Friday, September 4, 2009

President Obama: In the Shadow of a Prairie Giant

As the country prepares to observe Labor Day which was created to honor the American working people and their contribution to society, some questions need to asked regarding a basic entitlement of workers and for that matter of all Americans: universal health care.

First of all, it’s disgraceful how the campaign to reform the health care system has turned into a 3-ring circus. Why on Earth has President Obama allowed the Republicans to hijack and sully the debate on this issue and the drag the of concept nationalized health care through the mud, especially in view of the fact that the Democrats control both the Senate and the House?

But the bigger question is why has the U.S. , despite the negative experiences of so many people here under the present system historically refused to face up to the need for access to affordable health care for all its citizens as the rest of the industrialized nations have done? Indeed, why have Americans failed to recognize that such access to health care is a human right, not a privilege and that the insurance industry has made total hash of the providing such coverage thanks to its greed for profits at the expense of the insured and uninsured alike?

President Obama, of course, ostensibly favors health care reform. But if he truly believes that Americans deserve a better deal in this matter than what we’ve been getting, he should take out a few hours and see the movie “Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story”. Douglas, as depicted in this production and in real life, came from an ordinary background but almost single-handedly brought nationalized health care to Canada first on the provincial and eventually the federal level in the face of entrenched special interest groups including those in the U.S. who fought tooth and nail against this his program. He succeeded by sticking to his guns and refusing to give up in the face of this powerful opposition. Douglas eventually came to be hailed as that nation's "Greatest Canadian."

As a leader, rather than trying to please all sides in this cause, Obama needs to emulate Douglas' determination by getting a pair of balls and putting the necessary pressure on Congress to get the job of overhauling health care done, once and for all. Failure to do so which was a blemish on the Clinton Administration is not an option this time—not just for the sake of Obama’s standing and reputation as President but in the interest of the American people.


Alan said...


The issue is so damn complicated -- I'm writing a CEO speech about this -- that no one outside the field really understands what's wrong or how to fix it. Plus, large majorities are already satisfied.

I will play the fool on this one: why is it a right, such that the govt. must guarantee it to everyone, right up there with life and liberty? Why is there shared responsibility, such that no matter what crappy health habits (or high-risk behaviors) I practice, I have the RIGHT to make you subsidize my poor choices?

I'd like to see the insurance companies transitioned to non-profits, so that they don't have to worry about enriching shareholders and can use all the money to pay for health care (execs could still make plenty of money).

I liked "Toxic Customs." Do they still practice suttee in India?



Secular Guy said...


IMHO, one reason that the issue is so complicated is because the insurance industry and their lobbiests have intentionally made it that way.

Indeed health care is a shared responsibility. But why should most Americans be one hospital bill away from bankruptcy, when for example an incident such as an auto accident isn't their fault? That's not the same as having a heart attack due to cholestoral build up from eating too many Double-Whoppers.

In my case I have health conditions related to tobacco consumption, and I don't even smoke! Apparently my problem is the result of second-hand smoke. So yes I believe the government should regulate tobacco products as dangerous drugs. As far as removing government restrictions on products, I don't think that for example you would want to go back to the days of lead based paint and its health consequences. Look at the increase in food poisoning outbreaks throughout the country over the past decade to due non-enforcement of government regulations meant to protect the public.

As for health co-ops, my (mis?)understanding is that their records of success is spotty. Admittedly I could be wrong on that.

I'm not sure whether or not suttee is still practiced in India, but I wouldn't be surprised.