag Blog / February 13, 2009

For those readers who question from whence I come; I am an 87 year old retired physician who for the past 18 years, since my retirement, has been working for single payer/universal health care. My previous articles on this subject appear in earlier issues of The RagBlog. In view of recent circumstances I may be assuming the roll of a Cassandria; however, so be it.

Much of the attention regarding single payer/universal health care in recent months, by numerous dedicated organizations, has been focused on the House of Representatives and the recently reintroduced HR 676. I would urge all those dedicated to this important cause to contact your representative; however, before calling, writing or e-mailing, check opensecrets.org and ascertain the amount he/she has taken from the insurance, pharmaceutical, and related industries and make your Representative aware that these facts are known to you.

As I see the situation developing, the United States Senate is becoming the outstanding obstacle to achieving any single payer/universal health care legislation should it ever pass the House. Sen.Max Baucus (D) is the point man for any “health care” legislation in the Senate and he has made it abundantly clear that universal/single payer is not on the table. In reviewing Sen. Baucus’ contributors 2003-2008, he has received $591,235 from the insurance industry, $516,813 from the pharmaceutical industry, and $535,891 from “health professionals.” And this is just the beginning!

Obviously the Republican ideologues in the Senate are going to be an ongoing problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell gives off an aura of Tomas de Torquemada with a near religious dedication to the doctrine of Milton Friedman. To better understand this, let me review Friedman’s teachings in brief, with thanks to Naomi Klein in the “Shock Doctrine.”

“Friedman had plenty of specifics. Taxes. when they exist, should be low, and rich and poor should pay the same flat rate. Corporations should be free to sell their products anywhere in the world, and governments should make no effort to protect local industries or local ownership. All prices, including the price of labor, should be determined by the market. There should be no minimum wage. For privatization Friedman offered up health care, the post-office, retirement pensions, even national parks. In short, and quite unabashedly, he was calling for the breaking of the New Deal–that uneasy truce between the state, corporations, and labor that had prevented popular revolt after the Great Depression. What ever protections workers had managed to win, what ever services the state now provided to soften the edges of the market {Social Security and Medicare}, the Friedmanites counterrevolution wanted them back.

And it wanted more than that — it wanted to expropriate what workers and governments had built during those decades of public works. All this shared wealth should be transferred to private hands, on principle.”

Ronald Reagan subscribed totally to the Friedman doctrine; hence, the beginning of the slide into the Great Depression of 2008. One can understand then why, with “negotiations” in the Senate regarding The Stimulus Bill that many items were stripped away, or greatly diminished ,from the House Bill, i.e. health care aid, Medicaid for the
unemployed, aid to elderly or disabled or elderly programs, funding for The National Institutes of Health, funding for Centers For Disease Control, as well as University Research Facilities, and Water Resources.

Have no doubts about it, the well disciplined, jackbooted Republicans of the Senate are going to stand firm in support of the Teachings of Milton Friedman! They will oppose government sponsored health care without any reservations. The fact that the United States ranks #26 in health care worldwide will not shake their resolve.

What can we who want single payer universal health care, as a human right, do about it:

  • 1) We can get to work with our Senators asking for a change in the filibuster rule. THIS MAY BE CHANGED BY A SIMPLE MAJORITY VOTE, according to The Nation Magazine. There seems to be apprehension among the Democratic leadership to do so. This is a timid bunch and will require intense citizen pressure to make such a move.
  • 2) Perhaps we should look at the French model, as of several weeks ago, when over one million French Citizens took to the streets, throughout the cities of France, in PEACEFUL marches against the government inequities. This brought together unions, professionals, clerks, academics and students and, without violenc, got the president’s attention.
  • 3) WE must push both the House and Senate to do away with “Medicare Advantage Plans” and the absurd Medicare Prescription drug plans which the Bush administration put in place to reward the insurance industries and Pharma, and which are subtly depleting the Medicare Fund. Congress Must redo these laws.
  • 4) One should check the report of The Institute for America’s Future on Feb. 12, 2009, and become familiar with the current efforts of The Peterson Foundation to undermine the retirement and health security of millions of Americans. (The cover story in the current Nation Magazine alludes to this.)
  • 5) Contribute to Physicians For A National Health Program, California Nurses, or Public Citizen. I ask a lot in view of depleted IRAs or 401Ks!
  • 6) Beware of politicians who say “I support universal health care” or “health care for all.” This is code language for “I will back insurance company health care.” The correct answer is “I support single payer/universal health care” or I support HR 676. Do not feel sad about Sen. Daschle’s departure—he had close ties to the health insurance industry. And remember that Families USA, AARP, and the AMA are opposed to single payer care. The poorly written Massachusetts health care program is already beginning to demonstrate its inherent problems in using private insurance for a government program.
  • 7) Visit the website of Physicians For A national Health Program and inform your friends and family about this site.

Finally, those of you who live in Pennsylvania should contact your local legislator and urge support for House Bill HB 1660 and Senate Bill 300, and with public pressure the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may be the first state to provide universal/single payer health care for all. The act is entitled The Family and Business Healthcare Security Act and Governor Rendell repeatedly said he will sign. According to a Quinnipac survey on May 1, 2008, 68% of Pennsylvanians support the movement.

I have perhaps a silly concern, but in view of the powerful financial interests behind the Friedman Doctrine and all it represents, when I hear President Obama speaking up for care for the poor, adequate health care, public works, the right to unionize, the name of Salvador Allende comes to mind. We already hear the right wing media calling him a “socialist” or, even worse, “a communist.” We must keep our reason and not be led astray by false prophets or fear mongers. Fascism, where it has developed, has always come in the guise of preventing socialism.

The Rag Blog

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1 Response to Universal Health Care : Fighting Off the Republicans and the Ghost of Milton Friedman

  1. Cindy Purvis says:

    I just learned of a PHAN (Pennsylvania Health Access Network),Conference in Harrisburg in March. A lot of good people will come together to hear about health care reform that will not work. The conference will cost a lot of money and help no one. They are not going to even discuss the proposed Single Payer legislation. What a shame. Why don’t these good people stand up for those they represent and demand the fix?

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