|Progressive Calendar 08.15.09||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Sat, 15 Aug 2009 06:50:19 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 08.15.09 1. WAMM book sale 8.15 8am 2. Peace walk 8.15 9am Cambridge MN 3. Lydia/yard sale 8.15 10am 4. Picket Starbucks 8.15 10am 5. Stop it 8.15 11am 6. Northtown vigil 8.15 2pm 7. Eduardo Galeano - I hate to bother you, but history never ends 8. Kip Sullivan - Reply to critics of How the 'public option' was sold 9. ed - My great thoughts (poem) --------1 of 9-------- From: Sue Ann <seasnun [at] gmail.com> Subject: WAMM book sale 8.15 8am WAMM Used Book Sale by Lake Hiawatha Saturday, August 15, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Ann Galloway's Back Yard, 4354 28th Avenue South, Minneapolis. 100% of the proceeds to benefit WAMM! Browse for books, CDs, audio books, DVDs, puzzles, and games. Walking tacos and soda pop will be available as well. Bring a lawn chair and read your new book by nearby Lake Hiawatha. Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI or to make a donation: Email gannica [at] yahoo.com. [Or, there's my Used idea sale! Big ideas, speckled ideas, Popiel Pocket Ideas, ideas no one can ever have, and more O so much more! No payment required till August 2007. -ed] --------2 of 9-------- From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at] umn.edu> Subject: Peace walk 8.15 9am Cambridge MN every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street --------3 of 9-------- From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Lydia/yard sale 8.15 10am SAT. AUG. 15, 10AM TO 5:30PM An ACTIVIST' S YARD SALE SIDEWALK of 2121 MINNEHAHA AVE. South (1 block south of East Franklin) Minneapolis Help activist/journalist LYDIA HOWELL make "seed money" to host benefits this fall! All items 25 cents to $20! Progressive BOOKS--from Peace Studies, Black Studies to Mao, labor to women's studies, literature & spirituality---and some NEW TITKES, too!CDs! MOVIES--Videos $1/DVDs $2--3! ART, political posters, original art, small sculpture! Clothes,. New shoes! Kitchen stuff, bedding. A 13-inch color TV. Tape deck/radio! Luggage. Political buttons & some unusual items. All items 25 cents to $20! Hope to see you there! Thanks! [Some of DAVE'S USED IDEAS may be for SALE too! Try 'em---you'll like 'EM! Books on DAVE'S STUDIES---studies of Dave and why he is so super wonderful! Be the FIRST in your neighborhood to understand Dave!] --------4 of 9-------- From: Michele <MRockne [at] gmail.com> From: Erik Forman <erik.forman [at] gmail.com> Subject: Picket Starbucks 8.15 10am Starbucks Workers Union/Industrial Workers of the World Contact: Anja Witek, 651-587-9593 Baristas to Picket Saint Paul Starbucks over Unjust Firing of Ethiopian Coworker Starbucks Workers Union Looks Toward Litigation Press Conference: 10am Saturday August 15th, Snelling & Selby Starbucks St. Paul, MN - Baristas from across the Twin Cities plan to picket the Snelling & Selby Starbucks this Saturday in protest of the unjust firing of Ethiopian barista and mother of three Azmera Mehrbatu. On July 8th, Azmera was singled out and interrogated for almost two hours by District Manager Claire Gallagher, who accused Azmera of under-charging regular customers, a common practice at the store. Management openly admits that there was no evidence that Azmera stole a single penny. Despite repeatedly stating that she did not understand the words of her interrogators, Azmera was pressured to sign a promissory note agreeing to pay Starbucks the arbitrarily-determined sum of $1200. Azmera still struggles to understand what Starbucks did to her. "I love everyone in my heart. I believe them. I trust them. That is my problem," she said. Baristas across the city have rallied to her support, organizing a protest which will take place outside the Snelling and Selby Starbucks this Saturday at 10am. They have circulated a petition demanding her immediate reinstatement. Pressure continues to mount on company executives as the Starbucks Workers Union builds community support and looks toward litigation. "We believe Starbucks executives should not be allowed to sit on their billions of dollars in profits with their backs turned on unfairly treated workers like Aizze. As Starbucks 'partners' and fellow workers, we demand honesty, transparency and equality in the discipline and termination of all workers," said Anja Witek, a barista at the Snelling and Selby Starbucks and member of the Starbucks Workers Union. Starbucks has so far refused to respond to the baristas' demands. The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is an organization of over 300 current and former employees at the world's largest coffee chain united for secure work hours, a living wage, and respect on the job. The union has members throughout the United States, and now Canada as well, fighting for positive change at the company and defending baristas treated unfairly by management. --------5 of 9-------- From: Steff Yorek <yosteff [at] gmail.com> Subject: Stop it 8.15 11am Saturday protest in Minneapolis to tell Banks & Mortgage Companies: Stop Foreclosures and Evictions Saturday, August 15: - 11:00 AM: Gather Lake Street & Clinton Ave. South in Minneapolis. - 11:15 AM: March (The march will go past the home of Rosemary Williams - 3138 Clinton Ave - for a brief rally, the march will then continue on). - 12:00 Noon: Rally at Wells Fargo branch office, Nicollet & 31st Street. "Stop foreclosures and evictions" will be the rallying call during a protest set for Saturday, August 15, in Minneapolis. The protest, initiated by the Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout, will call on banks and mortgage companies to stop foreclosures and the displacement of homeowners and to stop evicting tenants from rental properties that have been foreclosed. The event will start Saturday at 11 AM at Clinton Avenue and Lake Street. A march will start at 11:15 AM. The march will go past the home of Rosemary Williams, the south Minneapolis homeowner fighting to stop her foreclosure and eviction. After a brief rally at the Williams home the march will continue on to the Wells Fargo branch at Nicollet & 31st Street. Wells Fargo has received $25 billion in TARP, the federal bank bailout, yet continues to foreclose and evict local citizens. "The outpouring of support for Rosemary Williams in recent days shows that people want action taken against the continued foreclosures and destruction of our communities," said Steff York of the Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout. "Rosemary's struggle is a fight to defend the interests of millions of working people and low-income people who are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. We march to demand that the banks and mortgage companies stop the foreclosures and evictions," said Linden Gawboy of the Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout. A statement issued by organizers explains, "The economic crisis is not the fault of working and low-income people. Banks and mortgage companies sold mortgages with escalating interest rates and penalties that were doomed to fail. Increasing layoffs and the economic crisis will lead to more people falling behind on mortgage payments. Working people and low-income people need a bailout." The statement demands that banks and mortgage companies honor the leases of tenants in foreclosed rental properties. "Tenants by the hundreds and thousands have lost their homes in the last few years, as landlords lose their properties. Lenders who foreclose on landlords put tenants out on the streets. This must stop." --------6 of 9-------- From: Vanka485 [at] aol.com Subject: Northtown vigil 8.15 2pm Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday 2-3pm --------7 of 9-------- History Never Ends I Hate to Bother You By EDUARDO GALEANO August 13, 2009 CounterPunch I'd like to share with you some questions--some flies that keep buzzing in my head. Is justice right side up? Has world justice been frozen in an upside-down position? The shoe-thrower of Iraq, the man who hurled his shoes at Bush, was condemned to three years in prison. Doesn't he deserve, instead, a medal? Who is the terrorist? The hurler of shoes or their recipient? Is not the real terrorist the serial killer who, lying, fabricated the Iraq war, massacred a multitude, and legalized and ordered torture? Who are the guilty ones--the people of Atenco, in Mexico, the indigenous Mapuches of Chile, the Kekchies of Guatemala, the landless peasants of Brazil - all being accused of the crime of terrorism for defending their right to their own land? If the earth is sacred, even if the law does not say so, aren't its defenders sacred too? According to Foreign Policy Magazine, Somalia is the most dangerous place in the world. But who are the pirates? The starving people who attack ships or the speculators of Wall Street who spent years attacking the world and who are now rewarded with many millions of dollars for their pains? Why does the world reward its ransackers? Why is justice a one-eyed blind woman? Wal-Mart, the most powerful corporation on earth, bans trade unions. McDonald's, too. Why do these corporations violate, with criminal impunity, international law? Is it because in this contemporary world of ours, work is valued as lower than trash and workers' rights are valued even less? Who are the righteous and who are the villains? If international justice really exists, why are the powerful never judged? The masterminds of the worst butcheries are never sent to prison. Is it because it is these butchers themselves who hold the prison keys? What makes the five nations with veto power in the United Nations inviolable? Is it of a divine origin, that veto power of theirs? Can you trust those who profit from war to guard the peace? Is it fair that world peace is in the hands of the very five nations who are also the world's main producers of weapons? Without implying any disrespect to the drug runners, couldn't we refer to this arrangement as yet another example of organized crime? Those who clamor, everywhere, for the death penalty are strangely silent about the owners of the world. Even worse, these clamorers forever complain about knife-wielding murderers, yet say nothing about missile-wielding arch-murderers. And one asks oneself: Given that these self-righteous world owners are so enamored of killing, why pray don't they try to aim their murderous proclivities at social injustice? Is it a just a world when, every minute, three million dollars are wasted on the military, while at the same time fifteen children perish from hunger or curable disease? Against whom is the so-called international community armed to the teeth? Against poverty or against the poor? Why don't the champions of capital punishment direct their ire at the values of the consumer society, values which pose a daily threat to public safety? Or doesn't, perhaps, the constant bombardment of advertising constitute an invitation to crime? Doesn't that bombardment numb millions and millions of unemployed or poorly paid youth, endlessly teaching them the lie that "to be = to have," that life derives its meaning from ownership of such things as cars or brand name shoes? Own, own, they keep saying, implying that he who has nothing is, himself, nothing. Why isn't the death penalty applied to death itself? The world is organized in the service of death. Isn't it true that the military industrial complex manufactures death and devours the greater part of our resources as well as a good part of our energies? Yet the owners of the world only condemn violence when it is exercised by others. To extraterrestrials, if they existed, such monopoly of violence would appear inexplicable. It likewise appears insupportable to earth dwellers who, against all the available evidence, hope for survival: we humans are the only animals who specialize in mutual extermination, and who have developed a technology of destruction that is annihilating, coincidentally, our planet and all its inhabitants. This technology sustains itself on fear. It is the fear of enemies that justifies the squandering of resources by the military and police. And speaking about implementing the death penalty, why don't we pass a death sentence on fear itself? Would it not behoove us to end this universal dictatorship of the professional scaremongers? The sowers of panic condemn us to loneliness, keeping solidarity outside our reach: falsely teaching us that we live in a dog-eat-dog world, that he who can must crush his fellows, that danger is lurking behind every neighbor. Watch out, they keep saying, be careful, this neighbor will steal from you, that other one will rape you, that baby carriage hides a Muslim bomb, and that woman who is watching you--that innocent-looking neighbor of yours will surely infect you with swine flu. In this upside-down world, they are making us afraid of even the most elementary acts of justice and common sense. When President Evo Morales started to re-build Bolivia, so that his country with its indigenous majority will no longer feel shame facing a mirror, his actions provoked panic. Morales' challenge was indeed catastrophic from the traditional standpoint of the racist order, whose beneficiaries felt that theirs was the only possible option for Bolivia. It was Evo, they felt, who ushered in chaos and violence, and this alleged crime justified efforts to blow up national unity and break Bolivia into pieces. And when President Correa of Ecuador refused to pay the illegitimate debts of his country, the news caused terror in the financial world and Ecuador was threatened with dire punishment, for daring to set such a bad example. If the military dictatorships and roguish politicians have always been pampered by international banks, have we not already conditioned ourselves to accept it as our inevitable fate that the people must pay for the club that hits them and for the greed the plunders them? But, have common sense and justice always been divorced from each other? Were not common sense and justice meant to walk hand in hand, intimately linked? Aren't common sense, and also justice, in accord with the feminist slogan which states that if we, men, had to go through pregnancy, abortion would have been free. Why not legalize the right to have an abortion? Is it because abortion will then cease being the sole privilege of the women who can afford it and of the physicians who can charge for it? The same thing is observed with another scandalous case of denial of justice and common sense: why aren't drugs legal? Is this not, like abortion, a public health issue? And the very same country that counts in its population more drug addicts than any other country in the world, what moral authority does it have to condemn its drug suppliers? And why don't the mass media, in their dedication to the war against the scourge of drugs, ever divulge that it is Afghanistan which single-handedly satisfies just about all the heroin consumed in the world? Who rules Afghanistan? Is it not militarily occupied by a messianic country which conferred upon itself the mission of saving us all? Why aren't drugs legalized once and for all? Is it because they provide the best pretext for military invasions, in addition to providing the juiciest profits to the large banks who, in the darkness of night, serve as money-laundering centers? Nowadays the world is sad because fewer vehicles are sold. One of the consequences of the global crisis is a decline of the otherwise prosperous car industry. Had we some shred of common sense, a mere fragment of a sense of justice, would we not celebrate this good news? Could anyone deny that a decline in the number of automobiles is good for nature, seeing that she will end up with a bit less poison in her veins? Could anyone deny the value of this decline in car numbers to pedestrians, seeing that fewer of them will die? Here's how Lewis Carroll.s queen explained to Alice how justice is dispensed in a looking-glass world: "There's the King's Messenger. He's in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn't begin until next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all." In El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero found that justice, like a snake, only bites barefoot people. He died of gunshot wounds, for proclaiming that in his country the dispossessed were condemned from the very start, on the day of their birth. Couldn't the outcome of the recent elections in El Salvador be viewed, in some ways, as a homage to Archbishop Romero and to the thousands who, like him, died fighting for right-side-up justice in this reign of injustice? At times the narratives of History end badly, but she, History itself, never ends. When she says goodbye, she only says: I'll be back. Translation from Spanish for CounterPunch: Dr. Moti Nissani Among his other achievements, in 1971, Eduardo Galeano wrote The Open Veins of Latin America and, in 1976, escaped death at the hands of CIA-financed Argentine death squads. --------8 of 9-------- Reply to critics of "Bait and switch: How the 'public option' was sold" by Kip Sullivan, JD pnhp Aug 8, 2009 Conservatives never base their opposition to single-payer on the ground that it is "politically infeasible". They oppose single-payer on policy grounds and they say so. The "political feasibility" argument is used exclusively by proponents of universal health insurance who profess to admire single-payer systems but who refuse to support single-payer legislation in any meaningful way (and often support legislation that impedes single-payer's progress) on the ground that single-payer cannot be enacted, soon or at all. Merton Bernstein and Ted Marmor refer to these people as "political yes buts". "Political yes buts" have been lecturing single-payer advocates since the modern American single-payer movement began in the late 1980s. Several "yes buts" took issue with a comment I posted on July 20 on this blog entitled "Bait and switch: How the 'public option' was sold" [See Progressive Calendar for 07.30.09 -ed]. In that comment, I compared the original version of the "public option" promoted by Jacob Hacker, the intellectual godfather of the idea, and Health Care for America Now (HCAN) with the version incorporated in two bills introduced by congressional Democrats in July. I reported that Hacker's original proposal called for a public health insurance program that would enroll 130 million people whereas the "public option" contained in the Democrats' House bill would enroll 10 million at most and the "public option" in the Democrats' Senate HELP Committee bill would enroll approximately no one. (Now that Democrats in the House have compromised away to the Blue Dogs a requirement that the "public option" use Medicare's rates plus 5 percent, I assume the Congressional Budget Office will attribute roughly zero enrollment to the House version too.) I stated that a "public option" with zero to 10 million enrollees might not survive and, if it did, it would have little effect on health care costs and the number of uninsured and underinsured. I criticized the leaders of the "public option" movement for failing to notify the public that the mousey "options" in the Democrats' bills bear no resemblance to the huge "public option" originally proposed by Hacker and celebrated by HCAN. My July 20 comment moved rapidly over the Internet, starting with a few blogs maintained by some long-time single-payer advocates (including Black Agenda Report and Corrente), and triggered much discussion. From what I could see, most of it was appreciative. However, there was some criticism. The critics didn't challenge my facts, nor my conclusion that the "public option" had undergone great shrinkage, nor that its advocates had failed to apprise the public of that fact. The criticism fell into two categories. The first category boiled down to the argument single-payer advocates have heard for two decades: Single-payer legislation is not feasible, or is less feasible than some version of the "public option". The second type of criticism amounted to: It doesn't matter that the "public option" has been degraded to a tiny ghost of its former self because it will inevitably be strengthened after it becomes law. Here is an example of the "political feasibility" argument: Simple fact: Single-payer is not within the realm of possibility this term. Here is an example of the argument that it's ok to support the mouse version of the Democrats' "public option" because fundamental reform is usually achieved by building on small incremental reforms: The author doesn't even seem to understand how legislation is made.. The fact is, it will be a lot more politically difficult for members of Congress to vote against those future incremental improvements than to vote against the entire plan now. Once it's in place, and constituents start calling their elected officials with complaints, they're going to have to fix those problems - or at the very least, not get in the way of the solution.. We won't get there overnight, but this bill will at least be a decent start. Here is an example by a critic who makes both arguments: As Teddy Kennedy says, the most important thing is to get a public plan by hook or crook and then expand it. But I would love to know why this fellow and others like him believe that, all things being equal (the same presidential campaign, the same economic conditions) single payer could have been sold more effectively than a public plan. I address both types of criticism in this paper. The feasibility argument is old, and it's backwards I first heard the "political feasibility" argument from members of a Minnesota health care reform commission in the spring and summer of 1990 when the coalition for which I was working, the Health Care Campaign of Minnesota, started visiting commission members to drum up support for single-payer legislation. I remember very clearly hearing the political feasibility argument on a hot summer day in 1990 in the office of Senator Linda Berglin, a commission member who also chaired the Senate health committee. Berglin, who was and still is from the safest Democratic-Farmer-Labor district in Minnesota, said she wouldn't support single-payer because "we can't beat the insurance industry" (or words almost exactly like those). A year later she was claiming that legislation that relied on HMOs to contain cost would have a much greater chance of passing in Minnesota and that's what she was going to focus on. Over the years 1992 through 1994, Minnesota's legislature did in fact pass a series of bills (collectively referred to as "MinnesotaCare") that were supposed to achieve substantial cost containment by encouraging faster enrollment in HMOs, and thus establish universal health insurance by July 1, 1997. Of course, it all fell apart, beginning in 1995. Minnesota is no closer to universal health insurance today than it was in 1990 when I was first advised by my betters about how politically infeasible single-payer is and how politically feasible the HMO approach would be. A half-dozen other states have suffered the same lesson. Legislative leaders, egged on by left-of-center groups that didn't know much about health policy but which maintain close relations with Democrats, thought they could achieve universal coverage by funneling more tax dollars through "managed care" insurance companies. This occurred recently in the state of Massachusetts where "Romney-care," a program that requires Massachusetts residents to buy health insurance from that state's bloated insurance industry, was enacted in 2006. The program is having a very hard time staying afloat. All these multiple-payer state initiatives foundered because they did not contain cost. It is now the summer of 2009. You can imagine my reaction to people who claim single-payer isn't politically feasible but that other proposals that leave the insurance industry at the top of the health care food chain are. I want to get out my guitar and sing in a sad, tremulous voice, "Where have all the flowers gone .. When will they ever learn?" How many times must universal coverage advocates rush onto the battle field to promote a multiple-payer solution and get slaughtered before they realize they can't get to universal coverage that way? How many defeats will it take till they know that universal coverage without cost containment is not politically feasible? How many times can they be fooled into thinking that there are ways to cut costs other single-payer? There are several reasons why the lessons of previous defeats don't sink in with many universal coverage advocates. I'll discuss two here: (1) insufficient knowledge of how social change happens; and (2) insufficient knowledge about the role that promoters of market-based solutions to the health care crisis played in marginalizing single-payer legislation in Congress. Naivete about social change As the remarks by critics of "Bait and switch" quoted above suggest, some "political yes buts" have a superficial understanding of how social change happens. They think it happens quickly or not at all, and they think it begins and ends in Congress. This view of social change is often expressed in the mantra quoted above, "Single payer is not within the realm of possibility this term". The implication is that if single-payer advocates cannot demonstrate that they have at least 51 percent of the votes lined up, they should retreat to the sidelines and watch the "political yes buts" do their thing. It implies that social change must occur within a single session of Congress rather than over the course of many sessions. It implies that movements for social change should, in the event that they do not have a majority vote locked up at the beginning of any given session of Congress, put their campaign in moth balls and forgo the opportunity to educate the public and build their movement through lobbying, testimony, rallies and all the other tools associated with campaigns to move bills in Congress. In short, it implies an absurd Catch-22. To get the "political yes buts" to join them, single-payer advocates must show proof of having a majority of Congress on their side; but to get a majority of Congress on their side, the single-payer movement must build and wage a campaign relentlessly over many years in the face of active discouragement from the "yes buts" - and without pestering Congress with ideas unfairly characterized as utopian. These demands, when they are spelled out, are obviously irrational. Universal coverage under a single-payer system is going to be difficult to achieve. The difficulty may be on the order of the difficulty of ensuring voting rights for women and civil rights for black people, to name just two examples of movements that took decades to accomplish their goals. If the leaders and supporters of these movements had accepted the Alice-in-Wonderland rules recommended by the "yes buts," the women's suffrage and civil rights movements would never have happened. Naivete about the role of promoters of market-based alternatives to single-payer The second reason some progressives don't draw the right lessons from the failure of previous attempts to achieve universal coverage is that they fail to understand the role that advocates of bad policy have played in splitting the universal coverage movement and weakening support for single-payer within Congress. This is particularly true of the failure of Bill Clinton's Health Security Act in 1994. The conventional wisdom within the "yes but" wing of the universal coverage movement is that Clinton's bill died because advocates of universal coverage did not rally around his bill quickly enough in the face of "Harry and Louise" ads, and because Clinton didn't engage in skillful "messaging". The fact that the Health Security Act was a horrendous bill is not part of the "yes buts"' folklore. There have been three cycles of health care reform in the last half century - 1970-73, 1992-1994, and 2007 to date. At the dawn of each cycle, single-payer legislation had already been introduced. But early in the cycle, single-payer legislation was "taken off the table" (to quote a statement Sen. Max Baucus now wishes he had never made). Each time the Democratic leadership chose instead market-based proposals that had no track record and no evidence to support them. Each time they favored reform deemed more "politically feasible" than single-payer because it left the insurance industry in place. In all three cycles, the alternative, market-based proposal was promoted by one or two policy entrepreneurs (that is to say, it wasn't an idea that bubbled up from the grassroots). Single-payer legislation was the first out of the chute during the 1970-1973 cycle. In January 1970, Sen. Ted Kennedy introduced what we would today call a single-payer bill. But Kennedy and other leading Democrats quickly abandoned single-payer in favor of a theory about cost containment called the "health maintenance strategy". This strategy revolved around a new-fangled type of insurance company proposed by a Minnesota physician named Paul Ellwood that Ellwood called the "health maintenance organization". Ellwood would become rich and famous selling his HMO idea. He single-handedly convinced President Richard Nixon to endorse legislation to subsidize the formation of HMOs all over the country. While Ellwood worked the Republicans, the AFL-CIO worked the Democrats. Within a year, Kennedy and many other Democrats had been persuaded to abandon the single-payer approach in favor of legislation that would subsidize HMOs. The 1970-1973 cycle ended with the enactment of the HMO Act of 1973. Thus was the world's first HMO industry born. As we all know now, the HMO experiment failed. Two decades later, when the 1992-1994 cycle opened, single-payer legislation was not only in place in Congress it had also been introduced in many states (the first state single-payer bill to be introduced was introduced in Ohio's legislature in 1990). The first modern-day single-payer bill was introduced in the US House by Rep. Marty Russo (D-IL) in 1991 and in the Senate by Senator Paul Wellstone in 1992. But as was the case during the previous cycle, the Democratic leadership was seduced by an alternative to single-payer. Once again, Paul Ellwood played an important role in luring Democrats away from single-payer. Late in 1992, candidate Bill Clinton was persuaded by representatives of a group Ellwood helped form, the Jackson Hole Group, to support something called "managed competition". The Jackson Hole Group was a coalition of insurance company executives and conservatives who met regularly at Ellwood's mansion in Jackson Hole, WY. The theory of "managed competition" held that if the insurance "market" were tweaked (with report cards on insurance companies, for example), competition between insurers would intensify, Ellwood's beloved HMOs would gradually seize more market share, and this would drive industry-wide premiums down. Clinton's endorsement of "managed competition within a budget" catapulted what might have remained an obscure idea into the political limelight. When Clinton was elected, single-payer legislation once again languished while the Clintons, with help from groups like Families USA, AFSCME, and Citizen Action (now called USAction), flogged their managed competition bill. The 1994 cycle ended with the death of Clinton's bill in September 1994, and the unraveling of similar managed competition legislation enacted in Minnesota and Washington. Dj vu The cycle we're in now bears many similarities with the last two cycles. When this cycle began (2007 is as good a year to pick as the first year of this cycle, although that is somewhat arbitrary), single-payer legislation was better positioned than ever before to be taken seriously by Democrats. Single-payer bills had been introduced in several states as well as the US House (Sen. Bernie Sanders would introduce a single-payer bill in the Senate in 2008). Polls were showing that two-thirds of Americans and 60 percent of doctors support single-payer (or "Medicare for all") legislation. But once again an articulate policy entrepreneur appeared on the scene to sell a market-based alternative to single-payer that would leave the insurance industry at the top of the health care food chain, and once again the Democratic leadership fell for it. This time the entrepreneur was not Paul Ellwood. This time the policy entrepreneur was Jacob Hacker, a professor of political science at Berkeley. Just as Ellwood and the Jackson Hole Group had before him, Hacker said enhanced "competition" among insurance companies was the solution to the health care crisis. (The name of Hacker's latest paper is "Healthy competition".) This time enhanced competition would not come from "managing" competition, but from the creation of a "public option". This time the coalition that promoted the alternative to single-payer was not the Jackson Hole Group, but HCAN, assisted by a sister coalition called the Herndon Alliance. The Herndon Alliance was founded in 2005 by many of the same groups that would create HCAN in 2008. The Herndon Alliance paved the way for HCAN's promotion of the "public option" with some laughable "research" claiming to find that Americans want a "public-private-plan choice" approach and don't want a single-payer system. I have written elsewhere about the bogus "research" conducted by the Herndon Alliance. Suffice it to say here the Herndon Alliance cooked up a new and more insidious version of the "political feasibility" argument. Until about 2007, when the Herndon Alliance first began publishing its "research," there was only one variant of the "political feasibility" argument, the one that said the insurance industry is too powerful to beat. The Herndon Alliance variant claimed single-payer is not feasible because Americans don't want it. According to this variant, American "values," not the insurance industry, are actually the greatest impediment to single-payer. According to the Herndon Alliance, Americans "value choice of insurance company" and "they like the insurance they have and want to keep it". HCAN and Hacker picked up these refrains and promoted them vigorously to the public and to members of Congress. This inexcusable attack on single-payer no doubt helped key committee chairs in Congress (Kennedy, Baucus, Waxman, Rangel and Miller) feel more comfortable taking single-payer off the table and concentrating on the "public option". By early 2009, it was clear the Hacker-HCAN-Herndon Alliance propaganda for the "public option" and against single-payer had worked with the Democratic leadership, and that the Democratic leadership would fall once again for a market-based alternative and remove single-payer from the table. The removal of single-payer legislation took place without the firing of a single shot in public by the insurance industry and the right wing. It took place at the request of the "yes but" wing. In the House, single-payer legislation, HR 676, has been rammed back onto the table, thanks to hell-raising by the single-payer movement, including the arrests of some brave doctors and nurses who disrupted hearings in the Senate Finance Committee last May. Last Friday night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to allow a floor vote on whether to substitute HR 676 for HR 3200, the Democratic leadership's "public option" bill. This is a significant victory for the single-payer movement, but it should not have come so late in the 2009 session. If Pelosi and the three committee chairmen who wrote HR 3200 had permitted HR 676 to go through the normal committee hearing process, single-payer advocates would have had more time to educate Congress and the public about why a single-payer system is superior to all other alternatives. It appears almost certain that the reform cycle we're in now will end the way the last two did - with the Democrats' competition-based alternative to single-payer going down in flames. It is extremely important that progressives, especially progressives in the "yes but" camp, understand why this happened. Yes, the ultimate villain in these dramas was the insurance industry and their conservative allies. But universal coverage advocates must understand the role of the "yes buts," and the policy entrepreneurs they listened to, in splitting the universal coverage movement and in seducing Democrats to support legislation that was no more likely to pass than single-payer legislation and wouldn't have cut costs if it had passed. If they don't see this - if they persist in believing the insurance industry is the only force single-payer advocates have to contend with - they will, wittingly or unwittingly, help perpetuate the pattern we have seen in the last three reform cycles. They will, in short, perpetuate the insanity of doing the same thing over and over, seeing it fail, and not learning from failure. It is not inevitable that a scrawny "public option" will be strengthened The argument that any "public option" is better than none has rarely been articulated, but I suspect we will hear it more often as the reality sinks in that the "public option" in the Democrats' bill is a joke. "Public option" advocates who learn for the first time that the "option" in the Democrats' bill will insure few or zero people have only two choices: to abandon the "public option" movement, which is no doubt emotionally difficult to do for those who have invested heavily in the movement, or to continue to work for the Democrats' version of the "public option" and rationalize that choice with the argument that a tiny "public option" can always be improved once it is established. The problem with this argument is that the "public option" is not your typical government program. The "public option" is not like the space program or the various college loan programs, to take a few examples, all of which can be expanded or contracted as the years go by without seriously threatening the very existence of the program. The "public option" will be a business. And this particular government-run business may never get very big; it may not even survive. If it doesn't get big, or doesn't survive, it won't develop the huge public fan base that protects popular programs like Social Security and Medicare. In fact, the reverse could happen. A miserable early performance may cause Americans to turn against the idea of a Medicare-like program for the non-elderly. Unlike public programs, businesses don't have an indefinite time period to develop a supportive public. Businesses don't automatically take root and go on living forever. The "public option" must prove its ability to survive and undersell the insurance industry quickly. Moreover, the "public option" will be attempting to break into a business that has been consolidating over the last few years. The insurance industry is extraordinarily difficult to crack. "Public option" proponents who urge us to support even a token "public option" must remember how much is at stake here. At stake is not only the willingness of the public to believe that government health insurance programs can outperform the insurance industry. At stake as well is whether Congress will give the insurance industry a trillion dollars per decade of taxpayer money. The Democrats' legislation calls for subsidies to people under a certain income level (probably 300 or 400 percent of the poverty level) so all Americans can afford to obey the proposed law requiring them to buy insurance from either the insurance industry or the "public option". These subsidies will probably amount to a trillion dollars per decade. If the "public option" doesn't survive, or survives but never insures more than a tiny percent of the population, that will mean that all or nearly all of that trillion dollars will go to the insurance industry. It is not written in stone that creation of the "public option" must go hand in hand with a huge bailout for the insurance industry. After all, one could imagine a scenario in which enrollees in the "public option" are the only ones who get subsidies. That was Hacker's original plan. But Democrats decided early in their bill-writing process that subsidies had to go to both the "public option" and the insurance industry, and Hacker and company did not complain. That decision, plus the Democrats' desire to achieve near-universal coverage, plus the Democrats' decision to create only a tiny "public option," means that if a "public option" is enacted it will be enacted only in conjunction with an enormous insurance industry bailout. A well-fed insurance industry is bad news for both single-payer and "public option" advocates. An insurance industry strengthened by a trillion dollars per decade of new tax dollars will not only be in a better position to oppose single-payer legislation, it will also be in a stronger position to lobby Congress and the regulators to ensure the "public option" remains stunted. "Public option" advocates should start talking about the "public option" as if it were inextricably tied to an insurance industry bailout. They should write the phrase "public-option-insurance-industry-bailout" on a Post-it note and paste it to their bathroom mirror to remind them to be honest with themselves and the public about this fact. To sum up: "Public option" proponents who claim that any "public option" is better than no "public option" because even a skinny little program can be beefed up later are sadly mistaken. A weak "public option" may not survive to be beefed up later, and whether it survives or not, it will serve as fig leaf that will let Congress justify an insurance industry bailout. A strengthened insurance industry is the last thing either the "public option" or the single-payer wing of the universal coverage movement needs. Please say after me: A weak public option is far worse than none at all. Single-payer will still require a political struggle As I said in "Bait and switch," I have no illusions about how difficult a single-payer bill will be to enact. I am under no illusion that a single-payer bill would have passed Congress in 2009 given the world as it was in December 2008. I do believe, though, that if the "yes but" wing of the universal coverage movement had thrown their considerable weight behind single-payer prior to 2009, say, in 1992 when the last reform cycle began, we would either have a Medicare-for-all style system by now, or we'd be on the verge of enacting one now. Will HCAN and Hacker put out a call to their followers to do all they can to win the floor vote on HR 676 this fall? Or will they give lip service to HR 676 and sit on their hands? When the 2009 session of Congress ends, will HCAN et al. offer their usual misinterpretations of why reform failed? How quickly America enacts a single-payer system will depend in part on whether progressives learn the real lessons of the failure of the "public option" movement in 2009. If the "yes but" wing draws the same lessons it drew from the failure of the Clinton bill - that the "base" was not well enough organized, or that the Clintons didn't "sell" their plan skillfully - unity within the universal coverage movement seems unlikely, and the day we get to a single-payer system will be postponed. I believe the "yes buts" must confront some inconvenient truths immediately. The "political feasibility" rationale for doing nothing to assist the single-payer movement was never a good one or, at minimum, after two decades of constant use, has become an embarrassment and must be discarded. It is foolish to argue that even the tiniest "public option" will constitute a victory that can be built on later. If the "yes buts" see these truths, then unity within the universal coverage movement should be possible. And if unity comes to the universal coverage movement for the first time in 40 years, single-payer can't be far behind. Kip Sullivan belongs to the steering committee of the Minnesota chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program. --------9 of 9-------- The Antiques Roadshow guy said my great thoughts are worth at least two cents each. I said I'd trade him one of my thoughts for two of his great opinions. He said that was the best offer he'd ever had, and we closed the deal. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8
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