Archive | January, 2011

Issue XLVII: Healthcare Reform goes Local

21 Jan

The House of Representatives has passed its two page repeal of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.  It’s a pointless stunt, and the Republicans will fight tooth and nail to undermine Obama’s very mild and actually quite Republican (for 1994) health care plan. I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect the court cases challenging health care reform will not go anywhere either.

But if you want to be a member of the fast class and not part of the ponderous “conventional wisdom” train of thought, I am going to scoop you on the big news in health care reform in 2011 before it even happens.  The most exciting places to watch for real health care reform will be Sacramento, California and Montpelier, Vermont.  Why?

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California, the California legislature twice passed single payer health care bills.  This would have created a single insurance system like Medicare in Canada and have done away with the private health insurance companies.  With a new Democratic governor, there is a much higher chance that this bill will be signed by Governor Jerry Brown.  In his 1992 run for president, he supported single payer health care unlike his more conservative opponent, Bill Clinton.

Given California’s budget crisis and Jerry Brown’s rightward turn, perhaps the better contender for healthcare reform will be the tiny state of Vermont.  The Green Mountain state is not very impressed with Obama’s milquetoast health care reform because it doesn’t have any real cost controls.  Vermont also has a real third party, the Progressive Party, which unabashedly supports single payer health care and has won elections to the statehouse.  Locally, they can push the Democrats to the left.

Vermont’s Governor Shumlin won his primary and election as a staunch advocate of single payer health care.  The state already has universal health care for children because of Howard Dean.  It’s main insurance company is Blue Cross (75% of the market share) and is nonprofit.  A small state like Vermont may not have powerful special interests and has an insurance industry that is apathetic to the bill.  But does Shumlin and the Legislature really mean it?

William Hsiao, a Harvard health economist, designed Taiwan’s single payer system in the 1990s.  Right now he is drafting a proposal to create a single payer solution in Vermont.  Because this a state project, it will be hard to integrate Medicare and Medicaid into the plan.  However he has come up with some different plans for the state to enact.  Shumlin is on board and means it.

It’s not unreasonable to think that California or Vermont’s experience will lead to the rest of the country to single payer health care.  If insurance mandates are unconstitutional, government insurance is the only solution.  Canada’s Medicare system began in a single rural province, Saskatchewan, by a democratic socialist government.  It then spread to the rest of the nation.

So whenever you watch the theatrics in Washington, remember that the real health care reforms will not come from anywhere close to Capitol Hill.


Stateline – “In Vermont, Single Payer in a single state

MLK Day Links

17 Jan

To celebrate Martin Luther King Day, I would like to share with you some original speeches of Dr. King.  While the media will dilute his message and ignore his radicalism to make him family friendly, I will remind you that Dr. King was a socialist, a friend of organized labor, and opposed materialism and war.  In his own words, I present to you the following:

Dispatch from Pune: Shiv Sena strikes again

5 Jan

The day before I reached Poona, a strike was called against the relocation of a statue by the local government of Dadoji Konddeo from an intersection and moved somewhere else.  The bandh turned violent as 4 local buses were destroyed and 2 Pune-Mumbai buses were ransacked over the course of the strike.  It turns out that the riots were planned by the none other than the Shiv Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray.  Who are these Thackerays and what is Shiv Sena?  How can the cause such damage in the historical capital of Maharashtra and booming IT metropolis?  As in all things Indian, it is difficult to distinguish what is ancient and what is today.

Chatrapati Shivaji ruled Maharashstra in the 1600s as the founding maharajah of the Marathi people.  Maharashtrians (especially Maratha kshatriyas known as Marathas) lionize him as the Hindu king who fought off the Muslim sultans of North India.  His independent state protected South India from Muslim invasion from the north.  Shivaji’s capital was in Poona (now called Pune) and Marathi culture flourished there.

Nowadays, a political party called Shiv Sena (Shivaji’s Army) claims to represent ideals.  It’s directed by a man named Bal Thackeray and his family.  Shiv Sena includes a trade union and a newspaper; its financing also comes from a protection and extortion racket enforced on local businesses.  This local state party allies itself with the BJP in national elections as part of the National Democratic Alliance.

Shiv Sena’s main accomplishments to the outside world are renaming Bombay as Mumbai and its participation in the Bombay religious riots in early 1990s.  In this recent disturbance, they are causing a ruckus because they oppose the moving of a statue of Shivaji’s guru.  However, scholars and the local government have discovered that it is unlikely that this Konddeo could have taught Shivaji because they lived 100 years apart.  That does not matter to the Shiv Sainiks who attacked historians and the Bandarker Oriental Research Institute which contains the papers of Shivaji.  Apparently they don’t like people doing any research on their hero.

Who knows?  Maybe they are afraid of finding out that the legends built up about Shivaji are inaccurate.  Maybe they might be afraid to find out Shivaji was actually a pretty tolerant king and would be ashamed of the Thackerays and their gang of illiterate hatemongers.