Hillary Clinton’s Most Important Healthcare Moment

Mark Saturday, June 9, 2007 as one of the most important dates in the 2008 election cycle, and possibly one of the most important dates for Democrats and the Democratic Party in years to come. It is the day Senator Hillary Clinton began to identfy the solutions to the American healthcare crisis as a jobs creation issue.

On Saturday Senator Hillary Clinton went to Detroit, Michigan to speak about health care; to speak about the federal government’s role in helping the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy in general, and the automobile industry in particular. Hillary’s speech grandly echoed the themes of investment in human capital, in education, in business, in our families, in our communities and in innovation sounded in the winning strategy Putting People First.

Why was this such an important moment?

We as Democrats, as progressives, know the value and neccessity of universal health care as a humaritarian issue. We know that universal health care leads us closer to principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence which affirm our right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, as well as in the Constitution’s preamble mandate “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. But not all of our fellow citizens recognize universal health care as inherent or penumbral rights under our founding documents. For those citizens a more “green eyeshade” accountants approach must be used to convince them of the need for universal health care.

We recall Senator Ted Kennedy’s 1980 concession speech to the Democratic Party convention in which he stated, “I am asking you to renew the commitment of the Democratic Party to economic justice. I am asking you to renew our commitment to a fair and lasting prosperity that can put America back to work.” A true Democrat, Senator Kennedy said “Our commitment has been, since the days of Andrew Jackson, to all those he called ‘the humble members of society — the farmers, mechanics, and laborers.’ On this foundation we have defined our values, refined our policies, and refreshed our faith.”

However the sentence that wounds memory the most is Senator Kennedy’s recognition that “The poor may be out of political fashion, but they are not without human needs. The middle class may be angry, but they have not lost the dream that all Americans can advance together.” The poor, more than a generation later, are still out of political fashion, and the middle class still dreams of a better life. The lesson for Democrats is that we need to articulate fully all the arguments, not just the humaritarian ones, to convince our fellow citizens for whom the poor are out of fashion, that universal health care is a goal worth pursuing now, and achieving now.

The way to unite the poor, the middle class and the titans of business (as well as political independents and even good Republicans) in support of universal health care is by making it clear that universal health care is not only a humanitarian imperative but it is also necessary to create jobs and build strong businesses.

Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said

“…health costs are a big reason why auto jobs have been moved from the United States to Canada which has nationalized heath care. The wages and pensions paid autoworkers in the two countries are basically the same, he said.

Gaffney is right. Last year in Ohio new automobile plants under consideration by foreign car manufacturers were rejected because the financial burden of health care was too high. The new plants went to Canada instead which provides health care to its citizens. The United States lost jobs because we deprive our citizens of universal health care.

Hillary in her visit to Detroit on Saturday let us know she understands these lessons:

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton came to Detroit Saturday to say the federal government must invest in manufacturing and must help the troubled American auto industry in providing health care to its workers and retirees.

“If we don’t have a strong manufacturing base in our economy, it won’t be long until we don’t have a strong economy,” Clinton told about 700 union members gathered at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall near downtown.

The 59-year-old junior senator from New York, who is her party’s front-runner in a crowded presidential field, also said the Bush administration has ignored the problems of working men and women.

“A lot of hard-working people in this country have been invisible to this administration,” said Clinton. “You won’t be invisible to the next president of the United States.”

Hillary understands the need for true universal health care as well as help for the dying manufacturing sector of the United States economy:

“Her message, in her first visit to Michigan since becoming a candidate in January, was more sympathetic to the troubled domestic auto industry than one delivered by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, in his address to the Economic Club of Detroit last month. In his speech, candidate Obama bluntly told Detroit automakers that they must improve fuel efficiency by 4 percent annually and scolded them for falling behind foreign automakers in providing the fuel efficient vehicles consumers want.”

“Clinton, who unsuccessfully pushed for a universal health care plan during the first term of her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency, said the need is even greater today since 45 million Americans lack health care coverage.”

“Something is fundamentally wrong in a nation as rich as ours that people would be left out of access to health care,” Clinton said during a well-received 90 minute, question and answer session with audience members.”

She said health care costs “are such a drag on the Big Three” and that the government must step up to “lift some of the legacy costs off the auto industry.”

Hillary also promised a fresh look at U.S. trade policy and rejected a trade agreement with South Korea:

She said she’d revisit all trade agreements to make sure they are not harming the interests of U.S. workers. And she said she opposes a trade agreement with South Korea, calling it a “deal I believe would be bad for our industries, particularly the auto industry” and one that likely would keep cars built here from being sold in South Korea.

Hillary is leading the way forward to a healthy and fully employed village.


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