California is Our Best Hope for Single Payer


Originally posted on Firedoglake

The California single payer bill has just been released for a vote by the full State Senate:

The Senate Appropriations Committee released the bill for a vote by the full Senate next week. The legislation had been held over from last year because of the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

Since the big activist organizations have been defeated in their push for single payer abandoned any pretense of pushing for single payer at the national level, California is the next battleground. And the history of our neighbor to the north, Canada, shows that single payer is often enacted below the federal level before it emerges onto center stage.

Let’s not wait: let’s get single payer signed into law in California this year.

It is possible. We need to do three main things to make it happen and not be overturned:

1. Get Jerry Brown elected in California this fall
2. Get him to actually sign the bill
3. Win a popular referendum after the insurance companies revolt (see bottom of link)

Seeing the current debacle in Massachusetts, and the fact that Brown’s lead has narrowed greatly since his initial period of overwhelming dominance in the polls, I am not at all sure that (1) will be easy. This is despite the fact that Brown still retains a 10 point lead in the polls. Martha Coakley at one point had such a lead and it evaporated in a few weeks. Brown is a different candidate than Coakley, but he still has nine months to screw this up!

Assuming we can get (1) then there is the question of (2). I’d like to say this is easy, but rumor has it that Howard Dean was for single payer too until the day he was elected governor of Vermont. And in fact one might expect that with the election of a Democratic governor there will be intense pressure to stop this so-far-symbolic effort from becoming "real." Many people still (maybe rightly) believe this:

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said he thought the vote was more of a symbolic move by lawmakers to get the attention of big-money organizations pushing for single-payer insurance.

It seems like we’re still at the "then they laugh at you" stage of Gandhi’s famed quote.

Let’s get to the next stage of making them fight.

The last battle, though, will be over public opinion when the insurance companies demand a referendum. Because the media in the United States is essentially available for rent to the highest bidder, the battle will no doubt be uphill, and the rich will surely bring out all their stooges in trying to beat us.

Though it was a long time ago and public attitudes have changed some in the intervening period, we should take note of the miserable failure of the California single payer referendum effort in the 1980s. That is why it is surely important to start trying to educate the public in California right now about the merits of single payer to improve our chances. Only by doing that can we get to the last stage of Gandhi’s progression–winning.

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