COMMENTARY Challenging Morning Joe on health care

Sometimes don't you fantasize about jumping through the TV onto a talk show set? Well, I did exactly that this Monday morning while watching MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' (Joe Scarborough, former Republican Congressman).

Let me explain: The early am talkfest was about the surging federal budget deficit and its meaning for the health care legislation in the House and Senate. The cast of characters, including a reporter from the NYT - Mat Bai, I think that was his name - and a couple others of the chattering class, were lamenting the growing bill that future generations will have to pay.

Their advice: scale back health care reforms, stick to incremental improvements, cut the deficit. Unanimity prevailed, leaving everyone feeling very self-satisfied. It was at this point that I made my leap from Corning, NY (I'm on my way to the Chautauqua conference where I'm going to present a paper: The Communist Party: A Work in Progress in a Changing World) through the TV screen, and, amazingly, landed on 'Morning Joe' set, cup of coffee in hand.

Once there, I righteously reminded everyone, and of course, the television audience that 45 million Americans have no insurance and many more inadequate insurance. So let's not forget about them as we preach fiscal rectitude, I insisted. But I didn't stop there. The next thing out of my mouth to the 'Morning Joe' gang, all of whom, I'm sure, have good health care benefits and well-paying jobs, is that unemployment is over 9 per cent and most economists predict that it will soon reach double digits.

'Should we also make them invisible in the name of fiscal discipline?' I queried. Then raising my voice to these pundits of the status quo, I said, 'No, what we need is a second stimulus bill?' They gasp! Such effrontery! And I went on to say, 'It's an economic necessity. Any real recovery has to include infrastructural spending, green investment, and job creation in the millions. And if you're so worried about the deficit: tax the wealthiest and make big surgical cuts in the military budget. Furthermore,' ... and at that point stage hands dragged me off stage by the collar, but not without a triumphant look on my face.

Back in Corning, I think to myself: what a way to start the bloody week and then recall what I had been about to say before those thugs interrupted my fantasy: a second stimulus bill and a heath care option with teeth are as much a political necessity as an economic one. The coalition that elected Barack Obama last year will go to the matt in next's year's election only if they see some tangible improvements in their lives.