Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Getting What We Want and Need

Health Care; Workers' Union Rights; and, Much More "We Can Get it If We Try"

Phil E. Benjamin

In the words of the great rock-singing group, Sly and the Family Stone, "You Can Make It If You Try." Those were encouraging words then and are very appropriate today.

We are hearing, too often, that we can get Health Care, not EFCA. We can get EFCA, but not health care. And, we surely can't get both and certainly not anything else. Well, in this period of massive rage and dissatisfaction with all politicians, the people of the United States are demanding it ALL. People don't expect the most advanced position for each issue, but they expect some significant. People voted for a complete reversal of the Reagan/Bush years.

The issue is will the left, all activists and all democratic forces come together and "Get It."

Today, we have the same kind of peoples' movements that 30 years ago where within a short 5 year period, from 1965 to 1970 brought to the working classes, their families and the general peoples movements the following landmark pieces of legislation: Medicare; Medicaid; the Occupational Safety and Health Act; the Environmental Protection Act; community health clinics; and many other pieces of progressive legislation. Each success encourages and feeds on the next struggle.

In those heady days of "The Movement," everything was possible. When Sly Stone said, "You can Make It If You Try," he was understating the "try" part. He knew the "try" part was linked to a general demand for action.


The same movement that is demanding a major role for our government in the financing and delivery of health services for our people; commonly called the Public Option; is the same movement that is demanding the right of a worker to join a union without being threatened and fired by their employers.

The massive labor support for the Single Payer bill of Congressman John Conyers, i.e., hundreds of local unions and higher labor bodies, will not go unnoticed. They will be the shock troops for those in the trenches in Washington, D. C. convincing Senators and House Representatives that the time for profits in health care is OVER.

But, as the Rolling Stones said so well, "You can't always get what you want; But if you try sometimes you might find You get what you need"

The most important Public Plan toward the struggle for a national health plan is Medicare. Expanding Medicare into a fully public program is just the first step. Bringing the uninsured back into the mainstream of our country's life by making health services available is a simple peoples' demand. This is a basic human right.

The elimination of employer tricks and outright thuggary against workers for their health and union rights is not longer a wishful demand.

The ultra right and their corporate supporters are fully aware of the link of these two issues and movements. They are acting like wounded animals in their anti-worker, anti-people campaigns. Their collective aim is to set one issue against another to defeat them both; and to snuff out the general movement for social change.

For example, they know the next movement step is to make medical school available to everyone. A tuition forgiveness program will create well over the 24,000 primary care docs that Senator Bernie Sanders is proposing. And, the millions of dollars needed to expand the federal community health centers apparatus is the next step. This is where the health care for all becomes real time. And, they know that the next step after EFCA is a good labor contract and elevating all workers' standard of living.

Corporate America opposes all of this; and, will be any means necessary try to defeat those changes.

Corporate America probably knows better than us that Bob Dylan was and is right: "The Times They Are A changin'" You hear this song being played on radio stations across the country.

The War Budget

All of this is more than possible even given current budget constraints. But, the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will enable the dropping of the Pentagon Budget. A significant curtailment of the whole war industry budget will greatly expand the financing of all social programs, including housing and education and most importantly, JOBS.

"WE CAN GET IT IF WE TRY" We salute you Sly Stone and your family stone.