Monday, October 26, 2009

Anti-Socialist Ideologues Could Use a Lesson In Real History

By Ibrahim Abdil-Muid Ramey

It's no surprise that the free market fundamentalists on the Right side of the ideological spectrum have rolled out all of their big guns-and a few of their small caliber weapons as well-in the onslaught against the Obama health care reform proposal. Their arsenal includes not only well-placed and prominent conservative voices, but a small platoon of people of color who serve as a buffer that would hope to protect the (mostly) white and affluent voices of the Republican Party from the counter-charge of racism.

Perhaps they calculate that, if a few Black people join in their collective attack on the Obama health care "public option", African-Americans and other people of color won't see the issue as one with a social class or racial subtext. One such Obama critic-Star Parker, who writes a column for the stridently anti-Obama Washington Examiner, has even labeled the Obama proposal as "Socialism" and a demonstration of what she calls "fatal conceit", and even "hubris".

It's interesting to note that "Socialism" is the common epithet hurled from the Right as they attempt to whip up Americans into an anti-collectivist frenzy over the issue of universal health care and a proposed public insurance option. To their way of thinking, public health care is just a shade away from a Bolshevik-style takeover of the national government. They predict, quite openly, the erosion of personal freedom in the arena of health care choices, and creeping government control over the medical profession.

The came charge of "Socialism" was leveled at President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when the massive social reforms of the 1930's included the creation of something called Social Security. That term may be used in a pejorative way, but it has never been a deterrent to pursuing, and achieving, the kinds of social change that benefit the masses of people in this society. Southern racial bigots called Dr, King a "communist", but that did not derail his movement.

The phony "death panel" charges from the Right were also exposed as bogus. And a majority of Americans now believe that sweeping health care and health insurance reform is certainly a change whose time has come.

I agree that it is legitimate to debate, and disagree, about the size, scope, and cost of this proposal, and there is clearly no unanimity of thinking in either major national party about the precise content of any proposed reform of our health care and health insurance systems. And whatever the final political choices may be, this will me a gargantuan undertaking that is likely to progress more slowly that many people would like.

But to characterize the public health care option as "fatal conceit" or political hubris is either profound ignorance, or an example of extreme political malice. We don't speak of "socialist" education, or "socialist" food and drug inspection, or "socialist" air traffic control, but the federal government is, most assuredly, responsible for those protections, too.

I would remind Ms. Parker, ( and her friends at the Washington Examiner), that what she scornfully calls "socialized medicine" is alive and well in virtually every industrial democracy in the world, with the exception of the United States. Perhaps that fact contributes to the fact that the overall quality of life in America is only 11th or 12th in global ranking, behind the Nordic nations of Europe and Japan. These nations do not view public health care as harmful to their own plural democratic systems.

No medical insurance and delivery system is perfect, and the U.S. system, whatever it might become, will not be an exception to this rule. But the fundamental need for health affordable and proper health care, as a human right of citizens, can only be advanced if and when the insurance monopolies cease to be the arbiters of who can, and cannot, receive treatment for injury or illness. The growing legion of poor people, the unemployed, and the dispossessed in America have not been well served by the for-profit nature of the status quo. They deserve-and demand-change.

The possible challenge to the unchecked profits of the health insurance monopolies will certainly be far short of a cure-all for the ills of this society. The fight for health care reform and universal coverage is only one skirmish in the continuous struggle for inclusive social justice in this great nation.

But make no mistake about it: the rich and the comfortable will still have their property, their constitutional freedoms, and their human rights when the dust settles and a final legislative compromise is worked out. What they will not have, though, is a system that caters to their health needs while excluding access to millions more who of their compatriots who cannot afford to be sick, or who die in squalid hospital emergency rooms because they can't afford anything else.

No, the red banner of socialism won't fly over the White House. But if health care reform is realized, a banner of greater economic justice just might flutter over it-at least for the next three, if not seven, years.

And even if Star Parker sees it differently, it is a flag that most poor people, working people, and people who believe in dignity and human rights will not only celebrate, but salute.

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