By SusanAnne Hiller
February 12, 2010
What the GOP fails to realize is that President Obama is fighting so hard on health care reform because the issue, for him, is finishing the work of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. Obama has some influential company in this belief.
In 2007, the Sacramento Bee covered Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson:
"There really are two Americas when it comes to health care -- the fully insured, primarily white America and the disproportionately uninsured minority America," Halvorson wrote. "More than half of the total uninsured people in this country are minority. That fact alone should make the need to cover everyone in America a pure ethical imperative. This issue is not about economics -- it is about equality. Universal coverage should be the next major civil rights issue for this country to face."
Halvorson also wrote an article in 2007 equating health reform to the "unfinished business of the Civil Rights agenda." Halvorson discusses the disparities between the races and health care coverage and states:
If we considered no other issue than racial and ethnic disparities, this nation's leadership -- like the leadership of a number of states -- should be moving this country down the path to an American form of universal coverage as quickly as possible. There is no more vital or meaningful way for us to honor and extend the great legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Why should we care about what Halvorson says? This is the same George Halvorson who has met with Obama and has had several meetings in 2009 with key figures in health care, including:
March 27 - Meeting with Keith Fontenot, who manages the financial resources of government agencies related to health.
June 5 - Meeting with Peter Orszag, director of the CBO.
July 23 - Meeting with Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).
July 24 - Meeting with Sarah Fenn, White House assistant.
Additionally, Halvorson was the only insurance executive to meet with Kathleen Sebelius.
And just how far off is Halvorson from MLK's legacy correlation? Most of the last years of Martin Luther King have been lost -- especially worth noting because most of his speeches were recorded. MLK challenged the nation's priorities during his final years, as noted in this article:
But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" -- including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.
This point is further dwelt upon by Obama in an NPR radio interview where he stated that the Supreme Court did not go far enough into wealth redistribution and economic justice.
Moreover, MLK appeared to question his own race-relations understanding, as dissected by Michael Eric Dyson in 2003, where he writes:
As King told journalist David Halberstam, "For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of the society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values." For King, this recognition was not a source of bitterness but a reason to revise his strategy. If one believed that whites basically desired to do the right thing, then a little moral persuasion was sufficient. But if one believed that whites had to be made to behave in the right way, one had to employ substantially more than moral reasoning.
In addition, Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, also confirmed that MLK's public perception is quite different and "anesthetized" as compared to the real MLK. About three minutes into this interview, Bond reveals that MLK was a critic of capitalism and a proponent of socialism and wealth redistribution. This point is further confirmed in the 2004 article from Mary Starrett.
Furthermore, as documented in a little-remembered interview with Playboy in 1965, MLK reiterated his call for social and economic justice through a $50 billion payout from the federal government.
PLAYBOY: Along with the other civil rights leaders, you have often proposed a massive program of economic aid, financed by the federal government, to improve the lot of the nation's 20,000,000 Negroes. Just one of the projects you've mentioned, however -- the HARYOU-ACT program to provide jobs for Negro youths -- is expected to cost $141,000,000 over the next ten years, and that includes only Harlem. A nationwide program such as you propose would undoubtedly run into the billions.
MARTIN LUTHER KING: About 50 billion, actually -- which is less than one year of our present defense spending. It is my belief that with the expenditure of this amount, over a ten-year period, a genuine and dramatic transformation could be achieved in the conditions of Negro life in America...
Obama is disingenuous when he says he seeks GOP input, as Republicans have twice introduced their version of health reform (here) and reintroduced it in late January 2010. He continuously says the GOP has not offered any ideas or a plan for health care reform, but he changes his story when he's face-to-face with the GOP. The GOP must grasp that when Obama states that "[h]ope and change have been the causes of my life," he is not lying. He will not change course or come to the realization that his policies are destroying the private sector and bankrupting the country, as some pundits predict.
When you look at health care reform, each political party is looking through different glasses; their visions and the goals of reform are polar opposites. The Democrats want a Medicare-for-all type of reform, with the federal government controlling the entire U.S. health care system and using mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth; while the Republicans simply base their reform on free-market principles, tort reform, and interstate competition.
Additionally, Obama and the Democrats have been very consistent on their goal of a single-payer health care system and the elimination of the private insurance industry.Obama's policies reflect who he is; they are the vehicles that masquerade as hope and change, which are the mechanisms for social justice and economic justice -- "meaningful legislation" through wealth redistribution. And now, through health care "reform," Obama will attempt to finish the job of applying positive liberties (what the government can do for you), ultimately attempting to forsake the Constitution, which is a charter of negative liberties (what the government cannot do to you), to apply the final judgment of the Civil Rights movement.