Progressive Calendar 03.07.08
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2008 01:55:43 -0800 (PST)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   03.07.08

1. Angela Davis/KFAI 3.07 11am
2. Ffunch            3.07 11:30am
3. Emergency demo    3.07 4:15pm
4. Alt 2 violence    3.07 6pm
5. Peace witness     3.07 7pm
6. Moyers/NOW/TV     3.07 9pm
7. Nobel peace       3.07-08 Moorhead MN

8. Intl women/KFAI   3.08 12midnight 24hours
9. Neighbor sust     3.08 8:30am
10. WILPF/commons    3.08 10am
11. NWN4P Mtka       3.08 11am
12. NewHope vigil    3.08 1pm
13. Northtown vigil  3.08 2pm
14. OmnivoresDilemma 3.08 5:15pm
15. Media reform/CTV 3.08 9pm

16. Vincent Navarro - The Next Failure of Health Care Reform

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From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Angela Davis/KFAI 3.07 11am

FRI.MAR. 7,11am KFAI Radio: ANGELA DAVIS: Challenge the Prison-Industrial

Last week, corporate media (finally) reported on the results of almost
30-years of a massive U.S. prison-building: now ONE IN EVERY 100 AMERICANS
IS IN PRISON OR JAIL. So, while the US is around #30 in health care, we're
#1 in prison populations on Earth!

Tune in to hear activist-scholar ANGELA DAVIS in a KFAI-exclusive
interview. Davis came to public attention in the late 1960s when she was
false arrested and held for 18 months in jail, accused of terrorism for
ehr role in the international campaign to free Black Panther Party chair
HUEY NEWTON. Davis has written many books including: WOMEN, RACE & CLASS,
are prisons obsolete? AND abolitionist democracy. Also hear Pennsylvania
Death Row dissident journalist MUMIA ABU-JAMAL on rehabilitation, from one
of his PRISON RADIO commentaries. On CATALYST:politics & culture, Fridays.
11am hosted by Lydia Howell on KFAI Radio90.1 fm Mpls 106.7 fm St.Paul All
shows archived for 2 weeks after broadcast at

NOTE: PRISON RADIO is NOT financially supported by KFAI Radsio. Host Lydia
Howell has been sending monthly pledges to them for some years. PRISON
RADIO is currently in financial trouble. Please consider sending them a
donation to: PRISON RADIO. P.O. Box 411074,San Francisco,CA 94141

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From: David Shove <shove001 [at]>
Subject: Ffunch 3.07 11:30am

First Friday Lunch (FFUNCH) for Greens/progressives.

Informal political talk and hanging out.

Day By Day Cafe 477 W 7th Av St Paul.
Meet in the private room (holds 12+).

Day By Day has soups, salads, sandwiches, and dangerous apple pie; is
close to downtown St Paul & on major bus lines

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From: "wamm [at]" <wamm [at]>
Subject: Emergency demo 3.07 4:15pm

U.S. Weapons Used on Unarmed, Innocent Women,Children, Civilians: GAZA
SOMALIA , ECUADOR, and Locally Human Needs Suffer as Welfare Rights are


The U.S. is again attacking SOMALI villages, killing women and children
and claiming they are attacking Al Qaeda with have "precision, strategic,
targeted" bombs.  Also, U.S.-backed Colombian forces has made illegal
incursions into the sovereign nation of ECUADOR! This while the most
vulnerable in society suffer as WELFARE RIGHTS are cut locally.

Come to the emergency demo:

4:15-5:30pm  FRIDAY, MARCH 7
Sponsored by Palestinian Rights Coalition

Call the Capitol Switchboard to reach your Senators or Congressional
Representatives: (202) 224-3121

And on a local level, women and children, immigrants in Minnesota suffer
needlessly due to cuts in their funding and being required to perform
workfare (which is like "slave labor.')

Welfare Rights sends this request to you today.
CALL these Minnesota-state legislators TODAY to demand a hearing!
This year, the Welfare Rights Committee and others have bills to undo
some of the terrible cuts to programs for poor families and
immigrants. Our bills also outlaw workfare and call for the first
welfare grant increase in 22 years. Most important, our bills use
federal welfare money for welfare families, NOT to fill in a budget

But we cannot get hearings on our bills in the House (and, maybe even
not in the Senate) policy committee.

Please call these Representatives.
 --Paul Thissen (DFL) 63A - Richfield. (651) 296-5375. Thissen is the
chair of the Health and Human Services Policy Committee. THISSEN IS
 --Thomas Huntley (DFL) 07A - Duluth. (651) 296-2228. Huntley is the chair
of the HHS Finance division.
 --Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) 60A - Mpls. (651) 296-0171. Speaker of
the House.

Leave them messages saying:
 --I insist that you work to grant hearings to House File 3616 and House
File 3618 before the committee deadline (March 14). These are the bills
that use TANF money for TANF families. (FOR THISSEN SAY: I insist you give
a hearing for HF...... )
 --It's not right that the House Health and Human Services Policy
Committee is only hearing Pawlenty's DHS bills and not the bills to
actually help poor families.
 --Work to schedule more hearings so all the bills can be heard!

Please call Senator Marty:
Senator John Marty (DFL) District 54 - Roseville. (651)296-5645.
Chair of Senate Health, Housing and Family Security policy committee.
Leave a message saying:
 --I insist that you grant hearings to Senate Files 3290 and 3242 before
the committee deadline (March 14). These are the bills that use TANF money
for TANF families.
 --We appreciate your scheduling lots of hearings, so be sure you include
these bills. They are critical to forestall the Republicans' plans to
steal welfare money.

More info.and more calls you can make!
 --The Governor and the Republicans have been spewing
welfare-mother-bashing rhetoric as they talk about "using" (we call it
stealing) welfare monies to solve the state budget deficit.
 --Everything in these bills passed the full House and full Senate last
year. Almost everything in these bills made into the final HHS bill, only
to be vetoed by Governor Pawlenty.
 --House chair Thissen is now claiming that we were supposed to request
hearings on bills BEFORE the legislature started - BEFORE it was possible
to get bills written up and BEFORE we could get sponsors. This is unheard
of during our 16 years at the legislature - it is even worse than the
stunts the Republicans pulled on us.why?
 --In a time of recession, the state of Minnesota should be doing MORE to
help the poor, not less.

The bills: House Files 3616 & 3618, along with there Senate companions
SF3290 and 3242. 1) Undo the Family Cap. Families who have additional
children while on MFIP, see no grant increase. This punishes babies for
being born. 2) Undo $50 Housing Cut to Welfare. Families who receive MFIP
and live in subsidized housing have the monthly cash grant cut by $50.
When you live 60% below the poverty line, $50 is serious money. 3)
Completely Stop MA Co-pays. Many are going without healthcare or medicine
because of inability to come up with the $1 - $10 for the Medical
Assistance co-pay. 4) Stop Attacks on Immigrants. Concretely this can be
done by allowing non-citizens to get basic healthcare, this year. 5)
Provide extensions to the 5-year limit. 6) Provide more income support to
working MFIP families by raising the "exit level." 7) Raise the Grants.
The welfare (MFIP and General Assistance) grants have not been increased
since 1986 - 22 years! Meanwhile, the cost of living has risen by 89%. 8)
Outlaw Workfare. Workfare forces MFIP parents to work for no pay in order
to get the grant. Workfare is slave labor forced on parents just because
they are poor. We say, if there is a job to be done, make it a real job
with real wages and benefits! TO TRACK THE BILLS ON THE WEB, GO TO and type in hf3616 or hf3618 or
sf3290 or sf3242

--If you like making calls, call all the DFL members of the House
Health and Human Services Policy Committee. Ask them to pressure
chair Thissen to hear the bills!
Patti Fritz  651-296-8237
Julie Bunn   651-296-4244
Tina Liebling   651-296-0573
Diane Loeffler   651-296-4219
Erin Murphy   651-296-8799
Kim Norton   651-296-9249
Mary Ellen Otremba   651-296-3201
Maria Ruud   651-296-3964
Cy Thao   651-296-5158
Ken Tschumper   651-296-9278
Neva Walker   651-296-7152

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From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Alt 2 violence 3.07 6pm

3/7 (6 pm) to 3/9 (5 pm), basic level Alternatives to Violence Workshop,
Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland Ave, Mpls.
avperika [at] or

--------5 of 16--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Peace witness 3.07 7pm

Friday, 3/7, 7 pm, St Luke's Presbyterian Church holds worship service to
coincide with the second annual Christian Peace Witness in Washington DC,
St Luke's Presbyterian, 3121 Groveland School Rd, Wayzata.  All are
welcome.  suzan_ireland [at]

--------6 of 16--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at]>
Subject: Moyers/NOW/TV 3.07 9pm

Bill Moyers Journal | Controversial Endorsement
John McCain has won the GOP nomination. Can he win the hearts and minds of
the Christian right? Bill Moyers Journal reports on popular conservative
evangelist John Hagee and his controversial endorsement of McCain.

--------7 of 16--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Nobel peace 3.07-08 Moorhead MN

3/7 and 3/8, annual Nobel Peace Prize forum with Muhammad Yunus (2006
laureate), Greg Mortenson and Jeffrey Sachs speaking, Concordia College,
Moorhead.  FFI:

--------8 of 16-------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Intl women/KFAI 3.08 12midnight 24hrs

PLEASE SHARE WIDELY...(e-lists, My Space, friends)
Many programs by women of color and/or with international perspective
Lyia Howell, host of CATALYST on KFAI Radio, Twin Cities MN

Celebrate International Women's Day with KFAI RADIO
90.3fm Minneapolis 106.7fm St. Paul

Story By Pam Hill Kroyer, KFAI Volunteer Co-ordinator

KFAI will celebrate International Women's Day with 24 hours of programming
by and about women on Saturday, March 8th. We're calling it Super Saturday
'08: Women Represent!.

Program Schedule for Saturday, March 8th, 2008 (Midnight-Midnight) (Note:
Regular Saturday programming will return Saturday, March 16th)

12-2am: This Little Girl's Gone Rockin - Hosted by Mick Novak Femme pop,
girls with guitars, girl groups, and more...your weekly dose of all-female
vocals takes a special turn to kick-off IWD.

2-6am: Ladies' Night!  Hosted by Ellen, Pam and Pat An all-night party
featuring music of all genres.

6-7:30am: Composing Women  Hosted by Anna Keyes A program celebrating
women's contributions to classical music.

7:30-9am: Women of African Descent in Music  Hosted by Akhmiri Sekhr-Ra
Akhmiri showcases the similarities between African women of the Diaspora
and demonstrates how their music is empowering.

9-9:30am: Trickster Daughter, Trickster Mom  Hosted by Linda Litrell
Three storytellers and three musicians play with traditional
mother-daughter archetypes.

9:30-11am: Teenagers in the Wild  Hosted by Emily Torgrimson Five
teenage girls, 32 days on the trail in the Canadian wilderness, 200 miles
to paddle, countless laughs and bruises, and a couple lessons.

10-11am: Sonic Visions  Hosted by Dixie Treichel Music and sounds by
women who compose, score, orchestrate and design for film, theater and

11-Noon: Native Women in Minneapolis: Catalysts for Change  Hosted by
Rhiana Yazzie A discussion about the work strong Native women are doing to
positively impact the Twin Cities community.

Noon-1pm: Hmong Heroines  Hosted by Kathy Mouachepao Recognizing the
untold contributions of Hmong women through stories, interviews and music
by Hmong women.

1-2pm: This Little Girl's Gone Honky-Tonk  Hosted by Mick Novak An
hour-long tribute to the godmothers of country and honky-tonk music.

2-3pm: Women's Songs of Protest and Social Change  Hosted by Diane
Wanner A her-story of U.S. women crafting and performing songs about
peace, civil rights, women's issues, labor, and the environment.

3-4pm: Modern Day Slavery: Human Trafficking Hosted by Soroptimist
International of Greater Minneapolis State Senator Sandy Pappas joins
Soroptimist International to present a program to increase awareness of
human trafficking nationally and in Minnesota.

4-5pm: My War: From Bismarck to Britain and Back  Klatch Productions
Three generations of family describe and discover WWII as service, loss,
return and recovery.

Asha BhosleAsha Bhosle 5-6pm: Bandit Queens & Bollywood  Hosted by
Shashi Gupta A program celebrating the diversity and accomplishments of
South Asian women in the Twin Cities.

6-7pm: Jagorito Nari (Enlightened Women of Bangladesh)  Hosted by Irina
Hossain Interviews with women who contributed to the struggle to liberate
women from the bondage of social malaises in Bangladesh.

7-8pm: Sista Soldier's Flow! Hosted by Sha Cage Revolutionary women's
voices of hip hop and spoken word.

8-9pm: Girassol: Musica do Brasil - Hosted by Helena do Sol Brazilian
female artists are celebrated on O dia internacional das mulheres!

MC Psalm OneMC Psalm One 9-10pm: This is a Man's World? Women in Hip Hop
 Hosted by Sara Toetschinger Highlighting those femcess who paved the
way in the male-dominated world of Hip Hop.

10-11pm: Word Warriors  Hosted by Cynthia French Female spoken word
artists from around the country.

11-Midnight: Ladies in the Hall  Hosted by Nancy Skalkos A musical tour
with the Women in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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From: Alliance for Sustainability <sean [at]>
Subject: Neighbor sust 3.08 8:30am

2008 Neighborhood Sustainability Conference:

Connecting City & Citizen efforts for Sustainable Communities
Saturday March 8, 2008, 8:30am to 4:30pm, Augsburg College

Several hundred volunteers from block clubs, neighborhoods, congregations,
schools, garden and watershed groups will gather to plan spring & summer
projects for energy conservation, renewable energy, tree plating, rain
gardens, community gardens, walking and biking, water quality, local food,
clean air and zero waste.

Members from block clubs, neighborhoods, schools, faith-based
organizations and other associations will be able to listen to subject
experts, share outreach tips, and learn how to develop community-wide
sustainability plans at more than 30 topic workshops. They will also get
information on ongoing sustainability efforts and grant opportunities to
fund grassroots projects in the areas of energy, water quality, waste
reduction, graffiti prevention, and climate/energy citizen partnerships.

Keynote Talk: "Changing the World, One Neighborhood At a Time" by Jay
WallJasper Senior Fellow, at Project for Public Spaces, Executive Editor
of Ode magazine, previous of the Utne Reader and author of The Great
Neighborhood Book: A Do-It Yourself Guide to Placemaking.  Music by Larry
Long and Aimee Bryant. 4pm Reception with local wine, beer and organic

The conference is free, but please pre-register-on line at
or by calling 612-331-1099 x 1 or by email sean [at]

The conference is presented by the Alliance for Sustainability and
sponsored by several organizations, including the cities of Minneapolis
and St. Paul, Hennepin County, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

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From: Doris Marquit <marqu001 [at]>
Subject: WILPF/commons 3.08 10am

WILPF (Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, MN Metro Branch)
invites you to Coffee With discussion:

Recovering the Commons
Speaker: Julie Ristau (Tomales Bay Institute) will discuss commons-based
solutions to environmental and social problems.
Saturday, March 8, 10 am-noon
Van Cleve Community Ctr., 901 15th Ave. S.E., Minneapolis

Natural gifts like air and water, and social creations like science and
the Internet, constitute our shared inheritance. The state has abandoned
its role of maintaining a healthy balance between the commons and the
market. Can we nurture and protect common assets from the ravages of
exploitation, pollution, and privatization? Or must market forces
dominate? Learn basic principles for managing our commons. Hear about
practical ways we can leave common assets in better condition for future

FFI: 651-458-7090;

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From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: NWN4P Mtka 3.08 11am

NWN4P-Minnetonka demonstration- Every Saturday, 11 AM to noon, at Hwy. 7
and 101.  Park in the Target Greatland lot; meet near the
fountain. We will walk along the public sidewalk. Signs available.

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From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: NewHope vigil 3.08 1pm

Saturday, 1-2PM - Weekly NWN4P vigil for peace in New Hope at the corner
of 42nd (Co. Rd. 9) and Winnetka Ave. N.  We usually park in the
Walgreen's lot or near McDonald's. You may  use one of our signs or
bring your own. All welcome. Carole-763-546-5368.

--------13 of 16--------

From: Vanka485 [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 3.08 2pm

Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av.), every Saturday
2:00 -- 3:00 PM.

--------14 of 16--------

From: Minke Sundseth <minkesundseth [at]>
Subject: Omnivore'sDilemma 3.08 5:15pm

Perspectives On the Omnivore's Dilemma
Panel Discussion & Community Potluck
 Saturday, March 8, 2008

 Rhys Williams, Moderator - Rhys is a retired organic farmer.
 Linda Halley from Gardens of Eagan, a renowned organic farm in
Farmington, Minnesota that supplies Twin Cities co-ops with exceptional
seasonal produce.
 Herman Hendrickson from Whole Farm Co-op, a 30-member farmer's
cooperative in Central Minnesota that distributes directly to drop sites,
primarily at churches, in several major Minnesota cities.
 Ken Meter from Slow Food Minnesota, a group of Minnesotans that are
dedicated to elevating the quality of our food and taking time to enjoy

A 45-minute panel discussion, followed by time for questions and answers,
will explore ways to create a more sustainable foodshed.  Panelists will
comment on Michael Pollan's book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and speak from
their own experiences. A potluck meal will follow. Please bring a main
dish, salad, or dessert as well as an ingredient list.

Doors open at 5:15 for light refreshments and music
6pm Panel and Q&A; Potluck meal to follow
Faith Mennonite Church (
2720 E 22nd St., Minneapolis, in the Seward Neighborhood

For more information call Minke at 612-721-6098

--------15 of 16--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Media reform/CTV 3.08 9pm

Truth-seeking Minneapolis Television Network (MTN 17) viewers:

"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on MTN Channel 17 on Saturdays at 9pm and
Tuesdays at 8am, after DemocracyNow!.  Households with basic cable may

Sat, 3/8, 9pm and Tues, 3/11, 8am Robert McChesney: "Communication
Revolution or Counter-revolution? The Media Reform Movement and the Future
of Democracy" co-founder Robert McChesney's keynote speech
at the November '07 TC Media Alliance's annual public forum in Mpls.
Plus a set from a David Rovics concert in Mpls. (a repeat)

--------16 of 16--------

A CounterPunch Special Report
Yes, We Can! Can We?
The Next Failure of Health Care Reform
March 6, 2008

A major problem - if not the major problem - for many people living in the
U.S. is the difficulty of accessing and paying for medical care when they
are sick. For this reason, candidates in the presidential primaries of
2008 - the Democrats more often than the Republicans - have been
recounting stories about the health-related tragedies they have
encountered in meetings with ordinary people around the country (an
exercise conducted in the U.S. every four years, at presidential election
time). These stories tell of the enormous difficulties and suffering faced
by many people in their attempts to get the medical care they need. I have
been around long enough - I was senior health advisor to Jesse Jackson in
the Democratic primaries of 1984 and 1988 - to know how frequently
Democratic candidates, over the years, have referred to such cases. The
only things that change are the names and faces in these human tragedies.
Otherwise, the stories, year after year, are almost the same.

In the Democratic Party primaries of 1988, for example, candidate Michael
Dukakis talked about a young single mother who had two jobs and still
could not afford medical insurance for herself and her children. In 1992,
Bill Clinton did the same, changing the story only slightly. This time it
was the case of a woman with diabetes who could not get health insurance
because of her chronic condition. And now, in the 2008 primaries, Hillary
Rodham Clinton (whom I worked with on the White House Health Care Reform
Task Force in 1993) describes a similar case. This time it is a single
woman, with two daughters, who cannot pay her medical bills because her
congenital heart defect makes it impossible for her to get medical
insurance coverage. And Barack Obama describes similar cases, with the
eloquence that characterizes all of his speeches. He frequently refers to
his own mother, who had cancer and had to worry not only about her illness
but about paying her medical bills.

All these cases are tragic and are representative of a situation faced by
millions of people in the U.S. every year. But, I am afraid that unless
the winning Democratic candidate, once elected president (and I hope he or
she will be), develops a more comprehensive health care proposal than any
of those put forward in the primaries so far, we will see the same
situation continue. Democratic candidates in the 2012 primaries, and in
the 2016 primaries, will still be referring to single mothers with chronic
health conditions who cannot pay their medical bills. The proposals put
forward by Obama and Clinton underestimate the gravity of the problem in
the U.S. medical care sector. The situation is bad and is getting worse:
the number of people who are uninsured and underinsured has been growing
since 1978.

Let's start with the uninsured, those people who do not have any form of
health benefits coverage. There were 21 million uninsured people in the
U.S. in 1972. By 2006, that number had more than doubled to 47 million.
And this increase has been independent of economic cycles. The number of
uninsured grew by 3.4 million from 2004 to 2006, even as a resurgent
economy raised incomes and lowered poverty rates. Meanwhile, during those
years, the Democratic Party establishment distanced itself from any
commitment to resolving these problems. Even though the 1976, 1980, 1984,
1988, and 1992 Democratic Party platforms included calls for health care
benefits coverage for everyone (what is usually referred to as "universal
health care"), that call was usually made without much conviction. In the
primaries of 1988, when I was involved in preparing the Democratic
platform, Dukakis (the winner of the primaries) resisted including
universal health care in the party platform. He was afraid of being
perceived as "too radical." He had to accept it, however, because Jesse
Jackson agreed to support Dukakis (Jackson had 40% of the Democratic
delegates at the Atlanta convention) only if the platform included this
call for universal care.

Then, in 1992, Bill Clinton (who borrowed extensively from Jackson's 1988
proposals) put the call for universal health care at the center of his
program. But, once president, his closeness to Wall Street and his
intellectual dependence on Robert Rubin of Wall Street (who became his
Secretary of the Treasury) made him leery of antagonizing the insurance
industry. It was President Clinton's unwillingness to confront the
insurance companies that led to his failure to honor his commitment to
work toward a universal health care program (see my article "Why
HillaryCare Failed," Counterpunch, November 12, 2007). The type of reform
President Clinton called for was a health insurancebased model called
"managed care," in which insurance companies remain at the center of
health care. An alternative approach could have been to establish a
publicly funded health care program (which was favored by the majority of
the population) that would cover everyone, providing medical care as an
entitlement for all citizens and residents. This could have been achieved,
such as by expanding the federal Medicare program to cover everyone. To do
so, however, would have required neutralizing the enormous power of the
insurance companies with a massive mobilization of the population against
them and in favor of a comprehensive and universal health care program.

But President Clinton's loyalty to Wall Street prevailed. His
administration's top priorities were reduction of the federal deficit (at
the cost of reduced public social expenditures) and approval of NAFTA
(without amending President George H. W. Bush's proposal, which Clinton
had inherited, and refusing to address the concerns of the labor and
environmental movements). These actions antagonized and demoralized the
grassroots of the Democratic Party. Clinton lost any power to mobilize
people for the establishment of a universal health care program. This
frustration of the grassroots, and especially the working class, also led
to the huge abstention by the Democratic Party base in the 1994
congressional elections and the consequent loss of the Democratic majority
in the House, the Senate, and many state legislatures. At the root of this
disenchantment with the Clinton administration was its unwillingness to
confront the insurance companies and Wall Street. Could that happen again?

                The health care mess (Nixon dixit)

Before addressing this question, let's look at the problems people face in
the U.S. But first, I should stress that the country has sufficient
resources to provide comprehensive, high-quality medical care to everyone
who needs it. The U.S. spends 16% of its GNP on medical care, almost
double the percentage spent by Canada and most countries of the European
Union (E.U.) on providing universal, comprehensive health care coverage to
their populations. We in the U.S. spend $2.1 trillion on medical care,
making the medical care sector one of the largest economies in the world
(if the medical care sector were a country, rather than a massive sector
within a country). And it has been estimated that this spending will reach
20% of GNP in a few years (7 years according to some, 12 years according
to others). Lack of money is not the root of the medical care problem in
the U.S. We spend far, far more than any other developed country, and far
more than what we would need to provide comprehensive health care coverage
for everyone. The frequently heard argument that the U.S. cannot afford
universal, comprehensive care has no credibility. It is a poor rationale
for keeping the situation as it is.

Despite the huge amount of money spent on medical care, the situation of
the U.S. medical care sector is a disgrace. Even Richard Nixon, in an
unguarded moment, defined it as a mess. And as noted above, it has gotten
much worse since Nixon was president: in 2006, 47 million Americans did
not have any form of health benefits coverage, and 108 million had
insufficient coverage. And people die because of this. Estimates of the
number of preventable deaths vary, from 18,000 per year (estimated by the
conservative Institute of Medicine) to a more realistic level of more than
100,000 (calculated by Professor David Himmelstein of Harvard University).
The number depends on how one defines "preventable deaths." But even the
conservative figure of 18,000 deaths per year is six times the number of
people killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. That event outraged
people (as it should), but the deaths resulting from lack of health care
seem to go unnoticed; these deaths are not reported on the front pages, or
even on the back pages, of the New York Times, Washington Post, Los
Angeles Times, or any other U.S. newspaper. These deaths are so much a
part of our reality that they are not news. How can this be tolerated in a
country that claims to be a civilized nation?

             The Democratic candidates' proposals

The proposals put forward by the current Democratic candidates for
president, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, will improve the situation.
They will diminish somewhat the number of those not covered by health
insurance and will reduce the level of undercoverage. But the major
problems will remain unresolved, including the problems the candidates
have referred to during their campaigns. People will still experience
incomplete coverage, and many millions will continue to be uninsured and
underinsured. Not even the mandatory health insurance called for by
Hillary Clinton will resolve these problems. Her plan proposes that, just
as a car driver in the U.S. must have car insurance, so a citizen or
resident will have to have health insurance. The problem with this mandate
is not only - as Obama has pointed out - the matter of enforcement (note
that according to some estimates, up to 20% of car owners drive without
car insurance), but the assumption behind the policy. The assumption is
that most people who are not insured are "free-riders," people who could
afford to buy insurance but choose not to, and choose to let someone else
pay for their care when they get sick. But the vast majority of people who
are uninsured are people who cannot afford to pay for it. It's as simple
as that. Massachusetts passed a mandate of this sort (under Governor Mitt
Romney), but 198,000 people still remain uninsured. The subsidies and tax
incentives proposed to help the uninsured pay for health insurance
premiums under plans of this type are insufficient.

Another proposed mandate (put forward by Clinton more strongly than by
Obama) is that all employers must provide insurance coverage to their
employees - a policy proposed by President Nixon back in the 1970s. But
with this proposal, unless you force employers to provide comprehensive
coverage at an affordable cost to everyone, the problem will still not be
resolved. An even greater problem with the employer mandate, however, is
that it continues to tie health benefits to employment, which is a
perverse system and a nasty one. The reason employers, in 1948, pushed to
make health care benefits dependent on employment (in the nefarious
Taft-Hartley Act) was that this was a way of controlling workers. The
Taft-Hartley Act forced the labor force to get health care benefits
through collective bargaining agreements that are highly decentralized and
are negotiated at the place of employment. In the U.S., workers who lose
their jobs lose not only wages, but also health benefits coverage for
themselves and their family. And if these workers want to keep their
insurance, they have to pay prohibitive premiums. So, a worker will think
twice before striking. This is one reason why the U.S. has fewer working
days lost to strikes than other developed countries. Until recently,
employers have been the major force - besides the insurance companies -
for keeping the current system of funding and managing health care. This
system, then, is based on an alliance between employers and the insurance

It is this alliance that is responsible for the biggest problem of health
care benefits: undercoverage. Most people believe that because they have
health insurance, they will never face the problem of being unable to pay
their medical bills. They eventually find out the truth - that their
insurance is dramatically insufficient. Even for families with the best
health benefits coverage available, the benefits are much less
comprehensive than those provided as entitlements in Canada and in most
E.U. countries. And paying medical bills in the U.S. is a serious
difficulty for many people. In fact, inability to pay medical bills is the
primary cause of family bankruptcy, and most of these families have
insurance. Furthermore, 20% of families spend more than 10% of their
disposable income on insurance and medical bills (the percentage is even
higher for those with individual insurance: 53%). In 2006, one of every
four Americans lived in families that had problems in paying medical
bills. And most of them had health insurance.

The inhumanity of this situation is made evident by the fact that nearly
40% of people in the U.S. who are dying because of terminal illness are
worrying about paying for care - how their families are going to pay the
medical bills, now and after they die. No other developed country comes
close to these levels of insensitivity and inhumanity. Meanwhile, the
federal government parades around the world as the great defender of human
rights, ignoring the fact that among the developed democratic nations, the
U.S. is the most deficient in human rights. The basic right of access to
health care in time of need does not exist in the U.S. The United Nations
Human Rights Declaration includes this right in a prominent position, but
this is a declaration that the U.S. Congress has never signed. It should
come as no surprise that the world's people do not believe the U.S.
government is a great defender of human rights abroad, since it does not
guarantee even basic rights at home.

And here again, things are getting worse. The percentage of uninsured and
underinsured has been increasing. The proportion of people with
employer-based health benefits coverage declined from 67.8% among the
non-elderly in 2000 to 63% in 2006 - even though the economy was booming
during those years. In the same period, the number of adults without
coverage increased by 8.7 million, and from 2004 to 2006 the number of
children without coverage increased by 1 million.

          Why does this situation persist in the U.S.?

For any society, medicine is a mirror of the power relations in that
society. And nowhere is the lack of human rights more evident than in the
house of medicine. In the U.S., insensitivity toward human needs goes
hand-in-hand with enormous profits made from that suffering. The root of
the problem, as noted earlier, is not lack of money but the channels
through which that money is managed and spent. The problem is the
privatization of the funding of medicine that allows profits to boom. The
insurance and pharmaceutical industries enjoy the highest rates of profit
in the U.S. Just last year, insurance industry profits reached $12
billion, and pharmaceutical industry profits $49 billion, the highest in
the U.S. and in the world. According to Fortune Magazine, health-related
industries are among the most profitable industries in the country. A lot
of money is being made from people's suffering. This scandalous situation
is easy to document. For example, lanzoprasol, a gastric secretionreducing
medicine widely used in the U.S., costs $329 in Baltimore, U.S.A.; the
same medicine (same number of doses) costs $9 in Barcelona, Spain! And the
current Bush administration signed legislation for a program that, in
theory, covers drug costs for elderly people, but in practice this is an
enormous rip-off. It forbids the government to negotiate with the drug
industry on the cost of drugs - that is, the price of their products. What
this means is that the federal government pays the prices dictated by
pharmaceutical companies.

Now, one might well ask, Why does this continue? Why hasn't our government
done something about it? Is it that the government could not provide
comprehensive health benefits coverage? It certainly could. All E.U.
governments do so. All provide publicly funded, comprehensive health care
coverage to their entire population. And on this side of the Atlantic,
Canada (which once had a system identical to ours, health insurers
included) also provides this entitlement to all its citizens. In Canada in
the 1960s, a social democratic government in Saskatchewan did a very
logical thing. My good friend, Dr. Samuel Wolfe, who was then Chief Health
Officer of Saskatchewan, proposed to the province's social democratic
government that rather than paying premiums to insurance companies, people
would pay earmarked taxes to a public trust fund, controlled by their
representatives. This trust fund would negotiate with doctors and
hospitals for the payments they would receive for the care they provided.
This saved a lot of money by bypassing the insurance companies. The
Saskatchewan Health Plan provided comprehensive care to everyone in the
province at a much lower cost than before. Soon, the other provinces
adopted similar plans, establishing Canada's nationwide health plan that
now covers everyone. The overhead for the public system in Canada is only
4%, compared with 30% in the U.S. insurance industry - 30% that goes to
marketing, administration (a lot of paper shuffling goes on in U.S. health
care), and the salaries of extremely well-paid executives and insurance
lobbyists. One of the best-paid individuals in this country is William
McGuire, CEO of an insurance company - United. He makes $37 million a
year, plus $1.7 billion in stock options. And all of this money comes from
premiums paid by people, many of whom have insufficient coverage.

The insurance companies have enormous power, both in Washington and in
most state legislatures. In Maryland, for example, a former governor
arranged for candidates for Insurance Commissioner to be interviewed by
the insurance associations before he made his final selection. But,
insurance industry influence is strongest in Washington. In the U.S.,
money is the milk of politics. The electoral process is also privatized.
And the insurance companies pay a lot of money to candidates. According to
the Center for Responsive Politics, the insurance industry has contributed
$525,188 to Hillary Clinton, $414,863 to Barack Obama, and $274,724 to
John McCain. As a consequence, not one of the candidates is asking for a
publicly funded system. The major players in medical care in the U.S. -
insurance companies, drug companies, professional associations, etc. (the
list is long) - have given a lot of money to the candidates. The splendid
document called the U.S. Constitution, which begins "We the people "
should have a footnote "and the insurance companies, the drug companies, "
The U.S. Congress is indeed the best Congress money can buy (for a further
discussion of how money corrupts the electoral system, see my article "How
to Read the U.S. Primaries: Guide for Europeans," Counterpunch, February
13, 2008). The privatization of the electoral process (with most of the
money that pays for campaigns coming from economic, financial, and
professional interests, and from 30% of the nation's highest-income
earners) corrupts the democratic process. I am not implying that
politicians are corrupt (although some are). I am willing to admit that
most are honorable persons. But the need to constantly raise funds for
their campaigns (election and re-election) corrupts the democratic system.
And the unwillingness of most members of Congress to change this situation
makes them accomplices in that corruption. Such practices are illegal in
most democratic countries.

And people know all about this. In surveys, 68% of people believe the U.S.
Congress does not represent their interests, but the interests of the
financial and economic groups that fund political campaigns. But the
establishments, including the political, media, and academic
establishments, want everyone to believe that the reason we don't have a
universal health program is that people don't want it. They would like
people to believe that Congress legislates what people actually want.
Meanwhile, the long list of public policies that people want but do not
get from their government is growing: 65% of people want a publicly funded
health care system similar to that in Canada, a system that in academic
language is called single-payer. In a single-payer system, the government,
rather than the insurance companies, negotiates with providers - doctors,
hospitals, nurses, etc. - for the provision of medical care. We already
have a system of this type in Medicare (with an administrative overhead of
only 4%, compared with the 30% in the insurance system). By eliminating
the huge administrative expenses, we could provide comprehensive health
care coverage for everyone without spending an extra penny.

                 The possibilities for major change

Obama and Clinton are ready to admit that single-payer may be better than
any other alternatives. Obama spoke out in favor of it at one time:

"So the challenge is, how do we get federal government to take care of
this business? I happen to be a proponent of a single payer health care
program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest
country in the history of the world, spending 14% of its Gross National
Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody.
And that's what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody

"A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that's
what I'd like to see. And as all of you know, we may not get there
immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have
to take back the Senate, we have to take back the House." (Barack Obama in
2003 before the Illinois AFL-CIO)

But, something happened on the way to Washington. The train derailed. Now
Obama claims that his declaration was taken out of context. And Hillary
Clinton, in 1993, told me that while single-payer might be the most
logical model, it was politically infeasible.

I hope both candidates will reconsider. At this time, neither candidate's
proposal will resolve the health care crisis we are facing. And in 2012,
candidates will still be talking about single mothers who cannot pay for
medical care for themselves or their children. The candidates of 2008
should be asking for government mandates rather than individual mandates.
It is not people who should be mandated to get insurance. It is the
government that should be mandated to provide insurance for everyone as an

                       The need to mobilize

Obama has been able to capitalize on the anti-establishment mood in the
country. And he has inspired many. While I believe that large numbers of
people - the grassroots of the Democratic Party who support him - do want
change and are firmly anti-establishment, I am concerned that they are
putting too much faith in one individual. Without diminishing what
candidate Obama has achieved, the fact is that he has already shown
himself to be adaptable to the political context. He was once against the
war in Iraq. But, in Congress, his votes on Iraq have been
indistinguishable from those of Hillary Clinton. And in health care, his
rather disappointing proposal will not resolve the problems. I am very
worried that once in power, he will not have the courage to confront the
extremely powerful lobbies primarily responsible for the lack of health
care coverage and the undercoverage of the American people. It happened
with Bill Clinton's administration and it may happen again. Contrary to
what Obama and others have said, the main problem with Hillary Clinton's
Task Force in 1993 was not its secrecy (although secrecy was indeed a
problem) but a conceptual framework based on an insurance model - managed
care - that was pushed on the political, media, and academic
establishments by the insurance companies. The ideologues of managed care
were clearly in charge of the Task Force. It could happen again.

To prevent this, there is a need to mobilize. History is not made by
extraordinary figures but by ordinary people who can move mountains when
they believe in a cause and get organized. It has happened all over the
world, and it has happened in the U.S. We saw it in the establishment of
the New Deal, Social Security, unemployment insurance, job creation,
minimum wage, and subsidized housing, among other programs. These were not
just the outcome of President Roosevelt's position, but the result of huge
social agitation and mobilization. As usually happens in historical
moments of societal change, government leaders were not so much leading as
trying to catch up with what millions of people were demanding. Similarly,
the Great Society Programs - Medicare, Medicaid, Environmental Protection
Agency, NIOSH, OSHA, and many other examples of progressive legislation -
were the outcome of massive mobilizations. Candidate John Kennedy's
proposals for change were rather moderate, and his domestic policies, once
he was elected, were also disappointing. But the mobilization triggered by
his election was followed by many more, such as Appalachian coal miners'
strikes against their working conditions, the splendid civil rights
movement led by Martin Luther King, and the antVietnam War movement led by
student groups. They all established a political climate in which
progressive legislation could occur. History, indeed, does not repeat
itself. But it offers us pointers on where to go. And it should be obvious
that change will not occur unless there is a huge mobilization to complete
the unfinished agenda of civil rights: a full development of social
rights, with the human right to access to health care at the center.

To achieve that right, we need reforms more substantial than those put
forth by either Democratic candidate. The splendid slogan first used by
the great trade union leader Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm
Workers of America, was Yes, We Can! This should guide the call for
establishing the right to health care. But, for that to happen, the
current holders of the slogan must heighten their expectations and become
more ambitious in their proposals. This is what the electorate expects
from them in their promises of change

Dr. Vicente Navarro is Professor of Health Policy, Public Policy, and
Policy Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He has written extensively
on economics, health, and social policy, and has been advisor to many
governments and international agencies. His books have been translated
into many languages. He was the founder and president of the International
Association of Health Policy, and for almost forty years has been
Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Health Services. He is
also a founding member of Physicians for a National Health Program. The
views expressed in this article are his own, but are shared by millions
across the United States

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