by John Nichols
What seriously surprises her is that the health-care reform legislation that's been passed by Congress would be characterized by anyone who knows anything about economics or politics or history as "socialist."
"I'm afraid it's not socialized medicine," she says of the plan, which maintains private health-insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and nursing homes - most of which saw their stock values rise after the legislation was enacted.
Indeed, the Socialist Party stands in opposition to President Obama's approach.
"This is not a healthcare reform bill," says Socialist Party USA co-chair Billy Wharton, "It is instead a corporate restructuring of the American healthcare system designed to enhance the profits of private health insurance companies disguised with the language of reform"
As the Socialists note:
The bill passed by the House (March 21) would mandate all Americans to purchase health insurance coverage or face a fine. It would also create health insurance exchanges, an idea crafted by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, where people would purchase insurance from private companies. Those not eligible for Medicaid but who still could not afford to purchase insurance would receive public funds from the federal government to purchase bare bones coverage insurance plans from private insurers.
(Socialists) opposes this restructuring on the grounds that the mandates allow private insurers to use the coercive power of the state to enhance their private profits. Insurance credits will serve as a public subsidy to private companies. It is yet another case of public money that could be used for necessary social programs being funneled towards companies that engage in practices that are abusive and detrimental to the overall society.
Wharton argues, as would any self-respecting Socialist, that "public funds would be better spent in creating a national single-payer system. Democratic socialists see such a system of open access to care as one part of a larger transition toward making health-care a guaranteed human right for all."
That's a far cry from anything the Democrat in the White House has proposed. Indeed, as Wharton wrote in his recent Washington Post piece -- titled "Obama's No Socialist. I Should Know" -- "The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat -- one of a generation of neo-liberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies."
So Myrtle Kastner is amused, and perhaps a little thankful to Limbaugh, Beck and the others who keep talking about "socialism." She's hoping that young people, in particular, will want to learn more.
And what will she tell them?
"I know they call Obama's plan ‘socialist,'" says Kastner. "But if the point is to make sure everyone has health care and that costs are kept down, Socialists really could have come up with something better."
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Bill Wharton: Obama's No Socialist, I Should Know