The Common Good

What Do Health-Care Reform, the 40-Hour Work Week, Unemployment Insurance, the Minimum Wage, etc., Have in Common?

Well, they were all brought to you be political progressives, they were all opposed by political conservatives, and they all are now viewed as fundamental presuppositions of a healthy society by virtually everyone. Okay, all but health-care reform, but trust me, if it passes, in no time at all it will be viewed so positively that we will no longer be able to remember why it took us so long to implement it. And, of course, the list actually includes many, many more initiatives-child labor laws, basic workplace safety rules, social security, Medicare, and so on.

In each case, the vast majority of political conservatives opposed them. They told us that businesses would be ruined, that the problems resulting from implementing the initiatives would be worse than if we left things as they were, that implementing them would make us non-competitive, or, more generally, that the good life as we know it would be gone if we were so foolish as to pass these pieces of legislation. One would think that after being wrong sooo many times, political conservatives would speak with a bit more humility, but alas, not so. If one took some of the speeches in opposition to health-care reform, one could substitute "minimum wage laws" or "child labor laws" in place of "health-care reform" and it would be déjà vu all over again-to quote Yogi Berra.

So, it is not at all surprising to find that, as we are on the verge of possibly the most significant reform in American politics in the last 40 years, political conservatives are united against it. We have the highest health care cost "per unit" than anyone else in the world, we are below the countries with universal coverage as far as customer satisfaction is concerned, we are somewhere near 40th in infant mortality (you'd think the pro-life forces would notice this), and it goes on. Yet, in the midst of these overwhelming evidences to the contrary, those opposed to health-care reform think things are just fine. All that is fine, and let's make no mistake about it, are the financial interests of those who benefit from the status quo-the insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, etc. These are the ones to whom far too many of our politicos are indebted. We need more politicians indebted to the common good, to the common person, to the public good.

There is no guarantee yet that there will be health care reform, though we are closer than ever before. If we do succeed in overcoming the monied interests and act on behalf of the common good, check back with me in three years. We can celebrate yet another case of political progressives going against special interests to move legislation in favor of the common good. May it be so!

Chuck Gutenson is the chief operating officer for Sojourners.

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