Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scabs and Health Care Reform

                In America's trade union movement, workers with grievances would go out on strike as a weapon of last resort.  Nobody wanted to be out of work, but when management simply would not listen to or accommodate workers' needs, the union membership sat down and had a vote on whether or not to strike and walk off the shop floor, out of the mine, or out the front doors of their respective office buildings.  Strikes were not impulsive.  They came after long weeks and months of deliberation and negotiation.

                Dennis Lehane, the Boston-based fiction writer, wrote a marvelous book about the events leading up to, during, and following the Boston Police Strike during the 1919-1920 period.  While "The Given Day" is a work of fiction, Lehane transports us to a time in America when there were strong "nativist" influences exacerbated by a terrible influenza epidemic, when Jim Crow was alive and well, and when the ruling elites ignored the needs of workers, including the police, who could barely make ends meet.

                Then, as today, there are people who act in their own best interests and others who do not.  The health care establishment is certainly acting in its own best interest by pressuring Congress to gut any future reform legislation of provisions that provide a benchmark against which they must compete.  For Conservatives, competition is a good word until it's not.  What the Conservatives mean by competition is what others might call unfettered and unregulated free trade.  A successful business isn't run without rules, processes, and practices in place, so where's the model for successful unfettered, unregulated free trade?  Bernie Madoff?

                It's easy to understand business, which is essentially amoral.  A business does not have a mother or father in a nursing home.  A business does not have children going to college.  A business can neither laugh nor cry, cannot feel hungry, and cannot feel compassion.  Only people can feel these things.  But at some level there is a person or cadre making decisions in a business and they can steer the business in certain general directions.  They are, however, never alone or identifiable as the single culpable human entity to blame for pillaging the financial resources of so-called "customers."

                While there are surely responsible health care companies out there, they are not out in front taking the reform movement's side in public and vocal ways.  The ones using lobbyists, gun nuts, and right wing political thugs to crowd local-level congressional meetings and shout down the advocates of reform are the ones we see.  Even if they are the same minority that loved Bush and hate Obama—that certain white 30%—they are noisy and nasty.  (What's up with that creepy Lyndon LaRouche, anyway?)

                They're exactly what people abroad believe all Americans are, but they've never seen one on their own shore in the flesh because those people don't travel to places where they can't take their guns, where they can't get to by car, and where they have to order odd food from a menu written in a weird language, like bangers and mash.  We, on the other hand, see them all the time, and most of us don't find anything to envy in them.

                So, when the Apathetic Union of American Citizens is out on strike, like 60% of us are all the time, the 30% of righties of the remaining 40% of activists gets shipped, by bus, to congressional health care fora claiming to represent the "regular American people."  Crunch the numbers!  30% of 40% is 12%, and that's who's doing the noise making!  They are paid to be there, or are transported because they are "true believers."

                What they really are is scab labor—people who are brought in to replace others who are out on strike.  Pick that scab and what you get is an infection, but when you overcome the infection, you're well.  America always deserves what it gets because we're apathetic about our union. We enable cranks, fools, sycophants, haters, and the anti-progressive born-again ignorant to stand at the front of the line and shout the rest of us down.


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