Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Our long national nightmare is over

Like you, I really don't have a clue what exactly TF Hillary Clinton thinks she's been doing for the past couple of months, or why she's been doing whatever it is, but in any event, no matter what she says tonight, starting right now Barack Obama and the Democratic Party -- with the possible exception of Hillary and 182 fervent supporters who will continue to hold out in caves on some remote Pacific islands -- will start to run against John McCain for the office of prezneh unigh stay, as Sen. McCain pronounces it. That means that if we are very lucky, we just might hvae some conversations about public policy.

So here's my list of public health priorities. It's difficult to put them in order, and I might change my mind five minutes from now, but as of 1:42 pm eastern time they are:

1) Social inequality: The most powerful determinant of health inequality is social inequality -- income and education are the most salient measures, but having a sense of control over one's life, meaningful work to do, and other less tangible measures like that are just as important. The growing inequality in society, the closing of opportunity to more and more people, rising deprivation, are our biggest problem. And there are some obvious things the federal government can do to address this. A more progressive tax system -- eliminate the payroll tax on the first $20,000 or so of income, eliminate the cap on income subject to the tax, reinstate the estate tax, provide universal access to affordable higher education, expand nutrition support programs, etc. All that basic, hard core, dollar based redistributive policy stuff that has gone away -- starting, by the way, with WJ Clinton. We certainly don't need to go back to the worst features of AFDC, but -- oh, it's a long story.

2) Universal, comprehensive, single payer national health care. (Which also helps a lot with number 1, BTW). No, Obama isn't going to campaign on this -- who needs Harry and Louise messing with the election? -- but the way he talks about health care can be honest, educational and supportive of improved understanding of the issues in ways which will ultimately move us closer. Or they can be largely bullshit.

3) Climate change. Done right, by the way, it also helps with air quality and social inequality. E.g., much better public transit, development patterns that promote walking to store, school and work and/or using mass transit, solar energy, bicycles, all sorts of stuff that's so good and good for you and helps people live better on their incomes is also good for el planeta. Let's have a progressive, people positive green philosophy. Oh yeah, using less oil means less chance for . . .

4) War! What is it good for! Absolutely nothing! Say it again! We can't afford to be spending more than the rest of the world combined on soldiers and weapons. And blowing up people and stuff is bad for public health. As far as Iran is concerned, we need an honest discussion about nukular weapons, which we aren't going to get from Sen. Obama, unfortunately. Talk about rogue states? How about the U.S., which is in violation of its NNPT obligations, and Israel, which never even signed the treaty in the first place.

5) Emergency preparedness. With justice as well as good sense. That means a democratic discussion of stuff that just might, possibly happen. Which we don't have.

6) Democratization of science. People need to know what's going on with biomedical research, how their own bodies work, where their food comes from -- all kinds of stuff that they don't know enough about because the teevee fills their hours with bullshit and the public schools don't teach science worth a shit, and scientists work in isolation from the people. Knowledge is power. Let's spread it around. Again, I'm not sure Obama is going to talk about this. But we'll see.

What do you want to add?

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