Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hillary: What kind of President?

Hillary: What kind of President?
By Jerome Grossman

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the favorite to win the Democratic nomination for President. She leads the field in the polls of the key early voting states, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida. If she wins these states there will be a landslide. In the general election in November, there is every indication that the hungry and angry Democrats will turn out in force, while the Republicans, demoralized by scandals and policy failures, will vote in lesser numbers than in the GOP heyday. The Democratic nominee will be a cinch to win.

Hillary will be the first woman President. What kind of President will she be? How will her being the first woman affect her performance?

Hillary brings important qualities to the office: she is informed, educated, well spoken, hard-working, experienced. She has been a social worker and lawyer, ran programs in Arkansas and the White House, and served six years as a United States Senator from New York. She can do the job. She has political smarts to weave her way through the competing interests in the fifty states and indeed the nations of the world.

Hillary's politics are centrist, just like husband Bill’s. They have made their way by locating the consensus of their time and supporting it. They make their peace with the dominant interests and are clever in selling the policies produced to the public. Hillary, the social worker, had no problem accepting the mantra that “the era of big government is over “and the ensuing decline in federal social services.

Experimental programs seeking new approaches to intractable problems, like crime, drug addiction, segregation, income inequality, etc. will get short shrift. Hillary's health care program protects the interests of the major players, making no attempt to adopt the single-payer approach used by every other industrialized nation. The liberal constituency of the Democratic Party is sure to be disappointed in her domestic programs as she finds another Robert Rubin to guide her through paths approved by Wall Street.

Hillary's biggest problem will be her performance as Commander – in - Chief at a time of international upheaval, guerrilla insurgencies, terrorism and war. In spite of her business - like style and her demonstrated ability to compete with the boys, the public instinctively sees in this woman, or any woman, a caring, sympathetic, loving, tender person with the warmth and social skills they remember from their mothers, whether or not the mothers actually had them.

Is a woman tough enough, resolute enough, to be Commander – in - Chief in time of war, to make decisions that will cause loss of life and limb, to attack when necessary, to command in times of stress, to make the often brutal call for the military? That is the question that will be asked of Hillary during the election campaign and her first term. Many Americans will reply that a woman, any woman, cannot command with the necessary authority.

Hillary has prepared herself for these questions. She voted for the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq and refuses to apologize. She has voted every year for the enormous U.S.military budget, larger than the military budgets of all other countries in the world combined. She has never questioned Pentagon development of new weapons. As First Lady, Hillary participated in Cabinet meetings and favored the Clinton military interventions in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia. Together with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Vice President Al Gore, Hillary pushed a reluctant President Bill to adopt a policy of humanitarian military interventions later used by the neo-cons to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Will President Hillary be able to resist military solutions to international problems? Will President Hillary challenge the ever higher military budgets requested by the Pentagon? Will President Hillary resist Pentagon demands for new nuclear weapons? Will President Hillary resist making an attack on Iran? Will President Hillary withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq?

The example of Prime Minister Margret Thatcher in Britain,” the toughest person in the Cabinet” seems to indicate that a woman must be tougher than a man to prove that she can handle the duties of a Commander – in – Chief in time of war. Electing a woman President may not be the path to peace.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007



by Jerome Grossman

The leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States have proposed reforms of the nation's health-care system. The plans of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are similar in outline, but not necessarily in detail. Especially noteworthy is their retention of the basic system relying on business and insurance companies to finance health care.

However, each candidate articulated themes contrary to the current basic system. They praise government - run Medicare for low administrative costs, high efficiency, and for not cherry picking patients. They praise the government - run Veterans Administration for the same features as well as consumer satisfaction. They praise government -run systems in other industrialized nations pointing out that the U.S. lags behind all most all of these nations in adult longevity and infant mortality. Yet the candidates insist on retaining our current system with minor modifications. Universal Medicare would eliminate the cost of health insurance to businesses and lower insurance costs by about 25% percent by eliminating advertising, big execuitive salaries salaries and insurance company bureaucracy aimed at increasing market share and profitability.

The primary constituency of business is the stockholder and the primary activity is to cut costs and maximize profits. In health care this usually means insure as few workers as possible for the fewest ailments. Insurance companies are also focused on the bottom line, charging as much as the market will bear while avoiding the large expenses of the very sick The maneuvers toward these objectives inflate the cost of healthcare

Expanding Medicare to the entire population would realize the goal of universality, improve the national health, lower administrative costs, shift control of care to doctors and hospitals. Why should seniors and veterans be the only groups receiving government subsidies for health care? What about that 10 year old girl I see through my window? How about the worker who repairs my necessities?

Only a universal health system run by the government is defensible morally and politically. Equality and democracy require it. How long will the voters allow this unfairness and waste of money on a basic right to life to continue? Will one of the presidential candidates, from either party, endorse the Medicare approach and arouse the voters to demand it?

The answer to that question is " NO." American political leaders are understandably intimidated by the economic and political power of the health and insurance industries. They remember how Hillary Clinton's mild health reform proposals of 1993 were defeated, and even worse, ridiculed to such extent that it affects her campaign for president 15 years later.

Any proposed change must not be perceived as attacking the profit motive, the most dynamic element in the American economic juggernaut. However, certain communal activities do not lend themselves to the profit model. Health care, education and the military rely on the values of equality, cooperation and even sacrifice. The model for each is common benefit before individual advancement and profit.

However, there may be a way to resolve the dilemma, by following the example of big business. Our government cannot drive the health and insurance industries out of business to install a universal Medicare, but it could buy them out and make health a government monopoly. Give them their profit, give stockholders, executives, workers a big payout, something on the order of100% profit or a years salary. Even if costs one trillion dollars, the lower costs could return the capital outlay in ten years or less. The new efficiencies, the new satisfactions, the increased longevity, the saving of children's lives could transform our lives as they have already benefited our senior population since 1965. And think of the value of increased happiness, of diminished worry about the precious gift of life. Do we have the courage to break the pattern of the past, for ourselves and future generations?


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