Sunday, February 26, 2012

Single-payer advocate backs occupy movement

Corvallis Gazette-Times

The way to make universal health care a reality in the United States is to end corporate control of the U.S. government, a pair of political activists told a Corvallis audience on Friday.

To that end, said Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, the organizers and participants in the nation’s various “occupy” movements are on the right track.

Flowers, a Maryland pediatrician who has become a full-time advocate for single-payer, serves on the steering committee of Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care and is active in Physicians for a National Health Program. Her partner, Zeese, is a lawyer and longtime activist for a variety of causes including drug policy reform, election reform and peace.

The two spoke to about 100 people in the main meeting room at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, 645 N.W. Monroe Ave.

Flowers said that as she has continued to promote the idea of a single-payer system, it has become increasingly clear that other issues are in play.

“It evolved out of support for single-payer,” she said. “It became more and more clear that we need to overcome corporate power. We’re not going to (make change) with a single issue.”

The Corvallis visit was another stop in a tour that has taken Flowers and Zeese from the Southwest up through the Northwest with the aim of education and encouraging local movements for combating corporate culture, Flowers said.

“We’re trying to make people aware this is a long-term effort and get them to understand the roots of the issue and the solutions,” she said.

“Always our goal is to educate, organize, mobilize,” Zeese said.

Zeese pointed to increasing income inequality in the United States.

“Four hundred Americans have wealth equal to 145 million Americans,” he said. “The six heirs to Sam Walton’s companies (Walmart and Sam’s Club) have wealth equal to 30 percent of Americans.”

Hsichao Chow, 63, attended the seminar as a concerned citizen. Although he wasn’t expecting Flowers and Zeese to discuss the occupy movement, he said he wasn’t disappointed when they raised the topic.

“You can feel the energy in this room,” he said. “Most people came to hear about single-payer, but the issues they brought up are the crux of the (health-care) issue.”

He said it is encouraging to hear so many people talk about social justice.

“With our wealth divide, we’re waiting for a disaster to happen,” he said.

Some participants said they felt that it was important to spread the information provided by Flowers and Zeese.

“A number of us came up from Eugene as part of a speaker’s bureau, where we send speakers to different events,” said Rouanna Garden, 58. “This falls right in line with what we need to do ... they gave us a lot to work with.”