What if?


What if this is 1935 and Congress is getting ready to vote on the Social Security Act?

As political progressives, union activists or whatever, do you support the bill or oppose it?

No-brainer, right?

So what if I told you that by supporting the 1935 Social Security Act you would be selling out the working class and capitulating to right-wing special interests who wrote half the bill?

Didn't see that one coming, didja?

To get Social Security passed, progressives had to agree to exclude nearly one-half of the working class, including two-thirds of all African Americans and more than one-half of all women.

Yep, that's the deal you would have had to make in 1935 to pass what we know now is one of the most progressive and successful governmental programs of all time. But in 1935, it didn't look that way when progressives had to accept the deal racist, reactionary Southern Democrats laid down in exchange for their votes.

These backward elements held power over key committees that could have scuttled Social Security and prevented even a vote. Their deal? Exclude all domestic workers, agricultural labor, state and local government employees, and many teachers, nurses, hospital workers, librarians and social workers. Their special interest? Keeping power by keeping intact the American-style apartheid system they presided over.

So what do we do? Kill the bill and try to come back later or take what you can get now?

Remember this deal was made by progressives during the left's glory days. That's when we had one of the most progressive presidents ever in the White House, the most progressives ever in Congress and the biggest mass movement ever out in the streets. And progressives still had to cut a deal with the Devil.

Protesting is easy. Governing is a bitch.

So let's bring this "what if" game to the present.

What if you are a member of Congress in 2009: do you vote for the deal cut in the Senate or vote to kill the bill?

Not so easy anymore, is it?

We know the flawed Social Security bill was strengthened over the years, adding household workers in 1950 and agricultural, hotel, laundry and state and local government workers in 1954. What we don't know is the future of the current flawed health care bill.

The one nice thing we do know is that improving it will be a lot easier than passing the original bill. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman pointed out, many of the future improvements can be done through reconciliation with a simple majority vote as opposed to the anti-democratic, super-majority 60-vote process that gave the sociopath Joe Lieberman power to kill the public option and prevent lowering the enrollment age for Medicare to 55.

So what do we do now?

We still have to figure that one out. But one thing we can't afford to do is make single-payer a dogma. Such rigidity in strategy ties our hands and limits our options. Looking at the world, we see that more nations accomplished the goal of health care for all through a multi-payer system, not a single-payer one. Only Canada, Taiwan and South Korea have chosen to go single-payer.

France is considered to have the world's best health care system while Japan has the longest healthy life expectancy. Single-payer systems? Hardly. French citizens are covered by 14 private insurance companies. The Japanese have about 3,500 private health insurance plans. These multi-payer systems succeed because private insurers there are not allowed to make a profit selling health insurance.

Every nation that has committed itself to providing health care for all its citizens has followed its own unique path to get there. It's a sure bet the United States will never adopt the socialized medicine system of Great Britain, even though our Veterans Administration already is a socialized system with government-owned, government-run hospitals and government-hired doctors.

We could build on this flawed health care bill by expanding Medicare to all Americans of all ages. That would be the most direct route to single payer since the structure already exists, is quite popular (even Tea Baggers love their Medicare) and operates way more efficiently than private insurance with its 3 percent administrative costs verses 20 percent to 30 percent for private insurers.

But it's not certain that most Americans are prepared to kill a whole industry even if many of the clerical workers are absorbed by Medicare to serve the new enrollees.

The private sector has always had a role in our government-run health care. Most of the Medicare workers who process and pay claims are employees of private insurance companies. That was the result of a deal struck in 1965 to help win support for passage of Medicare.

The creation of health insurance exchanges under both the House and Senate bills and the Senate's provision that private insurance companies must reduce their administrative costs to 10 percent could move us in the direction of a French-German-Japanese-Swiss model. In these and other multi-payer countries, private insurers collect premiums set by government regulation, pay all claims immediately under rates set by government negotiations with doctors and hospitals, and cannot deny coverage for any reason under strict government regulation.

So what if it turns out that most Americans decide they prefer a multi-payer over a single-payer health care system?

Protesting is easy. Governing is a bitch.

Photo: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act on Aug. 14, 1935. Standing with Roosevelt are Rep. Robert Doughton, D-N.C., unknown person in shadow; Sen. Robert Wagner, D-N.Y., Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., unknown man in bowtie; Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, Sen. Pat Harrison, D-Miss., and Rep. David Lewis, D-Md. (www.ssa.gov/history/)


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  • Fantastic post! Your writing is so refreshing compared to most other bloggers. Thanks for writing when you do, I will be sure to subscribe!

    Posted by nike shox, 10/04/2010 5:43am (5 years ago)

  • Our first order of business is to do everything possible to protect Barack Obama and the Democrats. If this means supporting a piece of healthcare legislation many people don't want or don't like so be it.

    Taxing worker healthcare benefits a little bit won't hurt anyone. We should ignore these objections.

    Sam Stark is right on.

    We know this is more about politics then healthcare reform and we should all be mature enough to handle this real world fact.

    Posted by Darren, 01/10/2010 9:38pm (6 years ago)

  • What if: In 1935, instead of proposing a federally funded public social security system, what was proposed was a government mandated purchase of stocks sold on Wall Street?
    That's what the Senate bill does. It essentially imposes a tax that goes to private corporations.

    That's the bitch.

    Posted by Stephen Malagodi, 01/10/2010 7:21pm (6 years ago)

  • What if-

    A free and open discussion of this issue would be tolerated by those who control this web site?

    In the interest of democracy the posting to this thread by Alan Maki should be placed back on line.

    Those who initiated this web site claiming the Internet allows greater freedom of expression have demonstrated how two faced they are.

    Posted by Gina Gianlorenzi , 01/06/2010 6:33pm (6 years ago)

  • Gina-Sometimes censorship is a good thing. I read the deleted post. It deserved to go. We shouldn't have to put up with these Stalinist tirades.

    If you lived in Minnesota with these people you might understand.

    These people actually defend Stalin. They carry around copies of the Communist Manifesto and wave red flags.

    Maki just walks into a room and everyone sees red. The guy is the Joe Stalin of North America. We need to distance ourselves from these people. I say shut them right down.

    Posted by Jim , 01/05/2010 6:09pm (6 years ago)

  • Seems there is a wee bit of censorship taking place here.

    One minute there is a posting. The next minute it is gone. So much for all the lectures on democracy.

    I am sure there are others like myself who read the posting and are wondering why the post was taken down from this thread.

    At least have the courage to say why you are engaging in this censorship.

    Did the posting contain something prohibited? Or was it those in control just didn't like the questions?

    I think you should repost what you took off from this thread because it pertained directly to the discussion of this article by asking for starters if socialized healthcare will never be achieved how will we ever get socialism?

    You either are sincere about wanting comments on these articles or you aren't. What is it?

    Gina Gianlorenzi
    Pittsburgh PA

    Posted by Gina Gianlorenzi , 01/05/2010 3:05pm (6 years ago)

  • Thanks for a very great and timely written piece that is spot on! Its good to be reminded of the historical facts from time to time.

    Posted by tommytoons, 01/04/2010 9:53pm (6 years ago)

  • This is a very tough one as I feel this is actually different then the social security bill. This bill if passed like it is would place a mandate on the American people to pay a private company for health Insurance. The Insurance companies would be under no obligation to anyone as to how they run their company, how much they will charge their clients, or what they will cover. Further more after spending a certain amount of their own money , low income people and families would then have our goverment pay the rest of what they owed to a private Insurance company who remember is under no obligation to keep the costs low.
    Social Security when it was passed was far short of what was envisioned but it could definitely be upgraded in the future. This bill on the other hand is just a cash cow for the Insurance companies and will not benifite the people who are mandated to buy into it.
    I have a Sister who lives in California where they have a mandate to buy the insurance offered by their job. She pays out a lot of money every month but her deductible is so high she rarely meets it. She had heart problems and needed a pacemaker/defibrillator implanted two months ago. she spent a while in the Coronary care unit (think money) as well as had Cardiac surgery. Suddenly She realized if She could not come up with the $5000 deductible the company would not cover any of the astronomical bill. She managed to borrow the money for the deductible and now her share of the bill is "only" about $75000. She can not work for many months and because she had insurance she is not eligible for help with the rest of her bill. If she had not come up with the deductible she would have had been in real trouble. as it is she will be paying the rest of her life. She was far better off before they had a health care bill. I feel this will happen to far far to many people under this new bill. We are better off with out this type of health care reform.

    Posted by Sheila Malone, 01/04/2010 1:13pm (6 years ago)

  • To Gary Hicks:

    You talk about a rant. You evade discussion of the issues with your meaningless rants.

    You ignore the fact I stated the will of the memberships of these organizations are for single-payer universal healthcare.

    It is you and the leaders you are an apologist for who need to do the explaining not me.

    You and these leaders need to explain why as leaders of these organizations whose memberships are pretty much in unanimous support for single-payer these leaders refused to lead their organizations into a fight for single-payer.

    I ask you: At what point are leaders of organizations required to carry out what the memberships mandate them to do?

    Have you seen where memberships of any of these organizations demanded the formation of HCAN and that their leaders endorse what Obama and the Democrats are supporting?

    The alternative you ask for? Single-payer universal healthcare like they have in Canada.

    If you want the alternative word for word just read the Canada Health Act and substitute United States everytime it says Canada.

    The membership of the CPUSA is very small by all accounts. It would have been very easy for the leadership to poll the membership to see what kind of healthcare reform people want.

    Another interesting question you might want to ask these leaders you so passionately defend is: Do you make policies for healthcare reform or do you implement initiatives based on the policies supported by the memberships?

    I have to wonder why it isn't clear what the CPUSA policy is on healthcare reform?

    Gary, can you explain to me what the CPUSA program calls for in the way of healthcare reform?

    Sandy Clarke Tappahannock, Virginia

    Posted by Sandy Clarke, 01/02/2010 9:51am (6 years ago)

  • Both John Rummel and Phil Benjamin have repeatedly published unabashadley pro-Obama and pro-Democratic Party articles about healthcare reform.

    Worse both have written extremely inaccurate and deceitful articles about the healthcare movement.

    Why would anyone unite around anything brought forward in the House or Senate when working people have nothing to gain by either bill? Just as we have gained nothing from Barack Obama.

    Members of the CPUSA have supported the single-payer movement but like the other HCAN organizations the CPUSA leadership sold us out on single-payer.

    The sole purpose of HCAN was to destroy the single-payer movement for the Democrats and Barack Obama.

    This article by Sam Stark contributes nothing but lies and misinformation about the fight for healthcare reforms. This article with its lies and falsehoods is circulating all over the Internet and among hundreds of organizations where the lies and misinformation in this article are not being corrected.

    If so many Communists are involved in HCAN why haven't these Communists involved in HCAN organizations made any attempt to correct the lies and misinformation in this article by Sam Stark? Why was this article published without comment and corrections in the PW?

    I do not trust the CPUSA's national leadership, Barack Obama or the Democrats. I don't trust the national leadership of the AFL-CIO.

    After reading numerous articles by Phil Benjamin and John Rummel I don't trust either of them when it comes to information about single-payer or any other aspect of healthcare reform. I find it very interesting thei comments come one on top of the other defending the sell out position of Sam Webb and the CPUSA National Board on healthcare reform.

    The object in 2010 is not to defeat 40 Republicans as John Rummel calls on us to do although that would be good provided they are relaced with pro peace pro single-payer advocates.

    Even if the United States House and Senate was made up of all Democrats we would still have wars and no meaningful healthcare reforms. We would still have a rightwing corporate controlled America with no relief for working people in sight.

    We don't want to help Republicans. We don't want to help elect more liars and warmongers like Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi.

    Sandy Clarke Tappahannock, Virginia

    Posted by Sandy Clarke, 01/01/2010 2:53pm (6 years ago)

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