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The Latest from the Radical’s Political Inbox; or, Can I Still Be A Radical Feminist If All My Favorite Progressives This Week Are White Men?

January 25, 2008, 2:08 pm

I have been on John Edwards’ mailing list for a long time, and I recently received a request to help fund this ad in South Carolina:

So I thought I would, but I also wanted to post it here, because I have readers from many states who will be voting on February 5, only a little over a week from now. And while you are thinking politics, take a look at this story in today’s New York Times in which Edwards turns free market logic, usually used to support privatization, on its head. Let private insurers compete with a government-sponsored health plan, he suggests: Americans will have the right to decide which kind of plan they think is better, and if the private insurers go out of business, then the question of the viability of a single-payer system in the United States will have been fairly decided by the people, not political and financial elites. This is a progressive version of what Harvard historian Liz Cohen, among others, has called “consumer citizenship.” If the private insurers don’t go out of business, it will show that they are doing a good job for the people who can afford them. And people who can’t afford them will still have health insurance.

How much sense does that make?

I have also recently received mail from John opposing a bill currently on the floor of the Senate that is up for a cloture vote: the bill revises the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and “would give ‘retroactive immunity’ to the giant telecom companies for their role in aiding George W. Bush’s illegal eavesdropping on American citizens.” The filibuster is being led by Connecticut’s Senator Chris Dodd. If you live in Connecticut you can call Senator Dodd at (202) 224-2823 and tell him you approve; you could also call Connecticut’s other Senator, my Shoreline neighbor Joseph I. Lieberman at (202) 224-4041 and tell him to act like a Democrat.

But better yet, click this link and call your senators. Ask them to support Chris Dodd and the Constitution of the United States. It will only take a second. And if your senators are Republicans, so much the better: many conservatives feel very strongly about the right to privacy and there is a good chance to defeat this bill despite the jingoistic “war on terror” it claims to support.

In other political news of interest to academics and the students they serve, Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking minority member of the Senate Finance committee, is issuing subpoenas to the 136 wealthiest colleges in an effort to push them to “use more of their wealth for financial aid and threatening to require them to spend a minimum of 5 percent of their endowments each year, as foundations must. The committee pointed out that donations to universities and their endowment earnings were both tax-exempt.” The subpoena also asks them to reveal what they are paying their money managers, which is a great idea: according to a prominent Harvard alum I know, last year Crimson financial advisors earned tens of millions for their advice. Hence, the most wealthy universities are directly lining the pockets of a financial elite rather than siphoning the money to the communities they are in, supporting local public education or further subsidizing tuition and fees.

I think the Senate hearings that will ensue are a good idea, but one potential problem is that we risk limiting the discussion about the rising cost of college to a conversation with only those very few colleges who can do something about it. What is left out of the equation is how hard institutions, private and public, community college to state university, have been hit by the retraction of federal and state-level spending on education. Most students don’t go to those 136 schools. How are we going to help them?

And finally, just when you thought you knew everything about Al Gore, he comes out for gay marriage. Regular readers of the Radical know how she feels about marriage, not to mention the icky little bit where Gore suggests that marriage helps control promiscuity, but that does not put me above just loving him for this.

Between Al and John, I have to ask this question: is it possible that anti-racist white progressives in the South who are not affiliated with research universities are making a comeback, after all these years? Whoever becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, this could be something to watch. And, if you happen to be inclined that way, pray for.

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