Employment-Based Health Care vs. Democracy: Hidden Dimensions of Business Rule

Published on ZMag.org, by Paul Street, September 02, 2009.

It is characteristic of the narrow, business-dominated nature of U.S. political culture that the current American health policy debate includes no meaningful discussion of the critical roles the nation’s employment-based health insurance system play in deepening the power of bosses over workers and closing off democratic space.

Think about it. It’s bad enough that working people have to calculate the risks of going without paychecks before daring to challenge their workplace masters to any significant degree. In the U.S., uniquely among modern capitalist democracies, employees also have to factor in the chances of losing health coverage for themselves and their families along with their jobs. The common 19th century American understanding of the employer-employee relationship as a form of slavery (wage slavery) takes on new meaning in light of workers’ dependence on employers for affordable health care … 

… Today, as under President Clinton and previous administrations, there’s more than the profits of the big health-insurance companies and their financial backers at stake in the corporate defeat and dilution of health reform.  Beneath the standard recurrent business-class wolf-crying about “government take-over” and “socialized medicine” lurks the business establishment’s timeworn fear and loathing of democracy and worker power within and beyond the workplace. We the working class majority need to remove the employer class, not just the financial-insurance complex, from its position of control over our health care.

Is it no wonder that these critical issues are banished from meaningful health-policy discussion in the United States’ “corporate-managed democracy,” the best that money can [and did] buy. Honest discussion of capitalist class power relations is naturally forbidden in the nation’s reigning “mainstream,” business-coordinated political and media culture, itself the single greatest totalitarian threat of the 21st century.[5]

It is long past (all-too short) time for a profound, many-sided popular rebellion against this fake democracy and its faux free press, which provide deceptive cover for business class rule.

Paul Street is the author of many articles, chapters, speeches, and books, including Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008);  Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated School: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); and Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics. Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008.

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