Friday, October 2, 2009

PROGRESSIVE?

I had a passionate discussion on the phone this morning with my friend Tom G (in LA). He asked me when I would stop defending the Democrats and admit that they are wrong because they seem incapable of bringing about the kind of healthcare reform he advocates.

I don't think we ever got to exactly what his version of the best way to bring universal healthcare to our fellow citizens would be. But my side of the discussion was that if the kinds of changes that are already in the proposed healthcare reform bill had come about somehow under the previous administration and/or Bush Senior's or Reagan's, Democrats, at least what some still call "liberal" Democrats and what many now call "Progressive" Democrats would have (or at least should have) been dancing in the street.

The idea that no one will be able to have their health insurance cut off if they lose their job or move from one to another or because of a "pre-existing condition" or any of the myriad other ways the insurance companies have found to deny coverage or limit it to the point of uselessness should have all Democrats, and especially the "liberals" and "progressives" very pleased.

But because the terribly labeled "public option" (it sounds like a restroom or worse) may not make it into the final bill, many so-called "liberal" and even more so-called "progressive" Democrats are acting like Hitler just invaded Poland or the details of the Holocaust have just been revealed.

Sorry, but my lifetime's experience coupled with a lifetime of reading and studying history etc. leads me to conclude that progress is progress and if that's what you're for you should rejoice in whatever progress can be made while working for more.

When I was young I wanted change to be instantaneous and I joined movements that pushed for change to come faster and more universally in Civil Rights and later in stopping the clearly senseless (especially in retrospect for those not there at the time or not informed enough to realize) war in Viet Nam, and for equal rights for women and for people not as easily defined in terms of gender and for people whose attractions were for the same gender as their own and etc.

I also fought and worked for more democracy, more equality and more transparency on every level. In some cases those struggles brought about real change that may have come much more slowly or not at all if there hadn't been those of us fighting for those changes.

But, they still didn't come overnight, even if in some cases it seemed like it. The struggle for equal rights for women is formally over a century old and informally it's been going on for far longer. And ditto for many other changes. In some areas, there seems to be no turning back, and then, unfortunately, some segments of humanity do (slavery, racial and gender discrimination and oppression, etc.).

The point is, those who become impatient and leave the fight for change through legal and democratic means—in order to try and force change through violence, or drop out of the struggle entirely because change isn't occurring fast enough—only contribute to the backward trend in whatever areas they were struggling for progress in.

Despite the worst financial crisis in our history, maybe the world's at least in the past few centuries, FDR was not able to push through Social Security as we know it. He was able to initiate the program and establish the justification for it for widows and children and over the next several years was able to expand it. Then over the next several decades it was improved on more and now is where we know it and most of those receiving it are very grateful for the help it provides.

Even LBJ with a much greater majority in Congress than Obama has was only able to get Medicare established so that older people could be guaranteed healthcare, but he was unable to get through universal healthcare. If I had my way, we'd just expand Medicare to cover everyone, and pay for it with tax increases for the rich (taxes were almost twice as much on the wealthiest even after Reagan got through with his tax cuts!) whose portion of the wealth in the USA has grown exponentially since the rightwing Republicans began to have more and more influence not only over our national government but over the media and its discussion of these issues. [And over an economy that they brought to the brink of destruction, and will again if or when they regain power.]

But the reality is I don't get my way. Nor do most of us (and if we did there'd be chaos because we'd all have a different version of what would be best, just read the comments on this blog or any blog that deals with any of these issues). What we get is either gradual change, either progressive or backward, depending on who is controlling the government and the media and therefore the public discussion of what options are even viable.

When there is actual large scale and abrupt change in either direction, it is usually if not always (I'd say always but I don't want an endless comment thread referring to various inaccurate and unreliable Internet sources for wingnut arguments) a result of violence or causes great violence, and if you're pushing for that kind of change then you have to be ready for the violence that ensues.

Our last president wanted to bring about that kind of large scale and abrupt change in the Middle East, so we invaded Iraq. You wanna tell all those who lost loved ones and continue to as a result of that that it's all worth it because Iraq actually had elections? I don't. Nor do I want to see rightwing Republicans regain power as a result of too many voters and activists and bloggers and commenters and etc. losing faith in Obama and his "progressive" credentials because change doesn't happen fast enough or on a large enough scale to satisfy their ideals.

ideals are easy, change is very very difficult. I'm grateful for the changes this administration has already brought about. There are already more people covered by healthcare insurance than were just six months ago, there are less people losing their jobs (though still too many obviously so don't bother to make that comment, but even with the rise in that figure according to the latest data, it is still less than a third of the number who lost their jobs in January just before Obama took office and began to change things), the world financial system is at least for the moment much more stable than it was when Obama took the oath of office and there are more people working in government with progressive ideals than there are those with fundamentalist Christian ideas that demand obedience to their interpretation of the Bible (or their leaders') over the Constitution than there were ten months ago.

And there's much more. That isn't universal healthcare or a total withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan or holding accountable those who caused the financial crisis etc. etc. nor is it creating two million new jobs etc. etc. But if you think that can happen over night or even in one year, then your not a big fan of democracy in action only in theory. Fight for what you believe is best, but expect a long struggle with many setbacks and don't get discouraged. And if you do, shake it off and get back in the struggle, and as Joe Hill once said:

"Don't mourn, organize!"

[PS: It would be so easy to just post a simple statement of what my ideals are and what I'd like to see happen. I'd like, as my friend Sue and others have said, to see either Medicare expanded to include everyone, or everyone to get the same kind of healthcare that those in Congress do. I also believe everyone has the right to food and shelter and education and a job that does no harm but in fact contributes to the community, including the world community. But those are just ideals, something to work toward, which I have done for most of my life. In the meantime, real every day life goes on in which these ideals are mostly meaningless to most people in dire situations regarding all of the above. So any kind of change for the better, no matter how small, I'm for.]

[(from a response to some of the comments on this post—PPS: I would love to see healthcare coverage for everyone. I marched on Washington, and in Washington, many times over the years, and took part in demonstrations and protests around the country many times for many issues and at locations that focused on various branches of the government and their agencies under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Some of these protests had half a million people or more at them, some only a dozen or so. But I did it regularly for years and years and years. Some of it helped change some things, and some didn't. But along with many others, I still did it, and still do it. Where are the protestors marching and demonstrating in DC for "the public option" or whatever version of healthcare reform they champion and feel is not being recognized or enacted? All I see is rightwing protests in which the main focus seems to be denigrating Obama and anything he is trying to do. It's as if the only people protesting and demonstrating in any larrge numbers in the '60s were the so-called "hardhats" (short for the rightwingers of that time) and none or very few against the war. Now's the time for a major march on DC in favor of radical change in healthcare coverage and other more left leaning goals (i.e. not backward to more of the rightwing practices that got us into the mess we're in in the first place), even if all it accomplishes is pushing Obama and this Congress a little bit further in that direction, rather than responding to the pressure from corporate power on one side and rightwing media/misinformed angry crowds on the other. In other words, all the pressure coming from the right. Lefties, get some of your idealist friends together and organize a massive march on DC. We did it. Several times.]

20 comments:

JIm said...

You describe the incrementalism of expanded government control very well. That is why conservatives want to makes sure that no public option, trigger or quasi government control in the form of co-operatives survive. With the Republicans powerless, only the threat of reelection may hold off what many see as disastorus government expansion with explosive spending.

Interesting times that we live in.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Exactly what are “the kinds of changes that are already in the proposed healthcare reform bill” that should have us “dancing in the street”?

Manditory health insurance, which will drive down the quality of care for everyone? Guaranteed profits for big pharma, in exchange for advertising dollars? Prohibiting bulk pricing for pharmaceuticals? (The Veterans Administration does not have this restriction and saves about 40% on drugs.)

Please respond. Exactly what are Obama and Baucus giving us that is so great, and how will it move us closer to universal health care? To be absolutely clear, I would support any legislation that would bring us closer to universal health care.

Isn’t it possible, at this point, that no bill is better than the mish mash of corporate handouts being proposed? From everything I’ve read an unintended consequence (very much intended by some) of these proposals will be to turn people off to universal healthcare. None of the “reforms” will kick in until 2013 - a tacit admission that the reforms are crap and the Democrats don’t want them to be an issue in 2012.

(Disregarding your directive, you try to guild the feces with your inaccurate description of unemployment, a particularly sensitive issue for me. It is getting worse.)

JIm said...

Butch,
The current administration has gotten what they wanted in the Stimulus Package. They propose health care and Cap and Trade which by all accounts will raise the cost to the economy and business. Even though unemployment is a lagging indicator, there is growing concern that employment will not respond favorably to the increased costs and increased taxes in 2011 when the 2003 tax cuts expire. Do you think it might to be time to cut government spending, cut the costs to business by lowering or eliminating corporate taxes and spur US investment by lowering capital gains taxes thus boosting employment?

Lally said...

I wrote this post in haste before leaving for the Berkshires for the weekend and a slightly premature celebration of my eleven-year-old turning twelve, so I didn't have a chance to correct some grammar and typos. In doing so, I realized that some of my ideas weren't as clear as I'd wanted so I've made some slight changes that hopefully makes my argument more clear if not more convincing. And also hopefully makes it clear that I am not arguing that what may end up being in the healthcare reform bill is all terrific or what I would necessarily want in it, but I am saying that there are enough good things in it to make it a worthwhile change for the better for most of us. The idea that it has no many glitches that it would be better to leave things the way they are means those in my family and among my friends who are suffering deeply due to insurance problems that the bill will rectify (not all, but many) should be left to suffer because the bill isn't ideal.

Lally said...

I obviously meant "so many glitches"—now the problem is it's late and I'm too tired to be writing anything.

JIm said...

Investors Business Daily details the failure of state run government systems on which Obamacare is modeled

http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=507689

States Show How Not To Fix Health Care
By KERRI HOUSTON TOLOCZKOPosted 10/01/2009 07:04 PM ET
Since the debate over the government takeover of medical care exploded onto the national stage, advocates of market-based, patient-centered reforms have pointed to the failed government health care systems of Canada and the U.K. as examples of what America should not replicate.
And rightfully so. Democrat proposals have duplicated many components of these systems, creating frighteningly similar base lines here to these unsuccessful foreign models of "universal" coverage.
Yet we don't need to peer over borders and across oceans to find government health care that does not work; indeed, we have examples here in our United States.
Hawaii, Oregon, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Maine have all created some version of government takeover or administration of health care, and all are a mess.......

tom said...

Obviously former Republican Senate leaders agree more with Obama than with Jlm and others like him. Bill Frist, former Republican leader of the Senate says he would vote for the bill. Yes, he would take heat for it, but that is what leaders do. While he doesn't find Obama's proposals to be perfect He feels they will not cover all of the uninsured and that the first few years of implementation will be rough as states try to figure this out. This kind of health care has been agreed to by former Senate majority leaders Howard Baker and Bob Dole in the past. But, so much for current Republicans and conservatives taking a cue from the elder statesmen of the GOP. It's politics and misinformation supplied by those paragons of, ah, virtue, the wonderful, wacky, talking right.

JIm said...

Hi Tom,
It is the elder Rhino
Republican statesmen that have led the party down the path to oblivion. It is the Tea Party and Town-Hallers people who are leading us back. At this point the party does not have an individual leader. I suspect one will emerge who is in concert with the people of the movement who want less national debt, less government intrusion into private life and lower taxes and policies that are liable to lead to fuller employment. It is ok to be with out a leader. Ideas are more important than leadership. Obama is a leader. He and Michelle were going to lead the Chicago Daly Machine to the triumph of being an Olympic city.

tom said...

the tea baggers and those who think discussion involves shouting down the speaker have been led by the likes of Glen (put some Vicks in my eyes so I can cry) Beck, and others who spew their daily doses of lies and conspiracies. If that is the new direction of the GOP then it is a quick road to hell for this country. I read many of their posts on conservative boards - they are has hateful and misguided as the wacko far left was when Bush was President. Ooooo no elections in 2010 or 2012, lock and load, military coup, yak, yak, yak. Don't get the vaccine - Obama had put drugs in them. Yeah, those are two good groups to follow.

JIm said...

Tom,
You use the term "Tea Bagger" as a term of derision. I thought the Left was pro gay. I notice that your anger quotient is also rising. Do you sense that the tide may be turning against bigger, government, spending, taxes etc. One of Glen's "Lies" is that ACORN was and is corrupt. Independent photo journalism confirmed it, which was quickly followed be a vote to cut off tax payer money to the criminal organization. Another "Lie" was that Obama green czar Van Jones was someone who was inappropriate to be on the public payroll. After his communist and racist background was followed by a revelation of his "Truther" efforts, Czar Van Jones was toast.

The Birther movement is one of those conspiracy theories that I assume you refer to. Obama has spent upwards of $1.5 million on preventing any of his records being released. The records include normal things that candidates release like; original birth certificate, health records, school records, thesis, Harvard Law writings etc. A less pro Obama media would have done its job during the campaign and dug out these records. They did for the other candidates.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Butch:
Please respond. Exactly what are Obama and Baucus giving us that is so great, and how will it move us closer to universal health care?

Mike:
I am saying that there are enough good things in it to make it a worthwhile change for the better for most of us.

Judge, move to strike as unresponsive.

So, specifically, what are the “good things” that will come our way? I’ve done quite a bit of reading on this, but I might have missed something.

What’s being discussed won’t take effect until 2013, so will these “reforms” actually help your friends and family? I have family and friends that don’t have insurance and I don’t have insurance. I want something that will solve problems this year, not 5 or 6 years in the future.

(The thoroughly venal Frist supporting the reforms is certainly a red flag. He is deeply invested the health care industry, and is salivating over the mandatory insurance option.)

JIm said...

I suspect immediate suspension of barriers to inter state competition, elimination of federal mandates on types of insurance offered which would make available high deductible, low premium coverage, tort reform with caps on awards would help with the cost,portability so individuals could own their health insurance as people own their life insurance, expansion of the types of groups that individual could join would help in group purchasing power, immediate imposition of state rules denying insurance companies the right of discriminating against pre existing conditions would be good, medical vouchers for the truly destitute American citizens should take care of the rest approximately 8-10 million. None of the above are new ideas, but are contained in various pieces of legislation that has been offered, but not considered by the current congress. The above could be accomplished with little or no expansion of the national debt

Lally said...

No bill has been signed into law yet or even debated on the senate floor, but some folks seem to know everything that's gonna be in it. Has anyone read the actual proposed bill? Things Jim mentions and Butch mentions are in the proposed bill so far, so you both should be partially pleased with this legislation if it becomes law.

Lally said...

PPS: I would love to see coverage for everyone. I marched on washington, and in Washington, many times over the years, and took part in demonstrations and protests around the country many times for many issues and at locations that focused on various branches of the government and their agencies under both democratic and Republican administrations. Some of these protests had half a million people or more at them, some only a dozen or so. But I did it regularly for years and years and years. Some of it helped change some things, and some didn't. But along with many others, I still did it, and still do it. Where are the protestors marching and demonstrating in DC for "the public option" or whatever version of healthcare reform they champion and feel is not being recognized or enacted? All I see is rightwing protests in which the main focus seems to be denigrating Obama and anything he is trying to do. It's as if the only people protesting and demonstrating in any larrge numbers in the '60s were the so-called "hardhats" (short for the rightwingers of that time) and none or very few against the war. Now' the time for a major march on DC in favor of radical change, even if all it accomplishes is pushing Obama and this Congress a little bit further in that direction, rather than responding to the pressure from corporate power on one side and rightwing media/misinformed angry crowds on the other. In other words, all the pressure coming from the right. Get some of your idealist friends together Butch and organize a massive march on DC. We did it. Several times.

JIm said...

What do you think the Tea Party and the Town Hallers were. They were 60-80m strong in DC and many more thousands of hamlets across the US. We were and are not unkempt students and jobless folks but are mothers and father, grandparents and folks that have better things to do. We showed up because we fear for our country. We showed not out of hate but out of patriotism. Liberals, RINOS and politicians of all stripes denigrate us at their peril. We are particuarly potent in an off year election. The luster of the Obamasiah is wearing off. Do not expect the "Hopey Changey" crowd to show in 2010.

Butch in Waukegan said...

After the obligatory back-in-the-day riff, it appears your appeal for support of healthcare legislation is based on faith, hope, and the fierce urgency of maybe, someday.

It is true that it takes an effort to find out what is being proposed. During the campaign Obama promised to hold negotiations with the Health Care Industry on CSPAN. After the election everything moved behind closed doors. The more things change . . ..

With a little effort it is possible to find out some facts:

*** In exchange for guaranteeing profits, Obama is being given millions of advertising dollars.
*** Republicans, like Dole, Frist, and your nemesis Jlm’s favorite, Jindal, are lining up in support of Obama.
*** Baucus’s bill includes mandatory purchase of insurance (Obama supports this). Great for the insurance companies, terrible for the rest of us.
*** Baucus’s bill also includes another Jlm favorite - regulating insurance according to the rules of the state where the policy was issued. If you live in Illinois your insurance could be regulated by Alabama laws. A race to the bottom.


Of course all this is a step backward - more profits for the corporations, more money out of our pockets and less real health care for the citizenry.

Another reason for caution. Truckloads of money are being dumped on the people writing these “reforms.” To ignore this corruption because the party you support is in power is no different that what happened under Bush.

I think it’s vitally important that when we are asked to support something we get all the facts. Bush labeled his polluter-friendly legislation as the Clear Skys Initiatiive. The Democrats, lead by master marketer Obama, are trying to sell us something they label as reform. Do a little research and read the fine print before you buy.

John M. Lally said...

I suppose our anger with the Democrats in general, and Obama specifically, is that they're bidding against themselves. The Republicans have shown that they will vote against any bill that Obama thinks of as "reform". If we're going to pass a bill, we're going to do it without Republican votes. We might as well get everything we want.
Look at the credit card reform. Yes, the credit card system is better than it was before, but they can still charge 30% or more.
These lukewarm industry friendly reforms, along with Obama's weak support for "the public option" and no support for "single payer" really disproves all the hysteria the right had about Obama being a socialist.

JIm said...

John,
It is nice to see you back. Are you still able to reassure your elderly aunt that ACORN is an upstanding American organization that works for the betterment of American life?

Lally said...

Last comment on this thread. I thought I made myself clear, but maybe not. There are five proposed healthcare reform bills to be worked out in Congress right now. All of them, to my knowledge, include these three things: that insurance companies can no longer automatically drop people when they lose or change jobs, that they cannot claim "pre-existing conditions" to deny a claim and that they cannot edit out illnesses that are more expensive to treat. If these three things had been enacted under the previous administration, any "liberal" or Democrat who didn't rejoice in that would have been a hypocrite. And if they are enacted under the health reform bill now being worked on in Congress, any "liberal" or Democrat who doesn't rejoice in their passage is a hypocrite. As will be some Republicans and rightwingers, like Jim, who seems to be for some of those changes as well. Would I like to see more changes than those three? Of course. But name one president or administration which was able to bring about all the changes they promised and/or ran on or aimed for. There are none, because reality cannot be controlled by any one person or party. So, better two steps forward and one back than two steps back and one forward.

Butch in Waukegan said...

The video I linked to (that lays out Baucus’s bill) acknowledges it has some good things.

The really dangerous parts of his bill, though, are mandatory insurance and allowing insurance companies to be regulated in friendly states, a la credit card companies who are by-and-large regulated by South Dakota and Delaware.

Do you think these gifts to the insurance industry are offset by the relatively minor concessions you mentioned? If mandatory insurance and health care deregulation are locked into law we will begin a spiral of higher costs and diminishing coverage. Bad bargain no matter how you look at.

You mentioned 5 health care bills. Before the election it was trumpeted that with Obama’s leadership and a Democratically controlled Congress we would be on the road to recovery. Why 5 bills (none of them Republican)? Why the confusion? Why don’t we know exactly what Obama and his party wants?

There’s a Chicago expression that could be used here: “They would f*ck up a two car funeral.”