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Fight for the Public Option

Tuesday, August 18 2009 @ 10:34 PM CDT

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by: Marc Ash

As August comes to a close, one of the most important debates in American history will come to a point of decision making. Will Americans have the option to support their own health care system if they choose?

It will not only be important as a political precedent or as policy statement; it will be a landmark moment socially. Will we as Americans care for Americans in illness and need? The conflict could not be more stark, the stakes any higher.

The horror of the drowning of New Orleans played out in media images before a disbelieving nation. The enormity of what we were seeing a rational mind had to view as an anomaly, an aberration. An entire US city left to die with more than adequate resources standing by to have saved so many lives? Why? How could this be? But in places like Wise County, Virginia, and Inglewood, California, scenes hauntingly reminiscent of crowds at the New Orleans Superdome, new crowds of uninsured Americans, desperately hoping for services, thronged to open air or poorly sanitized mass clinics, hoping for any chance at health care, any chance to receive medical attention.

What we need is not "change"; we need tradition. An American tradition of fortitude and caring. It can no longer be the responsibility of the corporations or the government; the community must lead. The time has come to fight for the public health care option.

The dialog must be broad enough and creative enough to include moderate conservatives and religious conservatives as well. Moderate conservatives have been pushed to the margins too long, their voices cowed along with liberals. If the conservative movement is to recover, it must be prepared to re-embrace social responsibility.

Not since Eisenhower's warning of the perils of an increasingly powerful "military-industrial-complex" in his 1961 farewell speech, has moderate conservatism really held the moral high ground. There is an overnight political resurrection to be realized if moderate conservatives can be rallied to act for public health care. Religious conservatives are, in fact, already on the move, scheduling what are being called prayer vigils in cities across the country.

Conversely, a newly revitalized Democratic majority stands to squander the political capital they gained in the past two elections by reneging on their promise to bring about meaningful progress on health care reform. There is a notion often floated that any bill passed on health care will pass as progress, as reform. But it will not. The large health care conglomerates are corrupt and ruthlessly so. Legislation that allows those policies to continue must not be allowed to go unchallenged.

When Hillary Clinton mounted a meaningful attempt at health care reform in the early '90s, the health care industry and their political allies on Capitol Hill were quick to point to her defeat as the final nail in her political coffin and the coffin of public health care. It wasn't dead, however, it was just buried under a Bush. Low and behold, both Hillary Clinton and public health care have risen again.

The reason that public health care will not go away is that it's bigger than politics, bigger than policy and bigger than financial profit. There are tens of millions uninsured and more than half the population paying, but receiving substandard care. The problem is gigantic and growing rapidly.

The time has come to say no. It must be said clearly and directly at all times in all places. Any health care legislation that does not include a public option is a fraud. There are members of Congress who are committed to preserving the public option; they need all the support they can get.

This is a fight whose time has come.


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