In the last few weeks, there has been a bit of moaning and whining from some progressives in Washington claiming that state efforts to expand health care would be "disastrous" because, well, some in D.C. think anything that doesn't come from D.C. is inherently bad. The Progressive States Network, on whose board I serve, has ably countered this nonsense with data and facts, showing how the one of the best ways to achieve universal health care is for states to continue leading on the issue and to ultimately work in tandem with the federal government in the future, when Washington finally finds the political will to pass meaningful federal health care reform.
When I say the states are leading, that is no understatement. At a time when Washington politicians of both parties have miserably failed to deliver on health care promises, progressives in states like Wisconsin are aggressively moving forward with proposals that could finally begin our country's march toward universal health care. In a new article for the American Prospect, Wisconsin State Sen. Jon Erpenbach and Progressive States' executive director Joel Barkin explain what Wisconsin is considering and why it is so important. Erpenbach is the author of Wisconsin's bill and chair of the Senate committee that passed the bill, so he knows his stuff.
After you read over that article, I hope you'll join the Progressive States Network's national conference call today at 12 noon EST to discuss the bill and how it can be replicated in states all over the country.
I wish I could say I was surprised by progressives in Washington attempting to rhetorically undermine the courageous work of Wisconsin and other states, but frankly, I wasn't. Washington is a weird place. It is a city where, for instance, Republicans can publicly argue against providing health care for American children because they claim there might be a tiny possibility illegal immigrant children would also receive health care. And it is a city where some progressives apparently feel their relevance is injured if Washington isn't the center of attention -- even though, of course, most major movements in American history didn't start in Washington but in the states.
When it comes to the big issues of the day, Washington seems to have no problem naysaying and navel-gazing, even when people are dying. Beltway naysaying and navel-gazing is what has led to the absurd situation whereby the vast majority of Americans want an end to the Iraq War, and yet the Congress refuses to act to end the war and stop the killing. We can't let that same thing continue to happen on health care.
At a time when 18,000 Americans are dying each year because they don't have health insurance, polls show the majority of Americans want the government -- state or federal -- to provide universal health care to all Americans. That means we need to shove aside the Wise Old Experts of Washington and get focused on working to achieve universal health care at ALL levels -- and especially at the state level where real successes are already happening.