DEMS: 98-POUND WEAKLINGS?

Endicott, NY

In Eric Alterman’s August 2/9 “The Liberal Media” column, in which he brilliantly describes how we were led to war under false pretexts, one larger issue is glossed over. He mentions that the Republicans, despite their impeachable acts, may win in November “with the help of Republican stooge Ralph Nader and his misguided supporters.” I do not defend Nader. But Nader and his supporters are what you get when you have a weak and centrist Democratic Party that is constantly outwitted by or appeasing the radical right. Had things been reversed, do you think the right would sit back and say, “Let’s wait for the election and get rid of the lying President”? Hell no! Even if they didn’t have enough time for an impeachment process, they’d start it. They’d be spitting and fighting their way all over Washington. They’d be attacking on multiple fronts. They’d even (gasp!) cheat and lie to win, because they believe their cause is just. Democrats’ perceived inaction and lack of ferocity in calling Bush what he is makes them seem like losers.

The Democratic Party, of course, has traditionally been the party of just causes–the political home for people who believe in working hard for a living and that working full time should get you the basic trappings of the American dream, people who believe that blacks, women, gays and other groups should have equal rights, who believe the environment is worth protecting, who believe the country is of, by and for the people, not the elites or the corporations. Nader’s measly vote count shouldn’t affect a strong party of the people, because the Democrats should have a huge lead. Democrats have a just cause; they just don’t act like it.

If the Democratic Party made big plans for the future or fought the radical right, Nader’s message would have no resonance. If Democrats turned their shrill Nader attacks toward the proper targets–anti-American policies of the GOP–they would have no trouble winning national elections. The Democrats aren’t losing the game because of Nader. Nader is only one of many symptoms of the party’s decline. Enough with Nader-bashing–fight the real fight!

JOE ITALIANO


HEALTHCARE FOR ALL! NOW!

Washington, DC

We were pleased to see Katha Pollitt’s June 21 “Subject to Debate” column on health insurance. Her moving stories about people struggling with cancer, addictions, car accidents and the inability to afford blood-pressure medicine are multiplied by the millions in our hodgepodge healthcare system. Even people who are insured face incredible obstacles to decent healthcare because of insurance payments, co-pays, deductibles and insurance company limitations of coverage. The World Health Organization lists the United States as thirty-seventh in healthcare provision. Pollitt writes, “The simple solution would be a single-payer system like Canada’s.” Then she asks, “But where’s the big, irate, energetic movement for it?”

We have the answer. A new movement is burgeoning. At the community level, ordinary people are creating new coalitions. At the national level, it is made up of such groups as the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the United Steelworkers of America, the United Methodist Church and the Older Women’s League, as well as young groups like the American Medical Students Association and the League of Indypendent Voters. And there is an army of community groups around the country bubbling with frustration over the healthcare system, fighting for a single-payer system.

At the national level, the Campaign for a National Health Program NOW, along with the 12,000-strong Physicians for a National Health Program, are organizing for John Conyers’s H.R. 676, which would provide for universal, publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare for everybody in this country. This bill would eliminate the big insurance companies’ hundreds of billions from our $1.7 trillion healthcare budget, thereby providing enough money for a system that covers all. Everybody would get medical, dental and optical, specialists, mental health, prescription drugs, drug treatment, hospitals and long-term care, among other healthcare essentials. Check out the bill on our website www.cnhpnow.org.

Around the Republican convention we are organizing a conference pushing this movement forward, to be held at the CUNY Graduate Center. The conference is free. Everybody is invited. We see this as the new civil rights-human rights issue of the decade.

MARILYN CLEMENT
The Campaign for a National Health Program NOW


Cambridge, Mass.

Katha Pollitt mistakenly implies that universal coverage would increase health spending. It’s true that Kerry’s plan would boost health spending by tens of billions and still leave many uninsured or underinsured. But single-payer national health insurance could cover the uninsured and upgrade coverage for the millions of Americans with inadequate Medicaid plans or skimpy private coverage, without increasing overall medical costs. How? By slashing the paperwork required to maintain our fragmented, profit-oriented insurance system. Our research, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2003, estimates these potential savings at $300 billion annually; billions more could be saved on healthcare firms’ outrageous profits.

Experience in other nations also indicates that universal coverage need not be costly. While the United States will spend $6,200 per capita on healthcare this year, Canada and European nations with national health insurance spend half that much. Indeed, our $3,600 per capita in public spending is more than Canada, Germany, France or Sweden spend for their entire health systems–public plus private. In essence, Americans already pay for national health insurance, we just don’t get it.

We’re not the only ones who think a single-payer system could cover everyone without increasing costs. The Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office and even private consulting firms of conservative bent have reached the same conclusion. That’s why national health insurance is neither a liberal nor a conservative proposal–it combines liberal benefits and conservative spending.

DAVID U. HIMMELSTEIN, MD
STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, MD


WARPED BY ‘WAR’

A record-setting amount of mail arrived in response to William Greider’s June 21 “Under the Banner of the ‘War’ on Terror”–99.9 percent of it overwhelmingly positive. Below is a sample. –The Editors

St. Paul, Minn.

William Greider’s wise article illustrates the profound thesis of Ernest Becker’s book Escape From Evil: Whenever a society attempts to make itself radically invulnerable against an “agent of death,” real or imagined, it risks creating far more evil in the process. This dynamic has propelled many of history’s worst calamities: Germans seeking a “final solution” to a Jewish “threat”; Inquisitors killing witches and heretics who “threatened” to lead churchgoing souls to hell; and various “ethnic cleansings.”

When politicians propose to improve public safety by modest means, listen. When they promise to utterly crush some grand incarnation of evil by triumphal, heroic means, run like hell. Such politicians are more dangerous than the bogymen from which they promise to protect us.

Radical invulnerability is simply not given to us mortal human beings. The hubris of “total security” may be the darkest temptation luring modern politicians.

PAUL M. BISCHKE


Fortuna, Calif.

Since no one can rid the world of terrorists, a never-ending “war” on terrorism is a juvenile concept. Does anyone believe that a “war on drugs” or a “war on poverty” can be won? The vocabulary used to describe today’s poor thinking is so absurd that no one should be surprised when tomorrow’s adults (today’s children) declare “war” on practically everything. The word “war” is being so minimized that a real war will mean even less than Dubya’s “war on Iraq” (which is not a war but a weapons-testing program and a live-training exercise).

JACK SIVAK


Highland, Ind.

William Greider’s article on the Orwellian “war on terror” echoes my thoughts. Not only has the public been sucked into this but, even more terrifying, almost every journalist seems to have been sucked into the same vortex. Thus, when anyone criticizes any impact of the “war”–the Patriot Act, the dismissal of the Geneva Conventions, the militaristic approach of urban mayors to protest (at protests in Chicago against the Bush regime, the menacing black turtle outfits of the police make me feel as if I’m in Chile or Argentina–and I’ve been at this for thirty years), the profiling of Arabs, etc., the Administration is quick to claim “there’s a war on.” At the same time, the fear and insecurity Greider describes are real–and, I believe, primarily gender-based.

The week of 9/11, I attended a public memorial in Chicago. The crowd was sad and patriotic. But suddenly, the crowd (and in my memory, the men) started chanting “USA, USA,” as if we were at a sports rally. The women from my office and I looked at one another, aghast and chilled, and quickly left. I have not been able to shake the memory of that quick turn from sadness to self-justifying anger and to fear that such a mentality is what is giving Bush the support he has among white males. It is what I imagine Hitler’s early rallies felt like.

SUSAN ELEUTERIO


Hilo, Hi.

In military strategy “terrorism” is simply the use of the “indirect approach.” The “direct approach” uses massive numbers of troops, planes, bombs, artillery and tanks. There is no way to defeat the indirect approach unless we depopulate the Muslim world, the goal of the pseudo-Christian/Zionist cadre now in power. The closest comparison is the Algerian war. But the French had a historical and social connection with Algerians. Americans have no interest in Muslim or Arab culture–quite the contrary. Oil is the only booty of the pseudo-Christian Crusade. Greider writes of “fanatical terrorists” throughout the world. What is more fanatical than the “shock and awe” of dropping thousands of tons of depleted uranium on a civilian population?

DAVID WILSON


LEADERS DEVOURING THEIR OWN

Devon, England

As a footnote to the controversy over Richard Serra’s pleasevote.com ad updating Goya’s ghoulish Saturn Devouring One of His Sons [“Letters, Aug.2/9; Aug. 16/23]: A similar cartoon appeared in the Independent in Britain a couple of years ago. But it was not George W. Bush devouring babies–it was Ariel Sharon. Needless to say, there were howls of protest from the usual suspects. The cartoon went on to win a major prize as the best political cartoon of the year. Did this teach the protesters a salutary lesson about the benefits of free speech? No. They raged all the more!

MANNA WHITESTONE