Growing Discontents

The growing season so far has been less punishing than last year’s when rain was a too-frequent and unwelcome visitor. But as our planet is pushed into a less human-hospitable climate regime, these unfriendly swings and swerves are to be expected. As a strawberry grower reminded me recently, it’s always “Wait ’til next year” in farming—— only more so.

Still, we’re behind with some planting and other chores. A lifetime of living without health insurance in a country where health care is just another profit extracting commodity has some downsides one discovers as one senesces. Blood clots in the wrong place can lead to weeks in hospitals, rehab facilities, and countless waiting rooms where …… one waits.

There, we wounded and enfeebled can gaze at the (relentlessly) smiling pictures on the walls where it would seem that being wounded and enfeebled is a nearly joyful experience for both the impaired client and the happy “care team” whose photos beam unwaveringly down from their assembled frames.

Still, we who came to maturity at what turned out to be the crest of the New Deal have aged into Medicare and so have acquired the right under law to be patched up and sent back into the world. Back then it was assumed that public insurance for old folks was merely a beach-head in the decades-long political battle for universal healthcare. The insurance “industry” has always had an aversion to paying for sick people’s treatment. But, in the face of a super majority New Deal-ish administration, and a population with expectations, the industry didn’t fight too hard.

The American Medical Association had managed to prevent the Roosevelt administration from instituting a public health care system. They continued the campaign through the 1950s and 60s with a propaganda/ “public relations” effort called “Operation Coffee Cup.” The voice of the operation was Ronald Reagan. An LP record featuring the Great Communicator was produced which could be played at letter-writing “coffee meetings” organized by doctors’ wives. ( see “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine”)

“The AMA had long opposed any government-run or subsidized provision of health care (or other civilizing amenity). Dr. Morris Fishbein, the AMA’s president, described the organization’s attitude as early as 1939: ‘ …. all forms of security, compulsory security, even against old age and unemployment represent a beginning invasion by the state into the personal life of the individual, represent a taking away of individual responsibility, a weakening of national caliber, a definite step toward either communism or totalitarianism.” (Wikipedia)

President Eisenhower regarded such ideology with scorn in the 50s. In a letter to his brother Edgar he was frank: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things.  ……  Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

As a Republican, Eisenhower deferred to the business class but noted regretfully, “I want to give businessmen an honorable place, but they make crooks out of themselves.” (See “The Declassified Eisenhower,” pg 154-5)

Alas, the war against Vietnam spelled the end of the New Deal Democratic Party and several wars of opportunity later the campaign to privatize Social Security grinds on spewing the clap-trap of a fraudulent “insolvency.” Labor laws rarely serve labor anymore. The farm programs of Eisenhower’s day (parity pricing, supply management, the “Ever Normal Granary”) are no more /unremembered, and the “beach-head” of Medicare is being converted into Medicare “Advantage”—— just another private corporate insurance “product” dedicated to mining the federal treasury for private profit while denying care.

But as our societal wheels come off in ways ever more apparent, even some historical opponents of 1st World health policy are coming around. A little.

On September 11, 2023 the Maine Monitor headlined, “Maine Medical Association says American healthcare system needs an overhaul.”

The MMA’s  statement called for a “full reconfiguration of healthcare delivery and financing designed by evaluating the failures and successes of our present models and the systems of other countries.”

The statement waffled a bit (of course) calling for an ”adequately funded single-payer system or a combination of private (see Eisenhower “crook” assessment) and public financing where the federal government has, at a minimum, regulatory powers over health care delivery to protect consumers (sic) and providers from private profit-driven motives.”

“Only four other states’ medical association— Hawaii, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington—have passed similar resolutions according to Physicians for a National Health Plan and Maine AllCare, which call for publicly funded healthcare coverage.”

But apparently even the AMA’s House of Delegates “came within 30 votes of endorsing Medicare for All in 2020….” (See Maine Monitor, 9-11-23)


Maybe someday.


Richard Rhames is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: