The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Editorial:
Medicare:
An attack is not a reform

Jul 28, 2003

Congress is preparing to "reform" Medicare by adding drug coverage, which most ordinary people can't afford to buy these days. This reform is nothing but a Trojan horse, an attack in disguise.

The premiums for added drug coverage will be very expensive, while the deductibles and co-payments will be very high. Few people will come out ahead. But worse – hidden behind the drug plan are all kinds of tricks to divert seniors out of Medicare into private insurance plans.

Washington claims that opening up Medicare to supposed "competition" from the private sector will make health coverage more efficient. What a lie! It's the private sector that has boosted health costs, while slashing health coverage.

After Medicare will come Social Security, and there is already a move afoot in Washington to turn Social Security funds over to the big financial companies that practically destroyed people's 401(k) and other private pension plans. Washington wants to "privatize" everything – that is, turn it over to big business so profit can be made at our expense.

The big social programs, like Medicare and Social Security, which are now being cut and dismantled, were won in massive social movements, especially in the 1930s and 1960s. But since the mid-1970s, when the last embers of the social movements of that period were extinguished, the politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, have slashed away at these gains. Under Carter, unemployment insurance was slashed. Under Reagan, everything from Social Security, welfare and food stamps went under the knife. This continued under Papa Bush, when the "education president" cut spending in education. Clinton was responsible for big cuts, including doing away with "welfare as we know it." And all the time, we heard the same refrain, that there was a budget deficit, that we could no longer afford these things. In fact, the money cut from social spending was pocketed by the capitalists.

Of course, the politicians were able to get away with these attacks because there was no social movement that rose up to oppose them. The labor unions, the only big organizations left in the working class that might have led a mobilization to resist the attacks and throw them back, had long ago become the junior partners of the corporate honchos and politicians, especially in the Democratic Party. Even when they raised a timid voice in protest to this or that cut, they still accepted the reasoning that working people had to make more sacrifices.

The politicians will continue to get away with attacking us so long as we stay quiet. None of us are content with this situation. The unions won't lead a fight, we have to do it ourselves. We have to draw a line, refuse to go along with it any longer. We have to start where we are, with the co-workers we know. And we have to count on the fact that elsewhere others will do the same thing.

They have every reason to resist these cuts. We all do.