Healthcare: More Bern for Your Buck
As a surgeon, I have participated in our healthcare system since 1979. I have witnessed the attempts of medically naive politicians seeking to reform our compromised healthcare system. Bankrolled by health industry lobbyists, these “representatives” fear-monger and manipulate a confused public. They label a potential single payer system as “socialism.” They cite imperfections in the postal service and other government programs as a rationale for maintaining a private industry that repeatedly fails patients and providers. Inconveniences in Canadian and British healthcare forebode catastrophe for an American single payer system.
Currently Republicans clamor for repeal of Obamacare and Secretary Clinton stonewalls to tweak the status quo, approaches which similarly pander to the healthcare industry.
The single payer system advocated by Senator Sanders offers hope for procuring a fair, affordable and comprehensive heath care program that can capitalize on advances in medical technology and address appropriate utilization of resources. Like it or not, it is another inconvenient truth that unlimited healthcare is not everyone’s inalienable right.
American healthcare will change. It can change in a manner that promotes compassion, fiscal responsibility, inclusivity and social equality. Or it can collapse after a final, desperate effort to maintain the current, unsustainable system.
Great Coops Are Made, Not Born
In the article “More Than Granola” (Jan. 7, 2016), Hunter Styles features Steve Alves and his film Food For Change, about retail food cooperatives here in the U.S.
Styles mentions the three waves of the cooperative movement: the 1930s, the 1960s and today. Central to the history of coops is also a divide, which became clearer in the second wave. The 1930s, the time of the Great Depression, led people to look at different economic models, including more socialist ones; coops were a natural outgrowth.
In the 1960s, with the back to the land movement, a renewed focus on the environment and alternative thought, many people sought out natural, unadulterated food and products. At the same time, some still clung to cooperatives as more than just a place to buy food.
This is where the divide occurred. Some just wanted a place to buy natural food. Others thought that their coops should also have progressive employment practices, should seek to serve and benefit not just the well-heeled, and should aim to transform the economy.
Today, that divide is still with us. For example, River Valley Coop in Northampton, as their board president points out, “…run[s] like any retail store… The main difference: the board chooses the general manager…the board is elected by the members.” That is, unfortunately, the reason that we had to organize a union there!
One of the seven oft-quoted international cooperative principles is “democratic member control.” Members are supposed to be able to “actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.” What most coops have, like River Valley Coop, is a diluted form of representative democracy, and we all know how democratic that is.
It is important for those of us who want to see coops really thrive and differentiate themselves from other retail stores to hold our coops accountable to higher standards and goals.
Members need to speak out and make sure that their voices are actually heard; workers need to push for change. New coops forming should seriously consider different operating structures, like worker ownership as well as community ownership, and look long and hard at what their true mission is and who they are trying to serve.
As we languish in the throes of economic neoliberalism, we need more than granola, for sure. We need to transform the economy. Can coops be part of the way forward, to a just and equitable economic future? Or will they just be a footnote in the big book of capitalism? I am hoping for the first option and I think Steve Alves is too.