My face is in pain. I spent four hours sitting in the sun yesterday, listening to the Bridge the Gap Health Care Rally in Lincoln Park. And quite stupidly, I didn't wear any sunscreen. Red face.
Anyway, it was a good rally. SEIU was fired up, as always. Dean's speech reminded me of why he was so good during the primary campaign -- incredulity at how much public money we spend and how little public service we get. It really is ridiculous -- 60% of our health care dollars are public dollars (directly or indirectly) and we're all getting pushed around by insurance bureaucracies if we have any coverage at all.
(Later at dinner with a conservative friend, he asked if I was for socialized medicine. And my retort was whether he was for the insurance companies. Because it's really one or the other. And I think we should try to put them -- 'them' meaning the status quo apologists -- into the box of defending the insurance companies. Because who, really, is for them?)
Jan Schakowsky's speech was decent (sort of vintage Schakowky -- 'Bush just doesn't get it!' with a few telling anecodtes of how the House Republicans walked all over the Democrats to push through the Medicare prescription drug benefit).
I really enjoy Reverend Jackson's speeches. I'm one of those few people who actually intone after him: I AM. . . .SOMEBODY. . . .WE NEED. . . . A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. . . . .FOR HEALTH CARE. . . . .
Keep hope. . .alive. . .keep hope. . .alive.
I like his cadence. And I like that his son has convinced him to push for a constitutional amendment. He (Junior, that is), wrote a fantastic book called "A More Perfect Union." -- read it. You can buy it here:
Dennis Gannon, head of the Chicago Federation of Labor, spoke about the Wal-Mart fight in the Council (with his South Side Chicago accent -- 'we gaht to work together' -- which I also enjoy.) Cities ought to start requiring companies that get a single dime in public subsidies to buy insurance for all of their employees. Or cities should just buy health insurance for all citizens financed by a local income tax. And Gannon made a good point that we ('we' meaning advocates) need to know the issues in order to influence decision makers. He called out his disappointment wih Mayor Daley and Finance Chairman Ed Burke for voting with Wal-Mart. I'm disappointed the lakefront aldermen all voted for Wal-Mart, except for Joe Moore. I don't know about Helen Shiller. But Tom Tunney, Vi Daley and Burt Natarus all voted for Wal-Mart.
A few people who have been absolutely ripped off from hospitals spoke, including one guy who was arrested for not paying his hospital bill in Champaign County, put in jail with something called a "body attachment" and when he posted bond to get out, part of the money went to the for-profit hospital! That smells like debtors' prison to me, and that ought to be illegal.
The last speaker who came late after most people left because he was at the Puerto Rican Parade was State Senator Miguel Del Valle. And he's great. He started out by saying "I'm going to talk about Democrats." And he RIPPED into the unnamed Democrats that are not investing in health care. One great line: "We must not be diverted from thinking that our problems are the Republicans and only the Republicans." (Which was sort of the message from the previous speakers -- if only we get rid of Bush, all will be well). Del Valle went on "We're in power now, and we're failing! We said we'd change things! For years, we blamed the Republicans and Pate Philip. Who will we blame now!?" and finally, at the emotional peak "I'll be damned if I'm going to allow Democrats once they're elected -- with your hard work, with your contributions, with you working the precincts, with your supporting the campaigns -- to not be held accountable!"
And this is the budget battle for state government now. We progressives wants more spending on health care. And there are only two ways to pay for that. One is to raise taxes. The other is to borrow. The first is responsible and the second is not. Governor Blagojevich wants to increase spending and also borrow (like using a credit card to buy groceries . . .oh wait, I do that. I'll think of a better example.) Senator Del Valle would increase taxes, one presumes. House Democrats do not want to borrow more money to finance current spending. And Republicans certainly don't want to borrow any more.
So if we want more health care spending, that we've got to pay for it. And we've got to demand that our elected Democrats who are running state government raise taxes to pay for it. Because if we don't, then who the hell is going to?
It's too easy to argue that we can increase spending -- as we should -- but not talk about paying for it. If we believe that we're right, and that we should spend more on expanding health insurance through the state to everyone in Illinois, then we must say so clearly. And not just blame the Republicans.