April 2012, Week 1


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Mon, 2 Apr 2012 21:52:59 -0400
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Readers Respond to Nick Unger - The Supreme Court,
Health Care and the Current Political Moment

Responses from Francis Sandy Easton, David Ecklein, Marcos J
Santiago, Cassandra, Mary Wimbs, Ted Pearson


Politics Trumps Policy

Every two years, and especially every four years, it
seems, politics trumps policy. This has never been more
true than right now.

In early May 2008, Jobs with Justice convened its
national conference in Providence and offered a major
workshop entitled "Health Care Action Strategy Session"
facilitated by Nick Unger. It was quite well attended,
and I would estimate that at least half of the
participants had actively contributed to the growing
fight to win single-payer universal health care. I was
on a panel reporting on local and state contributions
to the struggle. I was frustrated and angry that the
facilitator continuously strained to contain the
discussion to vague generalities in order to leave room
for whomever emerged as the Democratic Party
presidential front-runner to pursue whatever
non-single- payer gambit he or she wanted and still
retain full and enthusiastic support from Labor.

From developments in Massachusetts and subsequently at
the national level, it is clear that the Democratic
Party is as addicted to commercial health insurance
money as the Republican Party is to pharmaceutical
money. Just as single payer was ruled off the table at
the beginning of the process that lead to the adoption
of the Massachusetts plan in 2006, so too did the Obama
administration and the leadership of both houses of
Congress rule single payer (and shortly thereafter the
so-called public option) off the table right at the
beginning of the federal discussion in January 2009.

That very same month, the Labor Campaign for Single
Payer was launched in Saint Louis, and it succeeded in
attaining its first goal, the winning of the AFL-CIO to
the list of endorsers of the Medicare-for-all, single
payer approach at its September convention in
Pittsburgh. At this point, nearly every major labor
organization in the country has passed resolutions in
support of single payer, yet most have fallen silent on

As we've approached this national election season, the
party line is quite clear. Even in royal-blue
Massachusetts, Democratic incumbents and leading DP
challengers assiduously avoid any mention of single
payer, even though it's a plank in the party platform
and wins handily every ballot test. The Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act is the greatest
thing since sliced bread, sufficient unto itself.

A couple of months ago, two of us from the
Massachusetts Nurses Association approached our
first-term representative in Congress to try to
convince him to sign on to the Sanders/McDermott
single-payer bill, the one that had been endorsed by
the AFL-CIO. He proceeded to speak in glowing terms of
all that PPACA would do. When I pointed out that all of
that was put at risk by the deficit-reduction deal that
he had voted for on August 1st, the conversation
abruptly ended.

More recently, we attended an organizing meeting for
Elizabeth Warren's campaign to unseat Republican
Senator Scott Brown. On each seat was a sheet listing
the issues of the campaign. There was no mention of
health care. I turned to my companion and remarked that
it looked like the healthcare crisis was over. During
the course of that organizing meeting, a number of
participants raised working- class issues that were not
being addressed. Elizabeth Warren has consistently
refused to say the words "single payer" out loud. She
has admitted to individual activists in one-on-one
asides that she supports it, but publicly will only
talk about her avid support for PPACA.

There will be no policy discord among main-stream
Democratic incumbents or candidates. Politics trumps
policy. After all, this is an election year.

Francis Sandy Easton, RN


This empty article on ACA by Nick Unger is typical of
its diehard defenders.  Amid much verbal indirection,
nowhere is the word "insurance" found.  Yet that is the
chief feature of the "Affordable Care Act", and why we
can't afford it. ACA maintains the centrality of the
private insurance industry in the US health care system
to a degree unique in the modern world.  In fact, it
effectively insures the insurance industry!

The ACA forces people into a Health Care casino run by
the insurance industry, where they must speculate on
their own medical futures.  This process, guaranteed
and subsidized by the taxpayer, amounts to forced sale
of inadequate policies without any real attempt to
control costs.  Thanks largely to the profit-taking
insurance industry and subsequent frictional losses due
to their central role, we now have the most expensive
per-capita medical system in the world.  ACA does not
promise to change this situation.

Far more perceptive analysis of ACA can be found at the
Physicians for a National Health Program (
http://www.pnhp.org/), the most prominent organization
fighting for health care reform long before Obama
appeared on the national scene.  Neither PNHP nor their
strong position against ACA is mentioned by Unger. 
Instead, we are reminded that reactionaries are using
opposition to ACA against Obama and his supposedly
progressive agenda.  What can we expect?  It is time
for liberals to recognize that, even if not stark
naked, our emperor is wearing the wrong clothes.  Those
provided for him by the insurance, drug, and HMO

See especially Marcia Angell's recent birthday card to

SCOTUS can do us a favor striking down all or part of
ACA. We must instead improve and expand our Medicare
system to cover all ages and conditions as in HR-676,
not guarantee sales and profits for the insurance

David Ecklein Marcos J Santiago MD (Chair Emeritus,
Granite State PNHP)

Rumney NH


I have 2 statements about health care.

1) Go to WHCCAMP.gov (I'm in the Final Report). It
outlines a whole program of administration of
Complementary and Alternative Medicine-It's a version
of a health reform statement.

2) I'm working on a book and some papers "Is Black
Health Care Getting out of Hand".

To Your Health, Cassandra Mary Wimbs


It is a sad commentary on the state of the movement
when erstwhile progressives join the far right in
attacking a meager progressive reform because it
doesn't solve the problem.  Here's a news flash: there
is no proposal that will solve any problem as long as
we have a system based on exploitation and racism. 
Single payer won't do it.  Even a national health
system and socialized medicine won't do it. Poverty and
grinding exploitation fueled by white supremacy will
still be the main cause of poor health and many other
social problems.  So shall we declare "victory" when
the far right trashes the little gains we've won
because they were too small.    Or maybe we should just
we give up and satisfy ourselves by agitating for

For all of its problems the ACA is a platform on which
something better can be built.  It is all that could be
won given the political dynamic of 2009.  (It's
doubtful that even a bill as weak as the ACA could be
passed today).

Nick Unger is absolutely correct: The attack on the ACA
is part of "a powerful, organized, well- financed
assault on the modern (post 1929) state and on the
advancements in democracy over the past century." 
Progressives need to organize to stop this assault on
democracy, and we could start by rallying to the
defense of the ACA with all its warts.

Ted Pearson



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