Bob Marston is a retired electrical engineer who favors single payer national health insurance.
Aren’t electrical engineers pretty conservative?
“Actually they are not conservative per se,” Marston says. “They are apolitical. The conservative thing typically comes later when they get into their careers. Most wind up in the war industry and from there it grows on them,”
Marston grew up on Long Island but as a young man moved to California.
“The Vietnam war had a profound effect on me,” Marston says. “I was very young. But if you remember it was the first television war. The power structure did not know how to deal with it. I remember LBJ’s Daisy Commercial and then seeing the horrors in Vietnam. I thought to myself these guys — the Democrats — are a bunch of duplicitous bastards trying to portray themselves as promoters of peace.”
“When I was in New York, I loved listening to shortwave radio. It revealed to me how much information the US government was keeping from its people. Not lying, but actually withholding.”
“When I moved to Los Angeles, I got involved in the formation of the Green Party. One thing lead to another and I ran for Congress in 1994. If you remember that was the big year in healthcare. That was when Hillary Clinton’s managed competition plan was making the rounds.
“In California in 1994, a group of doctors — Physicians for a National Health Program — made a push to get a single payer initiative on the ballot.”
“I was really impressed with their efforts. Many of the doctors took out second mortgages on their homes to raise the money to put Prop 186 on the ballot” (It lost three to one).
“Prop 186 scared the ever loving crap out of the Democrats,” Marston says. “They decided never to let that happen again. They had to get out in front of the issue. So they initiated legislation to control the process.”
Marston says that the California Democrats would pass single payer legislation knowing that then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would veto it. But when Governor Jerry Brown took office, they refused to pass it.
“The Democrats were playing footsie with Schwarzenegger,” Marston says. “They knew he would veto the bill so they kept submitting it just to throw mud in his face. When one of their own got in they found all sorts of creative ways to bottle up the legislation in order to keep it off Brown’s desk.”
He’s also critical of the single payer Democrats in the Congress who refused to push for single payer when the cameras were rolling during the push for Obamacare.
“If you recall the 2009 health care debate, Congressman John Conyers, the author of HR-676, never took to the floor. He could have advanced HR 676 at that time when there was a big spotlight. Does that sound like the actions of someone who wants to pass that legislation?
“I watched the entire House proceedings – all eight hours. Conyers ran and hid.”
What to do now?
“In high school, we were taught that work equals force multiplied by distance,” Marston says. “I think that formula applies equally in activism.”
“If you push with all your might, grunt and groan and work up a sweat but the block doesn’t move you haven’t done any work,” he says. “This movement has been pushing really hard over the last twenty years but the block isn’t going anywhere. When you get into that situation you have to pause for a moment to figure out what you are doing wrong.”
“There was word behind the scenes that by the mid 2000s the healthcare system as a whole in this country was heading for the rocks. I’m talking about a full blown collapse. For those that studied the problem it is believed that when the number of uninsured people hits forty percent in any region, then the healthcare system falls apart. That is the number at which hospitals pile up unimaginable amounts of debt from uncompensated services. We were at that point in 2007 in many regions of the country. That forced the Democrats’ hand. Obama, lacking the guts, decided to expand the current system using the coercive power of the tax system and some government subsidies to pump up the system sort of like a blood transfusion. And to that extent his Obamacare system worked. But it did absolutely nothing to address the underlying problem.”
“What Trump does should be interesting to watch. If he guts Obamacare like he promises, we could wind up back in the same situation we were facing in 2007 in short order. I would say something like 2019 to 2020.”
“Based on that analysis, the single payer healthcare movement should propose a three year plan that would set itself up for action when the collapse comes.”
“I think it should increase the percentage of effort it devotes to public outreach and education. It should continue its work at lobbying Congress in the immediate future mindful of the fact that an all out victory is highly unlikely. I am not saying the movement should not be vigilant of opportunity when it presents itself. But with the movement in the state that it is in, it should be realistic about the prospects of enforcing its wishes. We need to grow much, much bigger in order to do that.”
“It may very well take a collapse of the healthcare system to bring the broader public to a place where they are even conscious about the situation. But in the meantime we can chip away at the problem.”
“And another thing — we are going to have to keep the Democrat party minders on the sideline.”
“There will be some very substantial developments over the next few months that will likely make some very big changes in the landscape.”