By Matthew Rothschild on March 17, 2010

I don’t blame Dennis Kucinich for changing his mind and deciding to vote for Obama’s health care reform bill.

The bill does have its merits: It greatly expands Medicaid coverage, it increases funding for community health centers, and it subsidizes people who don’t have a lot of money to buy health care insurance. And depending on the fine print, the bill may end discrimination against people with preexisting conditions.

Plus, Obama and the Democratic leadership were putting enormous pressure on him, and I’m sure he didn’t want to hand the Republicans an undeserved trophy.

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But the bill is still grossly inadequate, as Kucinich himself recognizes.

The bill is still a giant giveaway to the insurance companies, as Kucinich has said many times.

The bill is nowhere near as good as single-payer, which Kucinich has campaigned for time and time again.

Most of the benefits of the bill would kick in until 2014.

And the bill does a grave disservice to women, not only by restricting abortion coverage but by allowing insurance companies to discriminate in their pricing against women, as Dr. Sheila Levitt of Physicians for a National Health Program recently wrote.

Even though Kucinich now gives this bill his blessing, that doesn’t mean that all progressive citizens need to follow suit.

Howard Zinn, a couple of years before he died, put the issue perfectly:

“When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall meekly behind them,” he wrote.

He added: “The mantra ‘the best we can get’ is a recipe for corruption. We are not politicians, but citizens. We have no office to hold on to, only our consciences.”

So let’s hold on to our consciences and demand better.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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