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January 2003 (Volume 54, Number 8)

» Notes from the Editors
 January 2003 (Volume 54, Number 8)

“The American health care system is confronting a crisis.” This was the not very surprising conclusion of a study by a National Academy of Science panel on the U.S. health care system, carried out at the request of the administration and released in November 2002 www.nap.edu/books/0309087074/html. The report, entitled Fostering Rapid Advances in Health Care, describes conditions that are little short of horrendous. Health care costs are increasing at an annual rate in excess of 12 percent. The insured are receiving far fewer benefits while paying much more in out-of-pocket expenses. States in fiscal trouble are cutting benefits for Medicaid and other health programs. The number of uninsured has climbed to 41.2 million or 14.5 percent of the U.S. population. This means that one in seven individuals in the United States lacks any health care coverage whatsoever, and many more have inadequate coverage. A quarter of U.S. children aged to nineteen to thirty-five months are deficient in immunizations. Tens of thousands of individuals die every year from medical errors and many more than that from injuries caused by the health system.

The National Academy of Sciences panel that authored the report did not, however, provide any comprehensive or meaningful solution to this crisis. According to the chair of the panel, “We learned in 1993 and 1994,” when the Clinton health care proposal failed, “that you cannot be prescriptive” (New York Times, November 20, 2002). Instead, what is offered, at the request of the administration, are suggestions on various demonstration projects that might be introduced in a few states in the hope of yielding “viable models” to cope with the crisis of health care costs and delivery.

But if the NAS panel is unable or unwilling to be prescriptive we suffer from no such compunctions. Nothing short of universal health care through a single payer system will alleviate this crisis. Getting private insurance companies out of the health care system and making access to quality health care a basic right for all is the only possible answer-that is, if universal, affordable, quality health care, and not profits, is the primary goal.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, which famously declared that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” Today at the beginning of the twenty-first century the color line remains no less central. It is with this in mind that we recommend this year’s issue of The Socialist Register, entitled Fighting Identities: Race, Religion and Ethno-Nationalism. The issue contains articles by noted MR authors, including Aijaz Ahmad, Avishai Ehrlich, Bill Fletcher Jr., Mahmood Mamdani, Manning Marable, and John S. Saul, along with other important socialist analysts. The bringing together of so many accomplished authors to address issues of race and nationalism is a major accomplishment and could not be more timely.

The Socialist Register and MR have long had a close relationship. We are proud to have been the U.S. distributors of the Register (published by Merlin Press in London) since its first appearance in 1964 under the editorship of Ralph Miliband and John Saville. Through all the subsequent years the Socialist Register has been a source of insight and inspiration to the left. It has retained its very high quality under its current editors, Leo Panitch and Colin Leys. We look forward to celebrating next year the fortieth anniversary of the Register. We urge interested MR readers to look not only at this year’s issue of the Register but also back issues, some of which are still available. Standing orders to the Socialist Register (providing a 20 percent discount) can also be placed with Monthly Review Press.

We have only just learned that long-time MR contributor James Petras received the 2002 Lifetime Career Award from the Marxist Section of the American Sociological Association. The award was presented to him last summer “for his role not only as a scholar but also as a community activist and a teacher.” We offer him our congratulations.

The Media Education Foundation has recently released a thirty-five minute video, Rich Media, Poor Democracy, featuring MR coeditor Robert W. McChesney and Mark Crispin Miller, Professor of Media Studies at New York University. The video is based on McChesney’s award-winning book by the same title. For more information visit www.mediaed.org/RICHMEDIA or call 1-800-897-0089

Author’s Query: For a biography of F.O. Matthiessen (1902–1950), the Harvard literary scholar, I would appreciate hearing from his former friends, colleagues, and students. Please contact Professor Jay Grossman (j-grossman [at] northwestern.edu), or write c/o American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 136 Irving Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138.

“We have a different name for the war we’re fighting now—now we call it the war on terrorism, then they called it the war on communism,” Mr. Boudin said. “My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I’m dedicated to the same thing.”

—Chesa Boudin, quoted in a New York Times, December 9, 2002, interview on winning a Rhodes scholarship.

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