Further down on my FB page there is a photo of a thirty-four year old woman holding up a sign thanking President Barak Obama for proposing and passing Health Care Reform. This Affordable Health Act, affectionately known as ObamaCare, enfranchised, in one fell swoop, 50 million Americans who did not have the financial resources necessary to sustain medical insurance for themselves and their families, including their children. A segment of the newly-enfranchised would be classified as the working poor, and, like the woman in the photo, do not have medical insurance offered in their workplaces.
Hence ObamaCare is socialized medicine which simply makes it possible for a citizen or legal immigrant to obtain basic medical services for free. Even though Canadian Medicare is more wide ranging than its American counterpart, passage of the Affordable Health Act, which was way too long in coming, is most definitely a step in the right direction.
Notice the tense of the infinitive “to be” in the sentence preceding this one. I said that the passage of the Affordable Health Act ‘is’ a step in the right direction; that means that the act has already been passed by both the House and the Senate, after having been cobbled together by the President, his cabinet and other of his advisors. Yet some House Republicans, in an effort to either de-fund Obamacare or to delay its further implementation, are refusing to pass the budget thus effectively shutting down the American federal government and thereby causing a large number of government workers to be laid off (furloughed). People stop getting paid and are sent home, museums and national parks are closed, the payment of government subsidies and federal loans to small business are delayed as is the arrival of welfare cheques and other outlays for social programmes, including, ironically, for Medicare. In addition, all civilians working in federal government departments in D.C. and across the country have also been laid off.
The President proposed Health Reform and sent it to Congress for approval. Both houses of Congress then passed the Affordable Care Act which came into law early last week. Now the House of Representatives is refusing to pass the budget. At first the House was arguing that the introduction of ObamaCare had to be delayed for a year; they are gradually moving away from this demand as polls show popular support for the Republicans plummeting. The Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats, has already passed the budget.
So in this case we see a split between the two legislative houses – the Senate which has passed the budget and the Republicans who continue to withhold their support. As we have seen, this split could not occur in Canada, because our Senate, as an appointed body, cannot in practice veto laws which have been passed by the elected representatives of the people in the House of Commons, whereas the American Senate, (which, unlike our Senate has real legislative power) – can do what it likes – either sanction, veto, or delay the passage of bills coming to it either from the President or from the House. Their House has the same rights when it comes to bills (i.e. proposed laws) arriving from the President or the Senate.
Another difference between our parliamentary system and the Presidential system in the United States has allowed the shut down to happen and that is the fact that our executive – the Prime Minister along with the cabinet – actually have seats in the House of Commons whereas the President and his cabinet are divorced, structurally, from the American legislature and therefore do not have seats in either the House or the Senate. (Yesterday’s JuicyLessonperday – #25 – deals with this situation in more detail.)
In a majority government situation in Canada, any bill proposed by our executive is guaranteed to be approved by the Commons in the vast majority of cases which are characterized by block voting. On the rare occasions when a free vote is held, when M.P.’s have been given the chance to vote on issues like gay marriage, capital punishment or abortion, for example, anything can happen but this, as I have already stated, is a rare occurrence.
The Saskatchewan provincial government became the first to introduce Medicare. This occurred way back in 1947 during the N.D.P. administration of Premier Tommy Douglas. Quebec adopted its Hospital Insurance Plan (QHIP) in 1962 during our Quiet Revolution expanding it to full Medicare about a decade later. (The QHIP provided free medical care for hospitalized patients.)
Note that Medicare is a provincial power in Canada while being reserved for federal government jurisdiction in the United States. This situation permits the American federal government to administer the Affordable Care Act across the entire country. Whereas there are differences in Canada in the ways each province administers it’s Medicare programme, this programme has to be executed uniformly from coast to coast in the United States.
Medicare is leftist in the sense that it contributes to a more equal distribution of wealth within the society in which it operates. Therefore opposition to Medicare must come for the right, i.e. big business, private insurers, stock holders, Wall Street investment bankers and bankers in general, Republicans, Conservatives, right to lifers, and the wealthy who will see their taxes go up since it is their money which will fund Obamacare in the U.S. Beneficiaries of the system will be the American population at large who will now have access to socialized medical services. In Canada, we paint people with a radical leftist brush by calling them “socialists”; in the more conservative U.S.A. the word “liberal” does the same job. Call an American a liberal, you may as well be calling him a Communist.