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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/7/10

What Happens When We Don't See the Tipping Points

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Message Bernard Weiner

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

Often in our busy daily lives, we miss the significance of a piece of news. Sometimes it's not until years later that we realize how very important that news event was in shifting the paradigm.

For example: In 1981, President Reagan fired all 11,000 striking air-traffic controllers, and the liberal left didn't really organize itself to respond forcefully. That breaking of a labor union was the linchpin for much more anti-liberal mischief at the hands of the Reaganite conservatives for the next eight years -- and beyond. And the liberal left, as personified by the Democratic Party, remained confused and toothless in its opposition.

But that was then, when the rightwing was in flower. Now we supposedly have a liberal in the White House and the Democrats control both houses of Congress. So surely there aren't such tipping-point events happening now.

Not so fast. Let's take a look at a few candidates and see the possible ramifications for the body politic.


Highly analogous to the Reagan-era attack on the air-traffic controllers was what happened to one of this country's most effective community-aiding organizations, ACORN. For more than four decades, ACORN had been highly effective in helping low-income citizens register to vote. Those poor and minorities tended to vote Democratic. As a result, Karl Rove and his acolytes made ACORN their number one target. Indeed, the firing of all those U.S. attorneys around the country derived from the unwillingness of a number of U.S. attorneys to go after ACORN right before an election on phony accusations of voting fraud.

There may have been a few bad apples in ACORN's large organization, but most of the work done by ACORN employees and volunteer was positive and thoroughly in tune with the small-d democratic impulse in American politics.

When the Republican noise- and spin-machines went into warpdrive over one tiny incident last Fall -- a staged "gotcha!" event supposedly involving a prostitute and her pimp -- the Democrats, worried that they might get tarred as "ACORN supporters," joined forces with the Republicans to pass a bill denying federal funding to the organization.

The eventual result was that ACORN a few weeks ago was forced to close up shop, after its private donor base was scared off by all the controversy. A mighty force for good was silenced and destroyed. It doesn't matter that twice in recent months, federal judges ruled that the law passed by Congress was an unconstitutional bill of attainder: i.e., designed to punish just one person or group. Those decisions came too late: ACORN is no more.

The left didn't react with indignation and organized dissent when Reagan busted the air-traffic controllers' union, and they paid the long-term price for their political cowardice. And the left abandoned the politically toxic ACORN (and even jumped on board to help pass the destructive de-funding bill), and thus gave the extreme right more license to go even crazier against more liberal and progressive legislation and groups. Once again, the Dems will be paying for this one for many years to come.


President Obama, who campaigned on the principle of offering public competition to the health-care insurance carriers, sold out early on this issue to the insurance companies and for-profit hospitals. Behind closed doors early on, Obama promised in exchange for their support and muted criticisms of his health-care plan that he would never OK a "public option" that would harm their bottom-line. (

(Also, in exchange for their support on the health-care bill, Obama sold out to the giant pharmaceutical corporations, guaranteeing them there would be no Medicare negotiations for cheaper drug prices and no importation of less-expensive drugs from Canada.)

For nearly a year after he made those secret vows to the health-care giants, Obama continued to pretend that he favored the public option, saying so in appearances and speeches often, but behind the scenes he made sure to kill any attempts to move that option into the health care bill.

The result is that the insurance companies will face no competition and thus the public has no leverage to get them to reduce their rates. As a matter of fact, those companies will be raising them again and again and again as the years go by, even as they rake in humongous profits, since Obama's health-care plan includes a mandatory requirement that everyone will have to buy health insurance. (Those who need some financial assistance will get such from the federal government, but most of us will wind up paying about what we pay now, or more. And those rates can, and will, rise over the years.)

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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
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