Constitutionally Infirm


The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid The Penguin Press, 2009, 288pp, $25.95

This book is a very good primer on the basic aspects of universal healthcare systems in a number of countries around the world: France, Japan, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Canada, and Taiwan. Not surprisingly, Reid finds that all of these countries have vastly superior healthcare systems than ours in that they cover everybody while spending much less on healthcare as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. He also conclusively demonstrates why any healthcare "reform" effort that perpetuates for-profit basic health insurance, fragmented payment systems, and a lack of universal coverage (such as the one that's about to be passed in Congress), is ultimately doomed to failure. Healthcare reform needs to be universal and non-profit, or it will not be at all.

Where Reid's book falters is in its somewhat naive assumption that as long as Americans learn the facts about healthcare in other countries and accept the concept of healthcare as a basic human right, we'd be on our way to the kind of healthcare reform we need. Unfortunately, this is probably not the case. Aside from the fact that so many Americans are loathe to acknowledge the fact that anyone outside our borders has ever had a good idea, most Americans already think that everyone should have health insurance coverage when they get sick. As Reid himself notes, according to opinion polls approximately 85% of Americans hold this position. So then why don't we still have a decent healthcare system in the United States?

There are many factors, but the most important is this: in addition to having an outmoded, fragmented, for-profit health insurance system, the United States has an outmoded, fragmented, for-profit political system that is explicitly designed to militate against the kind of large-scale social reform that universal healthcare represents. Just read the Federalist Papers if you don't believe me.

Aside from the fact that the system is awash in corporate money, the anti-democratic Senate stands in the way of even mildly progressive reform, and has done so ever since the country's founding. Until we scrap, or at least radically modify, a legislative body that allows a handful of senators representing a fraction of the national population to exercise vastly disproportionate influence over the legislative process, we will have a hell of a time solving healthcare or the many other serious problems facing our country. As Reid notes, universal healthcare was furiously opposed by powerful interests in every country in which it has been established. But because most of those countries have more responsive and democratic political systems than ours, majority opinion in favor of universal healthcare ultimately prevailed. It also didn't hurt that most of them have also had a powerful socialist left, something that we've never had here in the U.S. Admittedly, Reid's book doesn't purport to analyze the defects of our political system, but an assessment of the prospects of healthcare reform that does not take into account its structural anti-reform biases is necessarily incomplete.

So the next time Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, or some other wizened blowhard with droopy eyelids and bad hair stands in the way of badly needed reform, remind yourself that the Constitution we all hold so dear gives them every opportunity to do so. Don't hate the playa - hate the game.

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Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump

February 17, 2017 · $20.00 USD

Location: MayDay Space
Where: 176 St Nicholas Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
When: Friday, February 17th at 6 PM to Sunday, February 19th to 4 PM

Political Context

This Presidents’ Day weekend, the Young Democratic Socialists will gather for our annual winter conference in New York City titled Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump. We did not choose the name lightly. In doing so, we call for leftists to collectively confront Trump and Trumpism at every possible opportunity. When a Trump administration attempts mass deportations of undocumented workers, when it attempts to register Muslims or roll back worker protections, when it attempts to take away reproductive, LGTBQ, civil, or any other rights, then we must militantly resist to prevent such measures.

To succeed, this must be explicitly socialist resistance. With liberalism having repeatedly shown itself incapable of combating the far right, it is now the time for socialists to openly declare our place in building the mass, multi-racial, and working class movement necessary for defeating the Trump administration. In this struggle, millennials will play an outsized role. That is why this conference comes at such a critical time—together we must create spaces for democratic and strategic discussion, spaces to gain organizing skills, and most importantly, spaces to form networks of young radicals for the future struggles ahead. These spaces will only come together if socialists come together. Join us this Presidents Weekend and help ignite the movement to defeat the Trump administration, continue the political revolution, and build the socialist alternative.

Key Deadlines

  • January 8th: Travel Scholarship for Air Travel (for application see below)
  • January 15th: Travel Scholarship for Non-Air Travel (ex: bus, car, train, etc.)
  • February 3rd: Early Bird Registration Ends - Tickets prices go up from $5 to $10
  • February 10th: Free Housing - We have limited free housing. You need to first register, then you will be sent an application for free housing.

Apply for a travel scholarship here! (First Deadline January 8, 2017)

Check out the working program (subject to change)