The Campaign against…(gasp) Socialized Medicine!

No, not that one. Not the campaign to defeat Obamacare. This was the campaign to defeat Harry Truman’s 1945 proposal for a national health insurance program.

The fight against Truman is part of the story that Jill Lepore tells in a marvelous article in the current (September 24) New Yorker: “The Lie Factory: How politics became a business.” The modern American business of politics was born in 1934 when Upton Sinclair ran for governor of California. In response, Republicans hired Leone Baxter and Clem Whitaker—working  together as Campaigns, Inc.—and they orchestrated  a red-baiting smear campaign that defeated Sinclair.

After years of political success, Campaigns, Inc. took on the mission of defeating Truman’s proposal. Lepore quotes from their secret play book:

As Whitaker and Baxter put it, in an earlier version of the plan, “Basically, the issue is whether we are to remain a free Nation, in which the individual can work out his own destiny, or whether we are to take one of the final steps toward becoming a Socialist or Communist State. We have to paint the picture, in vivid verbiage that no one can misunderstand, of Germany, Russia—and finally, England.” They settled on a slogan: “KEEP POLITICS OUT OF MEDICINE.” And they settled on a smear, one that they had used against [California governor Earl] Warren’s plan: they called Truman’s plan “socialized medicine.”

Sound familiar? Would the case against the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) ever have made it to the U.S. Supreme Court without a campaign like this?


I’m Back

The past several months have been filled with family events, travel, presenting a paper at a conference, and a lot of reading. The Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court decision upholding it got a lot of my attention.

Back in the early 1960s, I was a student teacher in a combined English/Social Studies 9th grade class, and I was asked to teach a unit on the Constitution. I thought nothing could be duller. But I was saved by the discovery of a small book that summarized leading U.S. Supreme Court cases. Copying some cases, and withholding the Court’s decisions, I gave them to the students and told them they were the justices—it was their job to decide the cases. It was the spring of 1962. We had a great time together discovering the logic and drama of the law.

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I’m on vacation—a family vacation. So there won’t be any posts till the new year. In the meantime, I’ve been doing some reading, and I’ll do some reviewing when I get back. These three books are on the list:

Menzie Chinn & Jeffrey Frieden, Lost Decades: The Making of America’s Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery (2011).

Robert Frank, The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good (2011).

Michael Lewis, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World (a gift from my daughter Anne).

All three are very good reads, and often immensely perceptive.

Shortages of Critical Drugs Becoming Worse

Today’s New York Times has a good (and scary) article reporting that essential drugs are becoming scarce or simply unavailable:

Drug Scarcity’s Dire Cost, and Some Ways to Cope. New York Times, by Roni Caryn Rabin. Tuesday, November 13, 2011. When Jenny Morrill, who has been battling ovarian cancer since 2007, went to the hospital for her scheduled chemotherapy treatment in June, the nurse greeted her with both good news and bad.

“She said, ‘The good news is that you’re doing really well on this drug Doxil. The bad news is that we have no Doxil to give you,’ ” said Ms. Morrill, 55. “My jaw dropped.”

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Buffalo/Niagara region gains 3,600 construction jobs — Part 1

Construction employment made the front page this week in The Buffalo News. With 3,600 jobs added in the last year, the no-boom-no-bust Buffalo-Niagara region is one of the top areas nationwide for rising construction employment.

Job growth in region’s construction third in U.S., The Buffalo News, December 6, 2011: The Buffalo Niagara region added more construction jobs than all but two U.S. metro areas in the last year, a result of health care, university and private-sector development projects that spurred an 18 percent gain in  employment.

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Mario Savio Remembered and a Poet Beaten at Occupy Berkeley

Robert Hass, UC Berkeley professor and poet, and former Poet Laureate of the U.S., found himself facing a phalanx of Alameda Country sheriff’s deputies at the Occupy Berkeley encampment in front of Sproul Hall – the same Sproul Hall where the Free Speech Movement started in the 1960’s. Hass’s account of what happened next appears in today’s New York Times:

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Comparative Inequality: Top Income Shares Around the World

As the Occupy Wall Street movement stands up for “the other 99%,” a data source recently cited by Paul Krugman reports the history of top income shares in twenty-six countries including the U.S. The World Top Incomes Database will soon publish data from several more countries. Among leading contributors are Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, whose collaboration on U.S. inequality is widely acknowledged as authoritative. Saez has a link on his homepage to the latest U.S. data (2008)—the first item under “Income and Wealth Inequality.”

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