Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What is the point???

All this debate about race and gender, are people missing the point? Obviously African-Americans and Hispanics face challenges that whites do not, but the single greatest challenge in America is being born into poverty. John Edwards is the candidate speaking most coherently on this issue.

For all her bloviating about being the most informed, most qualified, most experienced candidate, with the ability to lead on issues; Senator Clinton is all too happy to slip away from the issues and engage in “politics as usual.” And even when discussing issues, Clinton’s approach seems to showing a shocking lack of understanding of the challenges that poor Americans face. Her plan to expand health coverage is to mandate that people buy health insurance, expand the patchwork of government plans, and take steps to make private insurance plans a little more “affordable” is pitiful. All the health care plans being pushed are pitiful. They are, at best, a continuation of the status quo policy of piecemeal action because our leaders lack the courage to fight for drastic and bold change.

An individual mandate plays directly into the conservative “individual responsibility” position. This is their bailiwick and the fact the Democrats have retreated to this point is a sad statement of how far from the solution we are. Health plans in Massachusetts, after the passage of the reform bill in 2005 (which includes an individual mandate) responded to requests to provide a plan with a “low” $200 monthly premium offered a plan with a $500 deductible and severely curtailed benefits. The companies said they could create plans that met any cost requirements, but would such thin coverage hold any appeal with consumers? How many poor people can afford $200 per month (that just covers one person, not a whole family)? How does a $500 deductible provide any incentive to go to the doctor early and engage in a preventative approach to health care that all public health officials claim is the best and most cost effective approach? We need to blow up the system and we need leaders willing to do it from inside the system.

Washington isn’t the problem. Rich people are! They become inherently uninterested in sharing with other people. Some may espouse liberal rhetoric, but they are inherently disinterested in putting their own well being and societal status on the block when looking for solutions.

Poor people, Hispanic, black, or white; are being left behind in this society. When Dr. King said: “…We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. Poor people are also trapped in ghettos. Upward mobility becomes increasingly difficult the further down the socio-economic scale you go. Is there a glass ceiling for women? Yes! Is there still discrimination against minorities in this country? Absolutely! But I would argue that class discrimination is the worst, by far. Illegal immigrants from Central America are okay, as long as they are mowing our lawns or washing our cars, but as soon as their kids want to go to college or they want public health services, they are suddenly a scourge. To quote the increasingly annoying Bill Clinton: “Give me a break! This is the biggest fairy tale!” Talk about a red herring!

For all his powerful speeches on this issue, John Edwards is ultimately not the right guy to lead this fight. Our current system has created inequity of wealth and we need to change it, but it is simply not possible to force the type of change we need. Ultimately we may also be unable to finesse change, as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would like. In which case, we are in big, big trouble.

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