Beware the Predator

Senator “Chuck” Grassley (R) Iowa, roiled up over the proposal for a public option in the health reform bill, called government a “predator not a competitor”.

Government has been called many names, good and bad. Predator. That’s a new one.

If Chuck feels that way about government, why doesn’t he get out of it? Resign from the Senate.

Government is a neutral thing. Government is simply the organization through which control or administration of a city or state is exercised. It is used in the service of the entire nation not for a few special interests.

The conventional wisdom is that government cannot operate as efficiently as private industry.

It’s a classic myth, the result of years, decades, even centuries of brainwashing. The propaganda of capitalism. Keep the notion of “public options”, government run programs, out of peoples’ minds. Demonize them as “socialism”.

After all, if the working class got the idea that they, through a socialized government, can manage the means of production as efficiently as the capitalists, they might decide to do just that.

Entrepreneurs don’t like to tackle that problem head on. They don’t attack government, per se. They attack “big government”.

“Big government is bad” –the common disparaging cliché.

The badness of big government is often raised when discretionary spending is being considered for some program to benefit the people. It signifies taxes and rich people don’t like to pay taxes. Let the middle and working classes pay them. Rich people favor tax cuts, remember? They loved George W. Bush for that.

The rich don’t mind discretionary spending for increases in the defense budget, for wars against small and weak countries that can’t fight back. This means big bucks for the arms makers and the parasitic corporations that thrive along with them.

We’ve amassed a 2 trillion dollar deficit on that kind of discretionary spending. But not one dime for a universal single-payer health care system. Medicare is like a bone stuck in the throat of the health insurance industry.

For some unexplainable reason, we, as a nation, must keep a totally useless gang of blood-sucking corporatists, called a health insurance industry, a thousand pound gorilla, on our backs.

Republicans have declared they will do anything to kill any health care reform legislation. Their cry is that the Democrats are trying to restructure one-sixth of the economy, “writing a bill that will affect almost every American, every business and every doctor and hospital in the country,” reports The New York Times. (10-4-09) The Democrats say the challenges are daunting.

True, the challenges are “daunting”. They might not be so daunting if we could elect a congress of honest people, legislators who can’t be bought off by the health insurance industry; legislators who represent us instead of them.

Hasn’t the government taken on daunting jobs before? How about Medicare and universal health care for all Congressmen and Senators?

And besides… what’s wrong with restructuring the economy. Isn’t it about time?

We should use San Francisco as a model.

Maria L. La Ganga reports in The Los Angeles Times (10.4.09) that over the last two years, three-quarters of San Francisco’s uninsured adults have been enrolled in a public program that guarantees access to medical care called “Healthy San Francisco”.

So far, more than 46,000 adults have been enrolled in this city-run universal health care plan, the first in the nation. It has received high marks in recent independent studies.

Patients receive preventive services and ongoing treatment for chronic conditions. Prescriptions are covered and so are hospital stays.

A unique feature of the plan, patients must pick a “medical home” out of a network of more than thirty public and private clinics, physicians groups and hospitals within the city limits. The idea is that patients get consistent care and the system avoids duplicating services. Kaiser Permanente, a major private HMO, just joined and plans to accept up to 3000 patients.

The program is funded in part by an employer mandate, a controversial component of the plans now under discussion in Washington for the federal health care reform bill.

San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom, described the program as “a public option”, “a strategy to provide health care regardless of your ability to pay, regardless of any pre-existing conditions”.

The city’s plan is government run and subsidized—a “public option”—and has not caused workers or employers to bail out of private insurance, another lesson for the national debate.

It might be a good idea for Chuck Grassley to drop everything, make a trip to San Francisco, and take a look at this predator. That might make him decide to resign from the Senate—or he may learn something that will help him complete a health care reform bill with a “public option” that will pass the House and Senate and be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, writer-producer-director of documentaries, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC. His memoir is now in print. See, e-mail

STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, writer-producer-director of documentaries, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC. His memoir is now in print. See, e-mail