Looking at Health Care through the eyes of Civil Rights

by jaredmoshe
August 4, 2009 7:39 AM
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I like to think of the current debate over health care in terms of the Civil Rights acts of the late 50's and early 60's. Shamed by Martin Luthor King and the Civil Rights Movement, in 1957 Congress passed the first Civil Rights legislation since Reconstruction. The act created a Commission on Civil Rights in order to enforce the equal protection clause of the 15th amendment and prevent African American disenfranchisement. The act also was largely infective and toothless in that it required local (read White) juries to actually convict anyone. Because of it's shortcomings it was criticized sharply by liberals on the left. But it was also these shortcomings that allowed it to pass through a Senate controlled by Southern White Senators and become law. The bill succeeded in one key area that it's critics on both the left and right failed to grasp: it changed the terms of the debate. The 75+ years log jam on Civil Rights legislation was broken and in the following years we had the Civil Rights Act of 1960, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and most importantly the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Essentially the 1957 Act established a modern federal position on equal protection, and once that position was established it forced the federal government to deal with all the corollaries that position presented.

As Health Care reform opponents dust off many of the same lines of attack used against President Clinton's Health Care bill, it becomes more and more clear to me that what we need right now is something, anything to get through Congress in order to establish the federal position on health care: that the government believes that every person should be covered by health insurance. Once that position is established the terms of the debate are changed, and it will force the federal government to deal with all the corollaries (the infrastructure, the cost controlling measures, etc) that position presents.

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