Posts Tagged ‘Healthcare’


by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

I’ve been putting off writing this post for some time, but last week a grotesque piece of political performance art jolted me into putting fingers to keyboard: Hillary Clinton declared herself part of the “resistance,” and announced the she was creating a PAC (!) to fund “resistance” groups she approves of (and that, presumably, approve of her).

Why is this grotesque? She’s the one-woman embodiment of the status quo, not “the resistance.”

Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger

Hillary Clinton with war criminal Henry Kissinger

She voted in favor of Bush’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq. She was the architect of the disastrous intervention in Libya (with no plan about what would follow Qaddafi’s overthrow). During the presidential debates, she even bragged about being friends with mass murderer Henry Kissinger.

And she takes money — lots of it — from the banks and corporations, including “pay” for three speeches to Goldman Sachs between 2013 and 2015 at $225,000 each, and another eight speeches to banks in the same period garnering her another $1.8 million.

Bill Clinton is no saint in this regard, either. In February 2016 CNN documented Bill and Hillary Clinton’s receiving, to that point, $153,000,000 in speaking fees. (Yes, $153 million.)

And like those of her husband, her campaigns (and PACs and SuperPACs supporting her) have been funded predominantly by the corporations, banks, and those who own them. One strongly suspects that the ultra-rich who fund Clinton aren’t doing so out of the goodness of their hearts.

It would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to prove that her (and her husband’s) positions are payback for that funding, but consider this: During her career in politics, she, like her husband, never even proposed any measures that would threaten her backers financially.

To cite the most prominent example of that, she has consistently opposed a “Medicare for all” single-payer system (supported by approximately 60% of the public), and instead has opted for plans which leave our healthcare in the hands of the big pharma and insurance industry vampires, whose goal is to deliver the minimum amount of healthcare for the maximum amount of dollars.

Which brings us to her predecessor. Barack Obama ran on a platform of “hope and change.” And then he systematically betrayed those who voted for him. He continued, and in some ways intensified (drone assassinations of U.S. citizens), George W. Bush’s disastrous, interventionist, neo-con foreign policy. He kept the wars going, and kept up American support for authoritarian Islamist (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey) and military (Egypt) regimes.

He also promised the most open administration in history, and then delivered the most secretive, with mass surveillance of all of us, and the persecution of whistle blowers — at the same time that he completely let the banking criminals responsible for the financial crash completely off the hook.

Domestically, he proposed a stimulus big enough to keep the economy from collapsing (thus saving the banks) during the recession, but nowhere near big enough to put the 8.7 million who lost their jobs back to work. Nor did he do anything to help the 7 million who lost their homes.

What did he deliver? A singularly inadequate piece of healthcare legislation that protected big pharma and the insurance industry, and left tens of millions uninsured and tens of millions more underinsured. Obama also delivered, to some extent, on social issues that did not threaten his ultra-rich and corporate backers: gay rights and reproductive rights.

Richard Branson and Barack Obama on Branson's yacht

Richard Branson and Barack Obama on Branson’s yacht

Now that he’s left office, he’s been cashing in on his celebrity and connections — including being paid a $400,000 speaking fee by a Wall Street firm — and hanging out with his natural constituency, billionaires (Richard Branson and David Geffen).

Which brings us to the present, the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” is currently trying to wrest control of it from the corporate lackeys personified by Obama and the Clintons (and Diane Feinstein, John Podesta, Chuck Schumer, Donna Brazile, Nancy Pelosi, et al.).

The corporatists recently won the first major battle, electing Obama’s Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee over Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison.

(This on the heels of the DNC’s rigging the presidential primaries against Bernie Sanders and for Hillary Clinton — by among other things drastically restricting the number of debates and by scheduling them at times almost guaranteed to deliver low viewership, thus throwing away tens of millions of dollars of free air time.)

This does not portend well. It portends more of the same: no real attempt to address the gross economic inequality in this country, no attempt to institute universal healthcare, and instead a continued focus on social issues (that are no threat to the rich), all under the stirring battle cry, “We’re not as bad as the Republicans!”

It’s time for people to wake up and realize that the Democrats (at least the Clintons, Obama, and the rest of the corporatists) are not their friends.

Instead, they’re the “good cop” in America’s perennial good-cop / bad-cop political extortion routine.

The “good cop” is not your friend.

* * *

(Chaz Bufe is the author, co-author, or translator of 12 books. His latest work is The American Heretic’s Dictionary, which is the 21st century’s equivalent of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary.)


American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


Fidel Castro

 

by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

It’s time to speak ill of the dead.  It’s been time for nearly a century. Since 1918, the left in both the U.S. and Europe has had a dictator-worship problem. First it was Lenin; then it was (yes) Stalin; then Mao; most recently the dictator of choice has been Fidel Castro.

To illustrate the depth and nature of this problem, let me recount an incident from Cuba in the 1960s. In the 1970s, a maoist friend told me about his experiences there as part of a Venceremos Brigade a decade earlier. (Venceremos Brigades were bands of American leftists who traveled to Cuba to work in the cane fields in support of “the revolution.”) At one point, Fidel himself showed up where they were working in the fields. My friend told me that the reaction of his fellow brigadistas was like that of 14-year-olds at a Beatles concert.

Anarcho-Syndicalist ReviewSince then, the American left in large part has continued to idolize Castro and his Stalin-admirer cohort, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, overlooking their  crimes. We’ll get to those crimes shortly, but let’s first speak of Castro’s, and his “revolution’s,” achievements. During his half-century reign, Fidel Castro and the Cuban Communist Party achieved the following:

  • The literacy rate in Cuba in Cuba went from approximately 70% (figures vary) in 1959 to an estimated 96% today, thanks to the Cuban government’s literacy campaigns and universal education for those aged 6 to 16.
  • Cuba has universal, free medical care. One example of its success is that infant mortality in Cuba fell from 37.3 per 1,000 live births in 1959 to 4.3 per thousand today. (In contrast, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is 5.8 per 1,000 live births today.)
  • Higher education in Cuba is free for most Cubans.
  • There is remarkably little street crime in Cuba.
  • Every Cuban adult is guaranteed a low paying job, with pay averaging about $20 a month.
  • The Castro regime did show that a Latin American regime can defy the United States government (and the corporations it serves) and survive.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Well, consider this:

  • Freedom of speech does not exist in Cuba, nor do the other freedoms listed in the U.S. Bill of Rights. Since its inception, the “revolutionary” Castro regime has jailed opponents for exercising their freedoms of speech and assembly. Human Rights Watch notes: “Many of the abusive tactics developed during his [Fidel Castro’s] time in power – including surveillance, beatings, arbitrary detention, and public acts of repudiation – are still used by the Cuban government.”
  • All media outlets (newspapers, magazines, book publishers, radio stations, television stations) are controlled by the Castro regime, and access to the Internet is tightly restricted.
  • Cuba is a one-party state.
  • In its first four-plus decades in power (ending in 2003), the Castro regime executed hundreds if not thousands of its political opponents. Amnesty International estimates that that regime executed 216 political opponents between 1959 and 1987. Other estimates run up well into the thousands.
  • The Cuban government maintains a surveillance network in every neighborhood in Cuba, the so-called Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs — more accurately, Committees for the Defense of the Regime), which not only spy upon residents, but have considerable control over their lives. As an example, The CDRs can ban political dissidents from even applying to institutions of higher learning.
  • One of the first things the Castro regime did when it took power was to destroy independent unions, either jailing or driving into exile unionists who opposed its takeover. For over half a century, all unions in Cuba have been controlled by the government. (See Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement, by Frank Fernández. Full disclosure: I translated and edited the book.)
  • There is no workers’ control, no workplace democracy in Cuba. All workplaces are tightly controlled by government apparatchiks.
  • The Cuban government denies its citizens the right to travel, the right to emigrate. Since 1959, over 1.5 million Cubans have fled the country (current population 11 to 12 million). At least hundreds of thousands fled on rickety boats and rafts, and at absolute minimum thousands of men, women, and children died in the crossing. The actual figure is likely well up into the tens of thousands. No one really knows.

Since Castro’s death last week, the American left has, by and large, continued to sing Fidel Castro’s praises. To cite but one example, a few days ago Amy Goodman, on her generally excellent “Democracy Now” broadcast, devoted a full hour (bar the first few minutes devoted to news) to Castro. There were a few seconds (considerably under a minute) near the start devoted  to generalized mention of the repressive nature of the regime, but there was no mention whatsoever in the rest of the hour of any of the crimes listed above. It was largely a love letter to Castro.

One might mention that many antiauthoritarian Latin American leftists and anarchists deeply resent the largely uncritical support given Castro (and until his death Hugo Chávez in Venezuela) by the American left. They see it as a betrayal of principles — and themselves — and consider it utterly hypocritical, especially when coming from those who loudly proclaim their allegiance to human freedom, human rights — in the United States, but not Cuba (or Venezuela). They believe that the typical leftist refrain, “Well, we wouldn’t want that repressive system here, but the Cuban people are better off for it,” is grossly patronizing to those who are the victims of repression and those who struggle against it.

They have a point. If you believe in human freedom, in civil liberties, you believe in them everywhere, and you support all those struggling against repression. You’re either for freedom of speech or against it. You don’t make excuses for repressive regimes because you know “what’s best” for the people in those countries, because you know better than the Cubans (or Venezuelans) struggling against repression. If you make excuses for authoritarian regimes, if you don’t stand against repression everywhere, please don’t pretend that you have principles, please don’t pretend that you’re anything but a political apologist, a political hack.

If you think a one-party state, suppression of civil liberties, government control of the media, suppression of independent unions, replacement of capitalist bosses by “Communist” bosses, secret police, prisons, executions, a network of neighborhood informers, militarism, and a personality cult are a good tradeoff for the Cuban people in exchange for free health care, free higher education, and a guaranteed low-paying job, by all means support the Cuban dictatorship, and continue to sing Fidel Castro’s praises.