Monday, November 24, 2008

My 15 Minutes of Fame on the Internet

by Norman Markowitz

To my surprise, my article "Obama's Mandate for Change" has been picked up by a wide variety of right-wing and more serious conservative sources. They are running with a quote from the article which they are interpreting in odd ways. Some of the right-wing stuff is ugly and has given me some hate mail from what I consider gutter fascist sources, and some "anarcho-fascist" combining the politics of Nazi newspapers like Der Angriff with the language of Screw magazine, but others, from the CATO Institute, and a U.S. News and World Report journalist have been more serious, although very odd in the argument that they are making.

I made the argument in my article for a single payer health care program. That is for me as necessary a benchmark for a modern industrial civilized country in the 21st century as the abolition of slavery was the 19th. Throughout the world that is called socialized medicine. That is not what President Elect Obama is advocating at the moment. My article meant to encourage him to move in that direction, not in the direction that Bill Clinton took in 1993 (regulated insurance company based HMO's) In making my argument I contended that the British Labor Party won over workers who had traditionally supported the Conservative Party for a variety of reasons (provincialism, nationalism, the belief that the elites should rule) by establishing the National Health Service and other important social welfare state policies for all people. I could have mentioned that the Roosevelt administration's enactment of Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Minimum Wages, the Forty-Hour Week and other major reforms in the 1930s had a similar effect in consolidating the political gains of the New Deal administration and making the Democratic party, with all of its flaws, the majority party of the country for at least the next half century, whereas the Republicans had been the majority party from the Civil War to the Depression.

Let me say that the conspiratorial sources don't deserve an answer. Anyone who thinks that I am a "top strategist" for the CPUSA, a leading member "planning" the course of the Obama administration would need the psychiatric services that a National Health Care system would provide (it would be open of course to all people, including these far rightists). The more serious arguments though deserve some answers.

First, my article in no way supports the view that President Elect Obama's present plan is a move in the direction of socialized medicine, no more than his plan represents the status quo, which is what the conservative "free market" publications want to scare him into accepting, which was done with Clinton. The contention that the "survival of the GOP" depends on their defeating Obama's health care plan (with the selected quote from me as evidence) also strains logic and is fairly callous. In fact, there have been a number of intelligent responses on progressive websites that these arguments amount to an understanding that the people would support socialized medicine because it would be good for them and that Republicans must fight to the last conservative to defeat it, even if that means sacrificing a few years of life expectancy for U.S. citizens, not to mention continuing to saddle them with the financial stress of the present private insurance based system, which pushes drugs on them at high prices and, like all private insurance based systems, seeks to pay the least in benefits and get the most in premiums. Some have written that the "at last" the Republicans are being honest. They would fight against a single payer health care system (as they would fight, I would say against the Employee Free Choice Act) because they realize that a stronger labor movement and a citizenry that comes to see health care as a public right, not a private commodity, would over time cost them a lot of votes

Let me quickly make a few more points. One conservative writer adds to my comment that Britain was changed through the National Health Service with the suggestion that the change was not for the better. There is enormous evidence that the NHS saw people who had postponed operations and avoided necessary medical treatment because the did not have the money receiving corrective surgery, living longer, fuller lives. My own father had a hernia for over a quarter of a century until it was finally operated on an emergency in a New York Public Hospital in 1970. Like many people who come from the lower strata of the working class, I grew up with people whose lives were demonstrably shortened by the absence of socialized medicine in the U.S.

There are many thoughtful analytical articles in Political Affairs and the Peoples Weekly World, articles that represent the views of a serious and responsible left, every day on the PA website. It is time that the liberal and progressive websites and blogs begin to disseminate them more directly if they wish to help create a more inclusive peoples movement.

P.S. as a postscript, a friend of mine, commenting on the Internet traffic, suggested that I should try to contact blogs and write for fees, a compliment of sorts in a capitalist society.