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Shortsighted Unions Blindsided the Obama Administration on Health Care

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Message Eugene Elander
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Sometimes, we all need more protection from our friends than from our enemies. Take, for instance, the vociferous and extremely public opposition by many American labor unions to the health care plan now moving through Congress. Yes, the plan is flawed, some might even say fatally flawed -- but it may well be the best we can do now, and for some time into the future. Something may well be better than nothing.

Many labor unions, however, take the position that half a loaf is far worse than none -- and will be using newspaper ads and many other means to reject the Baucus plan totally and unequivocally. That rejection plays into the hands of the real opponents of any meaningful health care reform, namely the health insurance industry and its minions, and all of the right wingers who will oppose anything the Obama Administration supports merely because of that support.

The American labor movement has traditionally backed Democrats, and unions were among the first and strongest supporters of Barack Obama for President. They understandably demand that a public option be included in any health care reform. They join many of us progressives who feel the same way, and were intensely disappointed that such an option did not emerge in the Baucus plan, and that millions of Americans remain without health coverage in that plan. But, Rome was not built in a day, or even a century -- and the same can be said of decent health care for all Americans.

Unions might try to recognize the present plan emerging in Congress as a meaningful first step towards bringing American health care funding into the 21st century. The game will be far from over after the proposals now being considered are reviewed, revised, and passed. However, that game may well be over for decades if those proposals are reviled and rejected.

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The health insurance industry must be crowing at having new allies from the labor movement, and will undoubtedly use union opposition to the emerging health care bill for their own selfish advantage. Organized labor would do better to concentrate on improving any health care bill than on destroying it at the outset.


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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)

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