But I did not trust my brother
I carried him to blame
Which led me to my fatal doom
To wander off in shame…

Bob Dylan, JWH, Lonesome Hobo 1967

Lonesome Hobo Economics

Like a Samurai sword catching a silk scarf full of dung, President Obama eloquently separated the silk from the shinola in his speech to Congress on health care reform. To the Joseph Goebbels style slanders and phony hysterics fomented by creepy talk show hosts and Republican leaders like Sarah Palin, he “called them out”. And he promised to keep it up until much needed reform is enacted.

More importantly – in the long run – he argued for a principle underlying the appropriate role of government in the economy, and society in general, that says: Americans are right to distrust excessive government, and it is the expansion of democracy and civil liberties – and national character – that have been a bulwark against over-reaching executive power; but where markets fail, as they have with regard to health care, government must act to ensure fundamental equity and security. From Republican Teddy Roosevelt’s first efforts at reforms until today the struggle over where to draw the line between public and private domains has been fierce. But the country has moved forward toward “a more perfect union” at each critical juncture: Anti-trust legislation, wage and hour laws, child labor; suffrage; social security; unemployment insurance; the right to organize unions; voting rights; Medicare and Medicaid.

Now to a flawed socialist – like the Hobo – it may seem dismal to await the fullness of time for all things public to come to pass, and for wealth in commodities to recede before a vision of wealth of public goods: rich in culture, rich in environment, rich in education, rich in science and arts. Yet all the brightness of high ideals pales beside a single, modest step that millions begin to take in concert.

It is a truism that life is always deeper than ideology. But it still catches your breath when a moment of clarity arrives. The President’s openness to reasonable compromise, but adamant refusal to be bullied by hysteria was such a moment. I sense now that there WILL be a health care reform bill. It WILL move toward universal, affordable health care coverage; and it WILL mount an assault on the dominance of the insurance “industry”.

There is a tough fight ahead. Republican Representative Joe Wilson is the face of the opposition. His tea-bagging “you lie!” outburst was shunned and called “shameful” by even his Republican colleagues. At the same time, Republicans are already crying that the President’s speech was “too partisan”. But everyone who has watched any of the filth spewing forth from right-wing talk radio and TV, not to mention many of the phony town-hall masquerades of late, knows that the Republicans jumped off the bi-partisan train months ago when their default spokesman – Rush Limbaugh – argued that the most important principle was for Obama to fail, period.

Well, Rush, now its coming right back at you. And none too soon. The Hobo has no insurance, no job, and will be joining pickets at the insurance companies from now until reform is passed!




John Case
John Case

John Case is a former electronics worker and union organizer with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE), also formerly a software developer, now host of the WSHC "Winners and Losers" radio program in Shepherdstown, W.Va.