Please Share! More info on the Rally for Jobs and Student Loan Forgiveness, Oct 17 in Philly

October 14, 2011

The other day I posted a link to a flyer for this event. This press release, which just showed up in my e-mail a minute ago, has more detailed information.

I can’t be emphatic enough about this: if you’re a student who takes loans; if you’re related to somebody who takes loans; if you’ve graduated and you’re struggling with loans; if you’re angry at a financial system that profits insanely off the cultural pressure put on you to go to college even if you can’t afford it–you need to consider attending this rally.

Press Release
Press Contact:  Jamila Wilson 504-251-9036; Berta Joubert-Ceci 267-257-7742
Rally for Jobs & Student Debt Forgiveness: 11am, Monday, October 17, starting on West Side of City Hall
Students and community members to join with P.E.A.C.E (Philadelphia Economic Advancement CollectivE) to march and demand a student loan debt bailout due to the current high unemployment crisis. Student loan debt has increased by over 500% since 1999; the US Dept. of Education expects student loan debt to exceed 1 trillion dollars by next year.
Concerned students and citizens joining the P.E.A.C.E campaign are demanding student loan debt forgiveness. The October 17 march begins at City Hall at 11am and will make specific stops at the Philadelphia’s Stock Exchange, the US Dept. of Education mid-Atlantic regional office, and the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center.  One of the march organizers, Jamila K Wilson shared, “The intention of this march is to bring awareness to the public on how all these systems feed into the enormous debt students and recent graduates have accumulated and why they are unable to pay due to unemployment and underemployment.”
Unemployment amongst young people, 20-29,  in Philadelphia is at 19.4%, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer article posted on Sept.25, 2011.  National Black teen unemployment is 46.5% and is 35.4% for Latinos.  For Black and Latin youth, the average Black person in this city lives in a neighborhood with a 24.8 percent poverty rate, compared to 8.4 percent for whites. The Latino/a community has an average poverty rate of 25.4 per cent and Asians have a 13.4 per cent poverty rate.
The PEACE Campaign, a special committee of concerned citizens, seeks to bring awareness to these most pressing issues effecting millions and demand that our government does more to protect and bail out the people.
The PEACE Campaign can be contacted via email atPEACE@peoplesmail.net or via Facebook at P.E.A.C.E.

Rally for Jobs and Student Loan Forgiveness in Philly, Monday 10/17. PLEASE SHARE WIDELY!

October 11, 2011

 

Folks: I’m posting the link to a flyer for the Where Are the Jobs protest in Philly on Mon, Oct 17. Because I’m not very technologically savvy, I can’t figure out how to make the pdf display directly in this window. But at least this way the pdf is stored somewhere you can download it yourself and help distribute it.

WHERE ARE THE JOBS 3

Once I can figure out how to make the actual doc visible in one of these windows, I’ll repost. In the meantime, please help me share!

The vitals:

RALLY FOR JOBS Monday, October 17, 11am Philadelphia City Hall (west side) 

March to the Regional U.S. Dept of Education 

Market & S. Juniper 

TO DEMAND DEBT FORGIVENESS FOR STUDENT LOANS 

Join the movement to demand Jobs for All

For more information: 215-724-1618; phillyIAC@peoplesmail.net; on Face Book, visit AMERICANS NEED JOBS


‘Accountability’ isn’t enough [some angry language]

August 1, 2011

Not a great day for those of us who spend many of our waking hours fighting against various aspects of neo-liberal hegemony.

It looks like sometime today, both houses of Congress will pass a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling; in that bill is also a radical realignment of our budgetary and social priorities, tilting our economic structure in more sharply towards the ultra wealthy. The poor, working, middle classes will wind up paying more for less, while the rich pay less for more AND suck up more of other people’s money for themselves. This outcome of the new policy is clear and well-documented.

What troubles me the most about it is that it will devastate working and living conditions the huge majority of the country. On that level, it’s a clear betrayal of all that’s good and right about our country.

After that, what troubles me most is the utter shamelessness of the Republican Party, which serves nobody but the ultra-elite (although it’s exploits the ever-living fuck of Evangelicals, racists, and anybody else who will listen to their madness). Other than the occasional token effort to make this effort sound like it was about anything other than vacuuming up more power and resources for themselves, they have made almost no effort even to pretend like there’s any agenda here other than real one. That is, like the moment in 1984 when O’Brien admits to Winston that the Party only does what it does because it can, the GOP is steadily revealing its true agenda–or trying to hide it less.

You’d think with the recent exposure of the Koch brothers’ machinations, the influence of the shady group ALEC, example after example of radical right-wing leaders sucking at the government teat while they decry government programs–and then not really even trying to explain themselves because they don’t really have to)… You’d think all those things would make conservatives act a little more cautiously as the (mostly) men behind the curtain are revealed to be what they are–selfish, greedy, inhumane pieces of subhuman shit.

Instead, the opposite has happened. As the conservative machine becomes more visible, it becomes even more brazen. As the institutions you’d expect to stop (at least resist) them continue to fail us–you know, the Democratic Party, the law, the voters–I suppose there’s no reason for them even to pretend to be anything other than what they are.

And that, activist friends, helps me focus on what I’ve been increasingly see as the heart of the matter for the last year, maybe more: how to excise the political, economic and social poison these subhuman scum have injected into the system for nothing but their own gain. Lots of us have adopted, adapted the terminology of “accountability,” which is close to right–how do we hold these monsters ‘accountable’ for what they’re doing? But I’m increasingly sensing that the discourse of accountability makes it too easy to let these criminals off the hook. Elected officials are held accountable at the ballot box, if ever. That’s not enough.

We’re starting to see some movement in the right direction, I think, and I’m currently hanging my hopes on:

The recall elections happening in Wisconsin  When elected officials do the opposite of what you elected them to do, grab them by the backs of their necks and throw them on the scrap heap. There’s no reason to wait two years to vote them out.

The ballot initiative in OH to overturn SB5  When your legislative apparatus passes legislation that the huge majority of citizens reject, override the vote.

I’m all in favor of conventional kinds of activism and organizing. Although I’m not terribly impressed with the Coffee Party leadership (the rhetoric of the organization sounds like a thousand other people who suddenly got political and don’t yet understand that they’re not the first people to have thought about this stuff, but maybe that’ll wear down soon), the general idea of a citizen movement acting responsibly and demanding same is hard to argue with. As a union member and leader-of-sorts, of course I’m committed to labor activism and unions as strategies and modes of organizing.

But what we’re seeing in Wisconsin and Ohio right now is something else. Yes, it’s reactionary in the sense that it’s about undoing damage that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. But more important, I think, is that it’s directly responding to the problems. It’s not waiting for Election Day to trade people who did bad things for other people who will probably do bad things–it’s attacking the problems NOW.

If there’s any chance of salvaging our current form of government (if, in fact, that’s even a good idea–but I’ll set that aside for now), I believe we have to start here. Punch the assholes in their faces for being assholes. Yank them out of office when they violate the will of the people. Organize against laws that nobody wanted passed in the first place.

This is, by the way, exactly what the Tea Party says it does. It’s also exactly what the mainstream corporate media reports the Tea Party doing. Two things about that: (1) No, they don’t. The Tea Party is nothing but a tool of the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey-and-friends, and is about as authentic a grassroots movement as ‘Americans for Prosperity.’ (2) Even if that’s not true (or getting less true–some analysts believe the Tea Party is getting out from under the control of its masters), there aren’t very many of them. Reports of the Tea Party’s mass-movement-ness have been greatly exaggerated.

If the Tea Partiers and progressives want to have an actual grassroots battle for the soul of the nation, count me in. When you Tea Partiers tell the Kochs and the Armeys and their friends to take their resources and shove them up their asses, when you tell your mouthpieces of Fox News you don’t need their corporate support–that is, when you practice anything you actually preach–then we’ll have an interesting situation on our hands.


[Self] Pep Talk

March 10, 2011

[WARNING: the “pep talk” part of this takes a while to get to…and it’s probably not all that peppy, but headed in the right direction I think…]

Hard to watch or read any news for the last few weeks and not feel a growing sense of doom for those of us who strongly support labor–not just “working people” or “the middle class” (which are categories so diffuse that they don’t capture much anymore), but Labor, as a movement.

Yesterday we took hits in Wisconsin, which most of us know about, and Michigan, which took me by surprise.  The day before, PA’s new Republican Governor, Tom Corbett, offered up a budget proposal that slashes state funding for public universities (already hovering just over 30% of our operating budgets) in half; demanding salary and benefits givebacks from public unions (at least he said it directly); and so on.  We know about the passage of SB5 in Ohio, which will likely pass the House and be signed into law soon.  Idaho legislators have voted to strip K-12 teachers of collective bargaining rights.

And this is, as we all know, just the beginning.  Actually, no it isn’t.  The effort to kill labor has been growing, steadily, for a long time now.  Ronald Reagan’s breaking of the Air Traffic Controllers’ union is a more (but still not entirely accurate) marker of the onset of this strategy.  We can leave it to the labor historians to duke out dates, but the point is that what we’re seeing right now isn’t new; it’s more frontal and more public than we’ve seen–as far as I know, we haven’t seen this level of attack on organized labor since about the 1940s)–but it hasn’t popped up from nowhere.

A lot of my liberal friends will disagree with me here (although a lot will agree, too), but one of the major enablers of the current attacks on labor is the national Democratic Party, which has taken Labor for granted for a very long time now.  And that’s partly Labor’s fault, too, for living in an “At least they’re not Republicans” paradigm.  Dems know Labor won’t desert them, so they vacuum up campaign contributions and organizing/mobilizing energy during elections and then do nothing to support Labor in between.  The Dems could have passed EFCA quite easily had they wanted to, instead of just sweeping it under the rug.  The Dems could have told the Republicans to shove the Bush tax cuts up their bums because we need that money to pay things that actual human beings need.  But they haven’t, and there’s little reason to believe that will change in any future I can imagine.

So where does that leave the actual working people, the people on whose labor this country depends, to turn for support?  All that’s really left, it seems, is each other.  There are millions of us.  We don’t have the cash that Waltons and Kochs and Gateses and Soroses have on hand.  We don’t have the weapons that wingnut militias have lying around.  We don’t have legislatures in our pockets like our self-appointed neo-liberal corporate masters have.

And you know what?  I’m finding myself less and less troubled about those problems as every minute goes by.  Why?  Because the institutions they ru[i]n only continue to work as long as we the people continue to support them.

Whose money are the rich stealing?  Ours!  How do we stop that from happening?  Don’t spend money on stupid crap; buy from union shops; tell the bad guys that you’re boycotting them; make a stink in every setting where people are giving money to culprits of exploitation.

Why do corrupt quasi-representative government institutions continue to sell us down the river?  Because we let them–by voting, or not voting, and then pretending like we’ve discharged our duty as citizens until the next Election Day.  We have to make demands and fight for them.  We have to confront lawmakers and executives face-to-face.  We have to demand that the self-annointed answer hard questions in public, and lambaste their empty answers.

On Facebook yesterday, two of my friends started calling for a General Strike, and quite honestly I think we have to start thinking about that.  If Labor, as a movement, is going to mean anything in this country, it’s time for its proponents to think really hard about throwing down the gauntlet.  For too long, our culture has subscribed to the “What’s good for _____ [fill in the blank with corporate quasi-capitalist behemoth] is good for America” logic, and it’s proven time and again to be a lie.  Why not, “What’s good for American workers is good for America?”

What’s so damn hard about that?

Or put another way:  We’ve allowed ourselves to be pigeon-holed as a “special interest” for too long.  What could be less “special interest” than the basic economic security of the huge majority of the population?  There is only a small cabal (the real “special interests”) to whom our basic economic security doesn’t matter.  We can no longer wait around for those very elite, wealthy, selfish, solipsistic, inhumane people to come to their senses, to wake up, to have an epiphany, to see the Lord (or Karl Marx, or Lech Walesa, or whoever).  We can do this without them.

 


Let’s talk about sacrifice

March 6, 2011

So the buzzword of the year so far is “shared sacrifice.”  Scott Walker says he can only balance the Wisconsin budget if those greedy public employees would just be willing to sacrifice a little.  John Kasich of Ohio says the same–at the same time he and his legislature define university professors as managers so they can’t belong to unions, but anyway…  Democrats and Republicans in Washington spew the same line of crap, that in hard times we all have to sacrifice together.

I see people on the left resist this, not stridently enough, by reminding audiences that “sacrifice” is happening largely on the backs of the poor, working and middle classes.  And it is.  But maybe we can make a little better version of the point by asking a slightly different question.

What are the rich sacrificing in any of the current budget proposals?

Nothing.  They get: more tax cuts, tax incentives, tax breaks.  They get: reduced labor costs via union busting, decreased safety and environmental regulations by defunding regulatory agencies.  They get: bailouts when they mismanage their businesses into the ground.  They get: nearly exclusive access to the mechanisms of power because they have all the money they’ve stolen and the leisure time to use it since they don’t do anything useful with their time.

Name one thing that any of this budget voodoo costs the rich.  One.  And then ask yourself who’s making the policies.  And then ask yourself who’s paying the price.  And then ask yourself why we aren’t burning these people out of their houses (Because we’re more ethical than they are?  Apparently).  And then, finally, ask yourself how long you’re willing to continue putting up with a situation in which every single decision coming from a conservative-dominated system hurts YOU and EVERYBODY YOU KNOW, unless you’re one of the wealthy.

The talking heads like to talk about having to make “hard decisions” in difficult times.  Well, for those of us who are actual human beings, who are sick of seeing our humanity and dignity spat on every day by rich people who don’t care whether anybody else lives or dies, we have to ask ourselves a hard question too–how long do we wait?

 


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!!


Tax cuts and unemployment benefits

July 13, 2010

I reposted this from Huffpost on Facebook yesterday, but I’m not done ranting about it yet.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/12/jon-kyl-extend-bush-tax-c_n_642862.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=071210&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry

If you don’t feel like reading it, the short version is this: John Kyl (R-AZ), along with much of the Republican leadership in Congress, is angry that Democrats aren’t rushing to extend the Bush administration tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, cuts which are set to expire soon.  At the same time, acting (and I can’t overemphasize how much of a smokescreen this is) like the deficit is the worst thing since, well worse than anything that’s ever happened in human history, those same Congressional Republicans refuse to extend unemployment benefits because doing so would add to the deficit.

It’s hard to begin answering this position because it doesn’t even rise to the level of nonsense.  Well, OK, it does, but only given a very specific worldview.  In that worldview, what wealthy people want is all that matters.  Even if they’re endangering their own wealth, maybe even their own lives, it doesn’t matter.  If rich people want lower taxes, they get lower taxes.  If they don’t care how many working class people are losing their homes, going hungry, dying because they can’t get medical care (other than visiting the emergency room, which often occurs too late to help them), sending their kids to crumbling schools, and so on, nobody is going to fight them.

I don’t get it.  As I said on Facebook when I posted this link yesterday, why are we giving tax breaks to people who need them least while withholding unemployment benefits from the people who need them most?

Yes, I know the conservative answers to that question.

The wealthy need tax breaks because tax breaks lead to job creation.  Except that the Bush tax breaks have been in place for 5+ years now, and employment levels have plummeted.  I can hear my Republican friends howling about how much that’s the fault of the Clinton administration (he hasn’t been President for 10 years now, y’all).  And because in the entire history of capitalism, there still isn’t one scintilla of evidence that “trickle down” has EVER worked.

Unemployment benefits discourage people from looking for work.  I’m a pacifist, but I really want to punch people who say this.  Only someone who never has to worry about their livelihood could believe it.  Much like the “welfare queen” trope of the Reagan era, Republicans have found a way to frame this issue, based on a handful of anecdotes, in order to make anybody who struggles to stay alive look pathological.  Lovely.

Unemployment benefits are too expensive.  Bullshit.  The extension current proposed in Congress would cost about $30 billion.  Not only is that a tiny fraction of the overall budget, but what do they think is going to happen with that money?  Do they not understand that just about every penny of it will get spent?  That is, reinjected right back into the economy, often right into the pockets of their owner class friends?  Whatever it gets spent on, it’s getting spent!  I don’t think too many unemployed folks are taking their $300/mo. benefit checks and stashing them in IRAs, right?

On the blog GinandTacos, the writer, Ed, says quite bluntly, and I agree, that conservatives who take this stance do so because, one, they hate poor people, and, two, the owner class benefits from a worker pool that’s desperate.  I couldn’t agree more.

Why it is that voters don’t show these monsters the same contempt they show voters is beyond me.  If I could figure it out, I’d be rich and fam… oh, wait…


Boy, did I misunderestimate

June 5, 2010

Back in January 2005, I wrote an editorial for the Philly Inquirer about my experience at the second inauguration of George W. Bush.  I’d faced some angry folks before, in my days as a Greenpeace canvasser, but nothing I’d ever seen had prepared me for the bile, anger, and general insanity of the crowd in Washington, DC.  I, a pacifist, told some loudmouth the world would be better off if he were dead.  People yelled profanities back and forth; protesters from both sides displayed Nazi insignia drawn onto posters.

My editorial was an exhortation to people at all points on the spectrum to ratchet down the anger a notch.  I registered my own anxiety at how I’d behaved and didn’t accuse anybody of being “wrong.”  I thought we’d all just gotten stressed out and needed a reminder that the tone we were taking with each other wasn’t healthy or useful.

I should have known I wasn’t getting anywhere when a week later 3 anonymous death threats showed up at my house.  Even then, I assumed the people making those threats were aberrations.  When I called the editor at the Inauirer about writing about the death threats, his response was, “I’d recommend you not do that.  You kicked the rock once and they poked their heads out.  Kick it again and there’s no telling what they’ll do.”

Fair enough.

Flash forward to 2008.  Sarah Palin didn’t invent hate, but she sure capitalized on it as she made an entire campaign out her detestably angry hatred towards everybody in the world who isn’t just like her.  Or put differently, she kicked the same rock I did, but she kept on kicking and kicking, ensuring that the nasty slugs who live under it came out.  Along with Rush Limbaugh, the entire staff of Fox News, and other rightwing media mavens, the loony Right has done little for the last couple of years besides firing up the hate machine and its victims, um, consumers.

Today’s news from Prescott, AZ for some reason just infuriated me, maybe more than anything else these monsters have done in the last few years.  If you haven’t seen the story, a rightwing radio talk show host who also serves on the Prescott City Council provoked his listeners to drive by a grade school at which there was a mural depicting the ethnically diverse student body.  This talk show host got people yelling racial epithets, very explicit ones, at kids in the school yard in an effort to get the black and Hispanic faces painted white.

It worked.  I don’t blame the principle of the school–not really, although I’d certainly have liked to see him fight this.  His rationale for caving in is that he worried about the students–remember these are grade-schoolers–exposed to that level of hatred and potential violence while they were outside being kids.

No, my real problems are with: (1) the talk show host and councilperson who provoked all this–why haven’t the citizens of Prescott run this asshole out of town on a rail? and (2) the idiots who thought it was a good idea to drive by a school screaming racist names at little kids.  What the hell is wrong with these people?

Some good thinkers seem convinced that this level of racism is a product of economic insecurity.  Maybe, but so what?  Frankly, as much as I’m almost a socialist, every act of racism like this one makes me care less about people who are such racists.  Sure, economic instability might be enabling their racism, but in order for that to be true, the racism had to be there in the first place.  There are plenty of poor, hungry, scared people who don’t act like that and never would.

It’s high time that those of us with brains stand up to these idiots and let them know that kind of behavior isn’t welcome in our universe.  If they want to go hide out somewhere, learn to use their weapons, and kill each other, it’s getting harder for me not to say, “Go to it, assholes.”

UPDATED 6/5, 10 am.:  The Prescott News reports that radio station KYCA has fired Steve Blair, the councilman/talk-show host whose provocations led to this–

http://www.prescottenews.com/news/latest/steve-blair-fired-by-kyca


Working and hungry: a challenge to conservative dogma

November 29, 2009

In this morning’s (Sunday) NYT, the following article runs–

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/us/29foodstamps.html?_r=1&hp

Full of pathos appeals, coupled with some interesting statistics, the article tracks increasing use of food stamps across the country.  In and of itself, that’s not terribly surprising.  In a difficult economy, people need help buying food.

What I found surprising and worth mulling over are a couple of facts–

1.  Growth in food stamp use is about the same in the 600 counties where it’s historically been highest, and the 600 counties where it’s historically been lowest.  That is, use of foodstamps is increasing rapidly in places where it hasn’t before.  The article isn’t terribly precise about this next point, but suggests a couple of times that the second batch of counties tend to more conservative than the first, which means that reliance on government support is (again) penetrating into places where conservative dogma says it shouldn’t.

2.  It’s not just poor people who are using food stamps.  The article makes very clear that working people and families at many levels of the economic hierarchy need support–job losses, housing bust, medical expenses, etc, are all contributing to hunger.  At the very least, the data challenges the conservative wisdom that only lazy people rely on government support.  Of course, anybody who’s paid a lick of attention for the last 30 years has known that’s crap, a fabrication of the Reagan campaign in order to fan poor white people’s indignation, while at the same time keeping them from doing much to help themselves.

3.  Notable are a couple of interviews with self-identified conservatives who are accepting government support for (what sounds like) the first time, although depending on how you define “government support,” you could argue that they’ve been accepting it their entire lives.  It’s good to see at least one of the interviewees acknowledge that food stamps aren’t just for poor, lazy people.  One of them says something like, “These are people I could be having lunch with.”  The classism of that aside, at least she recognizes something of value.  Somebody makes the point that poor people are often just as resistant to government aid as others, which was helpful to see.  But the one that really gets me is the guy who, with one hand reaches out to grab the money, and with the other slaps people who take it.  Hypocrite.  And the guy from the Heritage Foundation who (shockingly) pulls out the example of the person who lives in an expensive home and drives a Mercedez, and generalizes from her to the entire world.

If one person abusing a system were enough to call for the destruction of the system, then the Bush administration would be responsible for having smoked the Constitution; Blackwater’s rapes and murders in Iraq would be enough to destroy the US military.  And on and on.  The double-standard here is so Orwellian that it’s hard to address (thank you, John Birch, for legitimizing this kind of political discourse).

At the end of the day, what this article demonstrates is that everything conservatives say about government aid is wrong.  The system isn’t fraught with people abusing it–that’s nothing but a lie.  The system doesn’t enable laziness–it feeds working people who can’t feed themselves because our pro-corporate, anti-worker economic policies have utterly failed them.  Self-righteousness shouldn’t dictate accepting hunger as a condition of living in the wealthiest nation in the world. And conservatives who scream bloody murder about government support at the same time they accept it need to think a little harder about what they’re screaming.  I won’t argue, as some others do, that they should refuse to accept help.  It’s not the government’s job to decide who’s worthy of care based on how they exercise their First Amendment rights.  It is, however, deeply troubling that some of these folks really seem not to understand the problem here–that if they win their arguments at Tea Parties, the very support they rely on for survival will go away.


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.