On National Health Insurance: Political history has much to teach

As we recover from the shock of President Bush actually finding something worth talking about in his 2007 State of the Union address--health insurance--we would do well to keep some historical perspective. There is a long but very worthwhile article in the New Yorker that I found very helpful. For example, consider this:
In 1945, when President Truman first proposed national health insurance, they [union leaders] cheered. In 1947, when Ford offered its workers a pension, the union voted it down. The labor movement believed that the safest and most efficient way to provide insurance against ill health or old age was to spread the costs and risks of benefits over the biggest and most diverse group possible. Walter Reuther [the national president of the U.A.W at the time]...believed that risk ought to be broadly collectivized. Charlie Wilson [president of G.M.], on the other hand, felt the way the business leaders of Toledo did: that collectivization was a threat to the free market and to the autonomy of business owners. In his view, companies themselves ought to assume the risks of providing insurance.
In a nutshell, that is why America does not have universal health insurance today. And as today's G.M. crumbles under the crushing weight of the burden Wilson took on, losing ground every year to car companies based in countries whose governments provide universal health care, it is instructive to ponder how--albeit with the benefit of hindsight--how wrong Wilson's call was.

Image from coloribus.com.

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