Who’s Being Radical?

Some articles that highlight Our Present Insanity — Michael Lind in Salon and Paul Krugman in the New York Times both complain that President Obama is being way too cautious and timid and “centrist.” Lind is especially harsh, saying that Obama is falling into the neoliberal pattern of buying into the Right’s “market friendly” fetish.

You might have thought that the Crash of 2008 would have led Democrats to reconsider this neoliberal approach to providing public goods by private means. But to judge from President Obama’s budget, the White House is still living back in the neoliberal era, when the diminutive Milton Friedman cast a giant shadow.

I think Lind is overstating things a bit, but I agree that the Obama Administration is making more concessions to “conservative” (note quotes for irony) ideas than I would like.

But on the other end of the scale, Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post complains that Obama “intends to enact the most radical agenda of social transformation seen in our lifetime.” Oh, and Obama’s health care proposals? “Socialized medicine.” The usual blah blah blah.

I’ve been working on a long rant on health care, which is partly why I didn’t post much yesterday. It’s not finished, but the major theme is that “conservative” health care proposals are untried and radical — nowhere on the planet is 21st century medical care being delivered via a “market-driven” health care system — whereas Obama’s proposals are genuinely conservative, in the common dictionary sense of the word, compared to the way health care is funded and delivered in all the other industrialized democracies.

You see this in everything the Right does. You want “the most radical agenda of social transformation seen in our lifetime”? Look at the results of Reaganism. (America, are you better off now than you were thirty years ago? I don’t think so.)

It’s time to speak loudly and clearly that the “conservative” agenda is not conservative at all, but dangerously radical. The results of this radicalism are plain to see, in the form of a once-healthy economy that is now crumbling around our feet. The ur-talking point we liberals need to adopt is that “movement conservatism” is and always was a crazy, radical, extremist pile of nonsense that was only packaged as conservatism.

19 thoughts on “Who’s Being Radical?

  1. Only those of us who were around before Reagan remember what this country was like at one time.
    For those younger than us, the slow drip, drip, drip, of the erosion of human and economic right’s has left a ‘Stolkholm Syndrome’ mentality.
    They don’t know any better. It’s always been tough. Not drowning has become a way of life in this country. Workers try to remain productive to keep their jobs. Other members of the family pitch in with jobs to help keep the house or apartment; a car or insurance. Frequently, they have to choose between roof, insurance, food, or car?
    This is their idea of America. Anything else that is pitched to them is called “Socialism.” And they believe it because they don’t know any different…
    Now, things may be beginning to change. But it won’t happen overnight. And it will have to happen over the shrieks of the dying “conservatives” and their ‘cornered-rat’ mentality.

  2. On the subject of health care, look north. Canada’s system is still not perfect, but it is light years ahead of the U.S. non system. More cars are produced in Ontario than Michigan because auto corps. don’t pay huge health care benefits here. Even cornered rat conservatives should understand this logic.

  3. I was around before Reagan. We had an attitude that it was okay to help each other – our families, our friends, our neighbors, even strangers … our fellow human beings.

    Somehow, this attitude is now greeted with horrified gasps. I have watched it happen, little by little. Distancing phrases like “Tough Love” began to be embraced even by the “touchy-feely” psychologists. Problems such as drug abuse were “accepted” as diseases but astonishingly with no apparent cause save some unexplained defect in the user. Radical indeed.

    Speaking of “no apparent cause,” I wonder why we are clamoring for “care” offered by “doctors” who haven’t been healing patients for decades. They diagnose; they treat symptoms. They care nothing about any cause, nor do they care about healing. I won’t pay a dime for that kind of “care.”

  4. A we bit o’syncronicity, Maha.
    Wlile at work Tuesday, my job had me in front of a church, where there was a statue of Jesus. Long robe, long hair and a beard; the traditional grown-up Jesus, not the “baby” Jesus.
    I wondered how many of the “folks” I know would run to the phone and dial 911 if a man looking like that came to their door or place of business. Would they consider a man who looked and dressed in that fashion employable?
    So, on the way home, I started thinking how “radical” the right truly is.
    The majority of the right is “Christian”, they claim to love and obey a long haired bearded guy who died about 2,000 years ago. they claim his message is love, but screw those rag-heads, gooks , and commies; liberals are next to pond scum, and they are quite in favor of killing people on a mass scale if there is any chance of those people one day posing a threat to America, real or imagined. Torturing or murdering “suspects” is o.k., health care is for those who can pay. The botton line is theri “bottom line”. We are looking for the “angle of repose”.
    They worship Sarah Palin,Bobby Jindal and Rush Limbaugh.
    The right went past radical to bat shit crazy.

  5. I wonder why we are clamoring for “care” offered by “doctors” who haven’t been healing patients for decades. They diagnose; they treat symptoms. They care nothing about any cause, nor do they care about healing.

    Cabin In The Woods, I understand what you say you’re seeing, and I don’t doubt you’re seeing it. It arises in large part from Big Pharma owning some doctors body and soul. Of course, Big Pharma and their lapdocs have a huge vested interest in only treating symptoms.

    But I have to point out that I’ve been treated for and “healed” of some pretty complicated things, including a brain tumor. None of those doctors or their staff were just treating symptoms; where a condition is curable, they worked to cure it. (Now, if you’re going to argue that only homeopathy, Tibetan medicine, veganism or any other regimen can “cure,” and therefore modern medicine is all quackery, please don’t bother. That’s the game of One True Religion, and I refuse to play.)

    My own GP is quick to point out meds that don’t work. I’ve personally seen him interact with sales reps from Big Pharma. They get a “Howdy” and a “Seeya” and that’s about it. He’s a fine doctor, and he’s typical of my interactions with the medical community.

  6. We can probably thank Milton Friedman for much of what we’ve been experiencing since Reagan. He preached that corporations had no business engaging in socially beneficial acts, in fact had no social responsibility, and in fact they were only responsible for making as much profit as possible. (Always said with a smirk on his face, by the way.)

    Fast-forward to the mess we laughingly call a health-care system, headed by guess what, mega corporations and indeed they are still “only responsible for making as much profit as possible.” Nevermind that they are consigning 49 million of us into medical care poverty, they’re making their profits.

    Twenty-thousand die every year from lack of access to health care, while one-third of every health-care dollar goes to private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork ($350 billion/year.) Friedman would certainly approve. I look forward to your article maha. Hope you can find some costs analyses on single-payer vs. this godawful mess.

  7. No, JoanR, I don’t play that game either. There are MDs out there who are bold enough to think outside the AMA-ACS-FDA-Big Pharma box. Unfortunately, they have to be very careful lest they step too far away from that box and lose their license.

    With few exceptions, MDs are not allowed to recommend diet as a treatment. Yet it was Hippocrates himself who said “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” Whose oath is it the MDs take again?

    The FDA had the hubris to declare that “only a drug can cure a disease.” Now this is accepted as gospel. Therefore it is a crime to claim that an herb, food, vitamin, or other natural supplement can help to cure or treat anything. The FDA Gestapo will come. Yet there are thousands of FDA-approved drugs that are no better than placebo and have dangerous, sometimes lethal, side effects.

    I know scores of people who turn up with high blood pressure and are given BP-lowering drugs, with no attempt made to discover the cause and treat that. Not one of them has received advice to eat certain foods that naturally lower BP, either. Not one. To me, this is dangerous, as high BP can quickly lead to cardiovascular disease.

    We would have much better health care in this country if we could get the huge profits out and have the various factions put their heads together rather than fighting one another. For decades, they have been fighting each other at the expense of the patient.

  8. Harold Meyerson wrote “Who You Calling Socialist?” at the WaPo (March 4) – a great article but unfortunately behind a (free) firewall. It’s worth tracking down. Some excerpts:

    “…First, as we survey the political landscape, what’s striking is the absence of advocates of socialism, at least as the term was understood by those who carried that banner during the capitalist crisis of the 1930s. Then, socialists and communists both spoke of nationalizing all major industries and abolishing private markets and the wage system. Today, it’s impossible to find a left-leaning party anywhere that has such demands or entertains such fantasies. (Not even Hugo Chávez — more an authoritarian populist than any kind of socialist — says such things.)

    “Within the confines of socialist history, this means that the perspective of Eduard Bernstein — the fin de siecle German socialist who argued that the immediate struggle to humanize capitalism through the instruments of democratic government was everything, and that the goal of supplanting capitalism altogether was meaningless — has definitively prevailed. Within the confines of American history, this means that when New York’s garment unions left the Socialist Party to endorse Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, they were charting the paradigmatic course for American socialists: into the Democratic Party to support not the abolition of capitalism but its regulation and democratization, and the creation of some areas of public life where the market does not rule.

    “But in the United States, conservatives have never bashed socialism because its specter was actually stalking America. Rather, they’ve wielded the cudgel against such progressive reforms as free universal education, the minimum wage or tighter financial regulations. Their signal success is to have kept the United States free from the taint of universal health care. The result: We have the world’s highest health-care costs, borne by businesses and employees that cannot afford them; nearly 50 million Americans have no coverage; infant mortality rates are higher than those in 41 nations — but at least (phew!) we don’t have socialized medicine.

    “Give conservatives credit for their consistency: They attacked Roosevelt as a socialist as they are now attacking Obama, when in fact Obama, like Roosevelt before him, is engaged not in creating socialism but in rebooting a crashed capitalist system. The spending in Obama’s stimulus plan isn’t a socialist takeover. It’s the only way to inject money into a system in which private-sector investment, consumption and exports — the other three possible engines of growth — are locked down….

    “If Obama realizes his agenda, what emerges will be a more social, sustainable, competitive capitalism. His more intellectually honest and sentient conservative critics don’t accuse him of Leninism but of making our form of capitalism more like Europe’s. In fact, over the past quarter-century, Europe’s capitalism became less regulated and more like ours, one reason Europe is tanking along with everyone else.”

    And so it’s fairly easy to debunk those who cry “socialism” these days – they obviously have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s interesting that “socialism” is the boogeyman word that “liberalism” once was – it’s the word conservatives are now demonizing, obsfucating, and attempting to erase from the language. What’s needed is a quick and apt word to characterize what conservatives have done these last 25 years – moving the country so far to the right that it’s now falling apart at the seams.

    BTW, I’m starting to see the term “The Great Recession” to describe the times we’re now in.

  9. Cabin — MDs certainly can and do recommend diets and changes in eating habits. Mine does, anyway. He also prescribed a 45-minute daily walk for me, which does not involve Big Pharma. Alas, since my back went out I haven’t been able to do the walk. Now I’m dealing with the Health Care System about my back. Don’t get me started.

    The profit-driven system does skew health care delivery, however. As I’ve ranted in the past, the system as a whole has gotten very good at creating and marketing profitable health-care profits. Any parts of the system that do not make a profit, like emergency rooms, are left to rot.

    So medical technology companies create expensive equipment for, say, neonatal intensive care, to be sold to hospitals. And it may be perfectly good equipment that really does save lives. However, too many women are not getting decent prenatal care, creating a need for more neonatal intensive care units.

    Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry is more invested in cranking out tweaks of profitable drugs — so they can have something patented — than in developing entirely new drugs.

    I don’t blame doctors for this. They’re victims of the system, like the rest of us.

  10. It’s interesting that “socialism” is the boogeyman word that “liberalism” once was – it’s the word conservatives are now demonizing, obsfucating, and attempting to erase from the language.

    Righties are all about scaring people, and I think “liberal” has lost its mojo. To Americans of a certain age and mind set, socialism is plenty scary. The rightie problem is that most rational people, I think, see through the rhetoric and understand that the so-tagged policies are not in fact socialist. Score one for rational America.

  11. Part of the new right wing script now is that it was FDR who screwed up our health care system by linking insurance to employment. Some conservative think-tanker was spouting this on NPR last week.

    It srikes me as a pretty ridiculous statement, considering that any attempts to delink insurance from employment since then have been fought tooth and nail by the right. In any case, it would be nice to see this point thoroughly debunked or we’ll continue to hear it. It fits in with their current theme that the New Deal was a tragic failure.

  12. Conservativism = sowing catasptrophe. And for 30 year’s, as we have sown, so shall we reap…
    Mankind, since it’s inception as a cognizent species, has clustered together for self-protection. It is conservativism that said, “F” the others, look out for you and yours. Self-preservation IS self-protection…
    That is America in the last 30, 40+ years.
    And as for “Atlas Shrugged,” it is the most boring fucking book in the last Century. I’d rather have my privates stuffed in a blender and put on frappe, than read that pile of shit again!
    This is what happens when you have third-rate minds thinking that a second-rate writer has written a first-rate novel.

  13. America is in an emotional state of flux. The DOW is at 6629; it was 14,164 on April 7 LAST year! Retirements have been wiped out. Foreclosures have never been higher; worse almost 20% of all homeowners are ‘underwater’ owing more on their mortgage than the home is worth. Unemployment is 8.1% a 20 year high, but the rate that unemployment is growing is staggering. Jobs are evaporating at the rate of 650,00 per month. People are frightened to the core; the Conservative dogma they once trusted has produced chaos, not salvation.

    The voter is emotionally prepared for fundamental change, but the rank-and-file electorate will not vote on the health care bill that emerges from discussion. Congress will. And Congress is not hurting. They have taken some hits in the collapse of Wall Street, but our reps within the DC beltway don’t pal around with the kind of folks who have just lost their only home, or both jobs. (Unfortunately, our reps from BOTH parties DO pal around with lobbyists for Pharma & Medical Insurance Industries.) Our Senators & Congressmen are well insulated from the terror the average American feels and they are being pressured not to make ‘radical’ changes. ‘Radical’ meaning anything that would adversely affect the profitability of Pharma & BCBS.

    The question for Obama is not what’s the best method to provide quality health care to all Americans. It’s what’s the best way of providing health care to all Americans that can pass in Congress!! I have no doubt that a single-payer system could raise quality while bringing down cost – and I suspect that in the present mood the country is in, single-payer could win popular support. But you could never get it through Congress.

    IMO, the only way to get TO single-payer is in stages. First, universal health care. Then expand portions of the system that ARE single-payer in essence, CHIP, Medicare, Medicaid, VA all put under a large umbrella with a single-payer signature. Then grow the the umbrella. ‘Starve the Beast’ in reverse. Eventually, there would be no logical reason to PAY an insurance company for services that are available from a single-payer system for LESS. (Republicans would be free to do so if it helps them sleep bettter.)

  14. Even Joe Klein gets it:

    “…We are at the end of a 30-year period of radical conservatism, a period so right-wing that many of those now considered “liberals”–like, say, Barack Obama–would be seen as moderate pantywaists in the great sweep of modern political history. The past 30 years have been such a violent departure from the norm, such a profound destruction of the basic functions of government, that a major rectification is called for now–in rebalancing the system of taxation toward progressivity, in rebuilding the infrastructure of the country, not just physically, but also socially and intellectually.”

  15. Sure hope that writing on Health Care comes soon. I am running out of patience with the right wing. I need new thoughts and always get some here.
    Have been working with PNHP and Health Care for All Texas for about a year. I think we could be making progress.

  16. Quit wasting your time.

    Other countries have already solved this problem. It does not matter which country we model our healthcare on because most of them have a better one. Simply pick out the country that has the longest life expectancy for men and women and copy them right down to their method of accounting.

    The so called “health care” industry is buying votes by the bushel as I write. The doctors have the best coordinated richest union in the world – The AMA. If you ever even dream that the AMA is doing anything for the patient, you really need to use Google and read about them. Go through the history, it is truly frightening.

    The hospital owners have money to burn from for-profit hospitals. If they were not “rationing” care they would not have a penny.

    The insurance companies are a joke as far as administering money. They will never consent to insuring everyone for fear their stocks will fall. Also, they have a truly bottomless pool of cash for “donating” to the congress critters.

    There will be no health care reform. Period. Cosmetic changes, yes, reform not a snowballs chances in the Sahara.

  17. self exile – actually, a huge study was done a few years ago of all the viable health-care systems going at the time and it was unanimous that the French had the best system – basically a social-security-like setup.

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