Monday, May 25, 2009
WHAT IS A “PROGRESSIVE?”
I am a member of a Democratic Club in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. The other day after one of the meetings of the club, FW expressed a desire for the club to become “progressive.” I asked what the word meant. I said that, as Democrats, we are all progressive in that we yearn for change and progress. FW wasn’t able to give me a clear answer but referred me to frequent e-mails I receive from Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). FW also offered to arrange a speaker or a program for the club to show what the PDA was all about.
Other Democrats sent me e-mails referring to a recent PDA e-letter about Bill Moyers’ program on PBS on May 22. I watched the program. Part of it was about single-payer health insurance. The persons interviewed were advocates of that system of organizing the nation’s health care industry. They pointed out that the private insurance companies are not only dead set against single payer, because it would wipe out their business, but even against the proposed public alternative to private health insurance. These two speakers also pointed out that the proposed public alternative would fail because it would insure only the poorest and most sick members of the population. The private companies would see to it that they attracted the healthiest and youngest and would let the government-sponsored program take care of the rest.
I’ve concluded that the “Progressive” movement among Democrats these days is a passionate advocacy of single-payer national health insurance. Progressives work and demonstrate in favor of such a system. They make nuisances of themselves at Congressional Hearings on national health care reform. They point out that Candidate Obama favored a single-payer system. President Obama doesn’t. Either he’s unwilling to take on the powerful health insurance lobby or he realizes that such a major change must come about by consensus, not by a partisan political maneuver.
I’m reminded of the deeds of the Roosevelt Administration during the 1930’s. There was severe unemployment, as high as 25 percent in places, and the public was desperate for a change in the economic system. The Administration brought about Social Security, to encourage older workers to retire and thereby create more jobs for younger workers. The Administration also started many projects to make jobs for the unemployed. All of these accomplishments provided work and gave the public a sense of hope and optimism, even though it took the onset of World War 2 to end the depression.
We now have around 50 million Americans without health insurance, mostly because they can’t afford it. That is about one-sixth or one-seventh of our total population. If the depression of the 1930’s is a good model, things are going to have to get even worse before a consensus will arise to compel change. Change will occur when about 25 percent of Americans are both uninsured and unable to pay for needed health care.
If we had a truly representative government in Washington we would have a single-payer system today because a majority of voters want it. However, voters have allowed our government, and particularly the Congress, to become unrepresentative and unresponsive to the popular will. To restore a more representative Congress, we need to do the following:
- Relieve our elected representatives of their need to depend on contributions from private insurance companies and other wealthy corporations to fund their election campaigns. That is, institute public financing of Congressional election campaigns.
- Teach voters to be suspicious of insurance company television ads featuring “Harry and Louise” that distort the arguments about health care.
- Teach voters not to accept the false idea that anything run by the government is bound to be slow, inefficient, expensive, and unsatisfactory. Show them that the Social Security System, the Veterans’ Administration, and Medicare all provide their services promptly, efficiently, inexpensively, and satisfactorily.
We Democrats who believe in progress, whether we are “Progressive” or not, have a lot of work to do in changing the minds of the voters and freeing our elected representatives from the necessity of soliciting money from rich corporations for their election campaigns.