Friday, April 4, 2008

Keep Dr. King relevant

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 10:43 AM

In mainstream America's current version of Martin Luther King, Jr., the revolutionary political leader has been transformed into a saccharine cliché with angel wings. That's a good way for the power structure to keep King's legacy "safe" — wrapping MLK's martyrdom in wispy nostalgia so that no one thinks too hard about his ongoing relevance.  America needs to go beyond reminiscing about King and start connecting his messages to current issues. In that vein, let me re-emphasize something we ran around the time of MLK's birthday in January:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." That's still true today. Lack of access to quality health care is a national disgrace that affects over 40 million Americans on a very real level. How real? Every year, an average of 18,000 Americans die — not "they get sick and can't see a doctor"; they die — because they don't have health insurance.

We are the only advanced country that doesn't offer national health care, and no matter what anecdotal "evidence" you may hear, those foreign systems — such as in Western Europe and Canada — work splendidly. If the federal government won't get off its butt and do something about health care access, then let's urge our state legislators to emulate the progressive states of Wisconsin and Washington. Those folks are considering proposals that would pool all health care spending and replace the insurance vultures with a single statewide, not-for-profit system. The money would come from a payroll tax paid by employees and employers. Patients would pay no insurance premiums, never lose coverage and pick their own doctors.

Analysis of the Wisconsin proposal by the nonpartisan Lewin Group has the state saving around $14 billion in the next 10 years. It would also save business profits, too often eaten up these days by brutal health care costs. And, for the tax hater in all of us, the Wisconsin plan directs much of the state's savings into a reduction in property taxes.

If you want to honor Martin Luther King's legacy, here's something concrete you can do: Get on the phone and call your representatives in Raleigh, tell them about the Wisconsin and Washington proposals, and tell them you want something similar here.

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