Where were the Tea Partiers when…

January 7, 2011

This list flies around e-mail distribution lists from time to time.  A debate I was having on Facebook last night with a high school friend who’s very conservative made me think about it; I’m glad I saved it the last time I received it.

Subject: YOU FINALLY GOT MAD…

You didn’t get mad
when the Supreme Court stopped a legal
recount and appointed a President.

You didn’t get mad
when Cheney allowed Energy company
officials to dictate Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq.

You didn’t get mad
when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn’t get mad
when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn’t get mad
when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn’t get mad
when we spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn’t get mad
when Bush borrowed more money from
foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.

You didn’t get mad
when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn’t get mad
when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn’t get mad
when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing
policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.

You didn’t get mad
when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn’t get mad
when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.
You didn’t get mad
when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.

You didn’t get mad
when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn’t get mad
when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn’t get mad
when we gave people who had more money
than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion
dollars in tax breaks.

You didn’t get mad
with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.

You didn’t get mad
when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their
lives because they had no health insurance.

You didn’t get mad
when lack of oversight and regulations
from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12
trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.

You finally got mad


when a black man was elected President
and decided that people in America deserved the right
to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption,
torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the
rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 were all okay with
you,
but helping fellow Americans who are sick…Oh, Hell No!!

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Why unions should fight for single-payer health care

August 9, 2009

This is an extension of my last post, or maybe one direction it could have gone but didn’t…

One of the main reasons, oft cited even by those who don’t really support healthcare reform, that we need heathcare reform (even though some of those who say it don’t really mean it) is skyrocketing costs.  We also need it, according to some, because small businesses can’t afford the costs of insuring their employees and feel like they shouldn’t have to.

The union member and officer in me bucks against the claim that employers shouldn’t have to insure employees.  Health insurance was a hard-won battle, and in an era where corporations are earning (and often frittering way, but that’s their fault) huge profits, it’s not workers’ faults if those corporations choose not to invest in their own employees.  I realize it’s different for small businesses.

At my own job, when I got hired, our health benefits package was one of the big selling points (not to me–I’d been uninsured for so long that to have *any* insurance seemed like a luxury).  Our faculty didn’t pay for our insurance at all.  Combined with our (at the time relatively high) salaries, the package our system offered was really hard to turn down.  The 2007–11 contract changed all that; our salaries are coming closer into line with peer systems, and for the first time, we had to start paying a portion of our health insurance premiums.  It was a bummer, but we were convinced that it was high time we shared some of the burden of our own expenses.  And we traded that for some other concessions during negotiations, which I won’t get into here because if you’d be interested in them, you already know what they were :).

But in retrospect, it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that the labor movement needs to be heavily involved in the fight for single-payer healthcare.  And for several reasons–

1.  Labor cares more about workers than management does, and certainly more than the healthcare industry does.  If anybody is going to conduct this fight out of proper motivation, it’s us.

2.  Labor has a history of winning healthcare fights.

3.  Management uses healthcare as a bargaining chip with which to push labor for concessions.  Give up salary, for example, or we can’t afford your insurance any more.  In academic contexts, we might here something like “If you don’t accept furloughs, we can’t insure you.”  Or, “If you insist on keeping your insurance benefits as they are, we can’t afford to hire more faculty eligible for those benefits.”  Nothing you haven’t heard before if you’ve been involved, no matter how distantly, with these kinds of conversations.

4.  Linking labor with other progressive movements/organizations will reinvigorate labor.  I realize not all labor activists/organizers are progressive, but I’m convinced one of the reasons the labor movement has lost momentum over the last few decades is that its focus has become almost entirely on contracts and negotiations.  When those don’t go well (even when they do), it’s hard to keep memberships interested and, more importantly, mobilized.

On that happy note…

[ADDED later:  If you belong to a union that hasn’t yet signed onto this effort, check out <http://unionsforsinglepayerhr676.org/union_endorsers>.


Conservatives and health care

March 5, 2009

It shouldn’t be any surprise at this point that conservatives, especially those whose knee-jerk hatred of all things Obama, are rolling out the mischaracterizations of the Obama health care plan.

First, there is no health care plan on the table.  Yes, Obama explained his ideal version of a plan during the campaign, and yes, if (like GW Bush) he had no respect for his limits on his Constitutioinal authority, he would implement that plan.  But we all know he can’t and won’t do that, so talking about the specifics of that plan is pointless.  He won’t get exactly what he wants; he knows that already, and so does anybody else who doesn’t simply screech “The sky is falling” every time he opens his mouth.

Second, even if he could simply establish a plan tomorrow, it wouldn’t be the “socialized medicine” that conservatives decry (which is too bad, because that system works and works well, occasional overhyped anecdotes to the contrary notwithstanding).  As he said probably five thousand times during the campaign, under his ideal proposal, people who have insurance they like can keep it.  Nobody will have to give up any coverage they decide to pay for.  Or, put in a way that’s more bellicose than Obama ever said it but still true, not one individual’s choices about healthcare are limited under the proposal.  This is the same bad logic that Christian conservatives apply to gay marriage, arguing that allowing other people to do something other than what they do risks an entire institution that has nothing to do with them.  No marriage will be at risk if gay couples can marry; nobody’s health coverage will be at risk if more people are covered.  It’s just an idiotic position, and I’m always amazed at the number of smart people I know who believe it anyway.

Third, as one of my Facebook friends puts it, no tax payer will be “paying for coverage” for people who are more affluent than they are.  There are two principles at work in the Obama proposal.  One is that the government should increase *access* to health care for people who can’t afford it.  There’s nothing in the proposal that would fundamentally change the distribution of actual health care in this country–the industry isn’t being nationalized or anything even remotely like that.  Second, because public health is one of the most important issues we face *as a nation*, it’s a widely shared *public responsibility* to make sure people who can’t currently afford health care should get it.

That’s all to say, nothing in the plan impinges on the freedom of anybody to choose what they *can* afford; it only calls on us to help people who can’t afford it.  Gee, that sounds awful.  How dare anybody want to make sure that kids and poor people can see doctors when they need to?

And finally, the evidence is very, very clear that increasing the healthiness of the population at large is good for *everybody*, including the wealthy and owners.  When people are healthier, they’re more productive, less expensive to maintain in other ways, more participatory, happier.  They do better in school, better raising their families, and on and on.  Again, I can’t understand for the life of me why anybody opposes that.

I don’t believe that opponents of the plan (or the principles that underlie it) want poor people to suffer–except for pharmaceutical and insurance  companies and other private industries that profit from illness.  I do believe people who contend that all access to health care should be based on individual “effort” and “choice” have their heads buried in the sand.  It couldn’t be more clear that public health is a public issue that effects all of us, and we all have a responsibility to make public health better.  It also couldn’t be more clear that nobody is hurt by the Obama proposal except insurance companies that currently thrive on maximizing profit at the expense of public health.  If people who can afford to keep paying insurance companies to deny them healthcare want to keep doing so, that’s their call.

But that shouldn’t stop the rest of us from establishing a healthcare system that actually takes care of people’s health first, and concerns itself with profits second–if at all.


Some thoughts on the PASSHE campus smoking ban

September 13, 2008

This week, the PA Clean Indoor Air Act went into effect.  It’s a statewide ban on smoking indoors (with a few exceptions that aren’t relevant to this post), a notion I fully support even as a smoker.

On Thursday, everybody on the WCU (and presumably the other 13 schools too) campus received an e-mail indicating that according to our governing body (the PASSHE Board of Governors), the law also precludes smoking anywhere on any campus.

Of course, as a smoker, I immediately bucked against this idea.  Not that I favor secondhand-smoking people to death, but it seemed to me that engaging in a legal activity, outdoors shouldn’t be a problem.  Other people get to do other potentially harmful things (eat meat, drive, etc), so why shouldn’t I?  Moreover, it has also occurred to me that on rainy days, the ban creates unsafe working conditions for smokers.  We already have to be outside our buildings, which is entirely reasonable, but now we also have to be out on the sidewalks away from our buildings, without any possibility of cover except umbrellas.

As I’ve thought more about it, I have mixed feelings about how hard I want to fight this.  On the one hand, as one of the people who’s now responsible for contract enforcement (as Grievance Chair), I believe we have to make sure that at least the law says what PASSHE says it says.  We can’t have them enforcing all kinds of regulations on us willy-nilly.  Sure, this is a slippery slope argument, but those aren’t always wrong just because they sometimes are (pace, Kant).  And I do think that the ban creates hazards for faculty who are otherwise engaging in legal activity.

On the other hand, I recognize that the large majority of the campus community favors the ban.  I also recognize that if PASSHE’s interpretation of the law is correct, there’s not much we can do about it. That’s for the lawyers to argue out, at least for now.

In the meantime, I would make this plea to all smokers on PASSHE campuses.  Comply with the ban for now.  And furthermore, it’s a time that calls for (what shouldn’t be but is) extra care in terms of cultivating good will with our campuses.  Don’t throw butts on the ground; extinguish them and put them in ashtrays.  If you’re standing on a sidewalk where people are walking, try to blow smoke away from them.  Smokers are more and more demonized in our culture, and anything we do to make that demonization easier makes our fight against the ban (this one and others on the horizon) that much harder.  If we act like civilized human beings, we make our case much easier to support and sustain.


Cognitive Dissonance Day

July 30, 2008

I’m officially declaring today, July 30, Cognitive Dissonance Day.  Two items spurred this declaration:

1.  On my way to campus this morning, I saw a Toyota Prius all decked out with Bush/Cheney, McCain, and other local Republican campaign stickers all over it.  Not that Republicans can’t be environmentally responsible, but given that these particular folks have all argued for expanded off-shore drilling privileges and therefore huge profits for oil companies, advertising them on the back of your hybrid is, well, inconsistent.  Sure, I realize the driver might have chosen a hybrid for his/her own savings, but still…  This one’s not as bad as the “Buy American” sticker I saw on a Toyota some years ago. 

2.  On this morning’s YahooNews site, Dunkin Donuts has announced that they’ll soon be releasing a slate of healthy menu items (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080730/ap_on_he_me/dunkin__donuts_healthy_menu)

Not that I’m oppsed to healthy eating, and not that Dunkin Donuts shouldn’t be allowed to sell whatever they want, but doesn’t it strike anybody as strange?  This is a company that for decades has profitted from selling incredibly unhealthy (though delicious) junk. 

If you have a cognitively dissonant event or story to share, please do!