Friday, March 19, 2010

Left critics of health care reform

There are a lot of people on the left who criticize the Obama health care reform. And with good reason - it entrenches the insurance industry and hands the already-bloated health sector a fistful of government cash.

The criticisms are still wrong.

First, they overestimate the ease with which sweeping legislation "could" be passed. Do they forget that we live in capitalism, and to pass aggressive people-first reform in a bourgeois democracy is next to impossible? To say the Democrats "could" pass stronger legislation is to buy into all the lies about bourgeois democracy. The best that can actually happen is a capital-compromised partial reform --- what is on offer now.

Second, the critics dismiss the ideological precedent of the bill: confirming universal coverage as a popular expectation. The right-wing hates this idea and would love to see it defeated, because they know that once it is established, it will be super-difficult to reverse - witness the right's decades long, still unsuccessful fight to reverse other entitlements.

If the bill passes, we set the precedent. If (or rather when) the reform proves inadequate at meeting the ideological benchmark, then political pressure will be for more reforms to build on it.

Third, since the bill will provide subsidies allowing 30-40 million uninsured poor to get coverage, the bill represents a real, positive, difference in the lives of many workers and other poor. How many of the left critics don't have health care? Have they ever met people who don't? Isn't it cold and uncaring of them to disregard to fate of millions, to sacrifice these people for the sake of the purity of their radicalism?

Of course the reform is limited, of course it is capital-compromised, of course it is not a panacea, of course it is not a substitute for a socialist program, of course it does not preclude the necessity of more radical reform and ultimately socialist revolution.

It's still the best bourgeois democracy has to offer right now. Would you rather live in a capitalist country with the ideological value of universal health care, and with significant aid for getting it to the most downtrodden citizens, or one that rejects such things? It seems like a no-brainer.

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