Feature Article

Labor Bosses and Democrats ---
The Beginning of Government Medicine in America

Edward R. Annis, MD

In our society, things don't just happen. It is informed, motivated and active people who persevere until they make things happen. A little history, however short, seems in order.

It was in 1942 that Sir William Beveredge was able to establish national health insurance for Great Britain. Patterned after that legislation, the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill was introduced to the United States in 1943. This bill that same year prompted the formation of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) by private physicians to stop all forms of third-party intervention in medicine, particularly government intrusion in the patient-doctor relationship. Little progress was gained despite strong support for socialized medicine from multiple union bosses. That support continued and was steadily pursued for reintroduction in 1945, 1947, and 1949.

With unending labor boss support, augmented by President Truman's endorsement of AFL President William Green's efforts, the Wagner-Murray-Dingell proposal reached front page national recognition during 1949 and 1950. This forced AMA leadership, for the first time, to enter active political debate (in spite of the opposition of many members opposed to political involvement) to mount a national educational campaign to convince the American people of the inherent threats to their health care embodied in that legislation. That campaign proved to be successful and the proposed legislation was defeated.

In 1957, admitting he had not even read the bill, Representative Aime Forand of Rhode Island introduced legislation to provide health care financed by Social Security. It was introduced at the request of its authors, two executives of the AFL-CIO, Nelson Cruikshank, Director of Social Security, and Andrew Biemiller, Director of Legislation. I had several personal contacts with each of these labor leaders during our long battles.

Supported primarily by powerful Democratic leaders in both House and Senate, the AMA was again successful in preventing the bill from getting out of committees.

When doctors perceive a successful legislatIve victory, they congratulate their leaders and then go back to their agenda of caring for the sick and injured. Labor leaders also return to their agendas, that of raising money for politics and power to elect legislators sympathetic to or at least willing to push their proposals.

Unable to pass national health insurance, its proponents changed tactics to establish a foot in the door by introducing legislation to provide health care coverage for all people over 65 years to be paid for by taxes on the younger working population. This legislation, introduced by Senator Anderson of New Mexico and Representative King of California, had been trimmed from the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bills by the two men who had been their major craftsmen, Wilbur Cohen and Isador Falk.

Again, supported by strong House and Senate Democratic leadership and with only tepid support and no arm twisting from President John Kennedy, King-Anderson legislation was defeated. It was Kennedy's assassination that set the stage for Lyndon Johnson and his later capitulation to labor leader Walter Reuther.

Most of the multitudinous problems facing the medical profession had their beginning when labor bosses, after 30 years of unwavering perseverance, finally elected a president beholden to them. Along with the million expended to get Lyndon Johnson elected, on his own, were also elected 51 new members of the Congress who became virtual rubber stamps for his Great Society.

Johnson had promised labor leader Walter Reuther, an avowed socialist, that if he was elected, he would give King-Anderson legislation (Medicare) highest priority. True to his word, and after arm twisting and threats to some reluctant members of Congress, Medicare legislation became a reality.

It was significant that, in preparing for the following midterm elections, labor bosses gave wide distribution to a pamphlet with a front page picture of a joint session of House and Senate with the captions "51 did it." They bragged of passing all Great Society legislation with Medicare its "Crowning Glory."

After my CBS televised debate with Walter Reuther, I met with him at his headquarters at Solidarity House in Detroit. Among other things he promised: "We will not stop until every man, woman and child in this country is cared for under a program financed and run by the federal government."

Now we are confronted by the current president of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney, a card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America, who regularly lobbies to expand health care regulation and mandates. Every new mandate raises the cost of medical care with resulting increases in the numbers of uninsured. This, too, is by design because as the numbers grow, it will enhance the claim that only a government controlled national program can solve the problems of the uninsured.

Labor bosses can accurately attest to 35 years of continuing successes, with few defeats, because of their financial support of those who have provided mostly liberal domination in the Congress.

Among their successes, labor leaders can count their ability to infiltrate the Health Education and Welfare (HEW) bureaucracy and Health and Human Services (HHS) today. President Johnson appointed Wilbur Cohen to head HEW in 1968. This infiltration has been especially true of HCFA where many workers have been previously indoctrinated with the established objectives of labor bosses. Many of these unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats have been the prime source of the onerous rules and regulations and of the intimidation and threats which now plague the profession.

Labor bosses get their millions from dues money. They have successfully forced millions of Americans to pay them tribute in order to obtain or hold a job. They succeeded in passing the Davis Bacon Act, requiring union wages (and therefore check-off dues) on all federal construction projects.

They have succeeded in their drives to destroy the very principle underlying true insurance. In its place, they demand first dollar coverage for all health care with the inevitable waste, fraud, and abuse which has resulted. So firmly established is this position that year after year in contract negotiations with the Big 3 automobile manufacturers they refuse to allow the issue to even be considered. They have also been successful in having union supporters chair the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Some evidence of their present power to influence legislation was reported in The Wall Street Journal on April 3, 1998. Legislation for "paycheck protection" to require unions to get permission from workers before their dues could be spent on politics was soundly defeated 246 to 166. Only three Democrats defended workers' rights and, of the 52 Republicans who opposed the legislation, there were 16 original Republican co-sponsors who surrendered to pressure and changed their votes to opposition.

The millions available to pursue the objectives of Clinton-Gore type liberals comes mainly from labor bosses and trial lawyers whose ultimate goals are consistently inimical to those of doctors and the patients they serve.

In March of 1998, President Clinton and Vice President Gore joined John Sweeney in addressing the AFL-CIO meeting in Las Vegas. The fact that John Sweeney was among those chosen to accompany the president during his African tour should alert doctors to the importance of generously supporting the political action committees of the organizations that truly represent them. Our choice would be AAPS-PAC.

On Tuesday, June 2, 1998, California's "Paycheck Protection" bill was defeated 53 percent to 47 percent. Only two months previously, polls indicated upwards of 70 percent in favor, including union members who believed they should have a choice for whom their withheld dues are spent politically.

These reports alerted AFL-CIO executive council members to deduct an extra $12.5 million from dues paid by its members across the country to oppose the bill. Additionally, the California Teachers Association was reported as having spent $6.4 million to defeat the bill. The Wall Street Journal reported that $30 million total of union money provided a "6 to 1 union spending advantage that paid for everything from 10,000 TV ads to 59 field organizers to ads even on Mexican radio stations."

The records reveal that in their massive campaign union bosses did not challenge the issue that political contributions should be voluntary, but rather they resorted to their usual scare tactics to mislead the uninformed. They alleged that the bill would threaten Medicare, the minimum wage, good schools, and would cost nonprofit groups much of the money they raise in California. These scare tactics led the California section of the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and American Heart Association to capitulate and back the union bosses.

Despite a law prohibiting federal agencies from spending tax dollars for political purposes, Chairman William Gould of the NLRB not only accompanied President Clinton to California to fight the bill, he had his press office issue a news release and post on the Board's official website that the bill should be defeated because it would "cripple a major source of funding for the Democratic Party, given the fact that most donations by unions go to Democrats rather than Republicans."

This distortion of fact is characteristic of union bosses and is an awakening reminder of how they initiated Medicare and the Great Society and how they continue to dominate the Democratic Party.

The May 18, 1998 national issue of The Washington Times reported that "AFL-CIO boss John Sweeney told Democratic Party leaders on May 9 that 'he will recruit, train and deploy a grassroots army of union campaign workers in a bid to end Republican control of the House in November.' " The report continued, "Mr. Sweeney said that the paid force of political field workers would be one of the largest in labor's history and that he would begin putting them to work in Democratic campaigns this spring." It appears that John Sweeney is determined to match or better Walter Reuther's success which led to the exultation, "51 did it."

Our troubles have all arisen because of politics and resultant legislation. Only enlightened and vigorous political action can result in their nullification or repeal. Doctors, wake up!

Dr. Annis is a past president of the American Medical Association (AMA).

Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2000;5(1):19-20. Copyright ©2000 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.