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Saturday, July 30, 2005

National Health Insurance: if it's good for Toyota (and GM) it's good for America.

Toyota has had plants in the United States for over 20 years now. The car we recently had to get rid of because an uninsured, unlicensed motorist plowed into it was built at the Toyota/GM NUMMI (I don't know what that acronym expands out to) Plant in Fremont, California, US. It had a Chevy bow-tie and a "Nova" nameplate but in reality the thing was almost identical to the Toyota Corolla of the same model year. For a while there, Japanese companies were getting into joint ventures with American auto companies, and even setting up plants of their own, mostly in Southern, right-to-work states.

However, due to several considerations, the Japanese are no longer looking to the US to build plants. Korean company Hyundai is still going ahead with their plans. But Toyota in particular is looking to our Neighbor to the North for future expansion.

Why is this? One consideration is the crappy state of education in America, particularly in the "faith-based" Southern states. Pre-literacy is such a pervasive problem there that Toyota had to produce a pictorial version of its manual for operating certain machinery at its Alabama plant. However, this is not the only reason why they chose Canada over the US for its new plant, which will be dedicated to building the popular RAV-4 mini-SUV.

Health insurance is beginning to choke the life out of many industries in America. GM is currently strangling on a $5,090 per employee bill for private health insurance. Toyota sees what is going on with its partner in Saturn and opts to build the new plant in Canada, where health insurance is not an issue. In spite of efforts to "reform" Worker's Compensation in California, Worker's Comp insurance is still skyrocketing through the roof. The crippling supermarket strike in Southern California was all about attempts to change health insurance by Management. People sue motorists in personal injury lawsuits because personal injury coverage in car insurance policies is insufficient. There is a frightening percentage of people across America without health insurance. Neither I nor my husband have insurance, which is insane. If it weren't for the FamilyPACT program and the LA County Public-Private Partnership, I'd not get any health care.

It is time to stop the madness. A universal, single-payer health care system would make America competitive again for the manufacturing jobs that lift people out of poverty and into the Middle Class. Failing that, the effort to bring single-payer health insurance to California is something worth getting behind. It would solve, in a single stroke, many of the problems that currently plague California and cause potential employers to look elsewhere to set up shop. I am not sure about the status of SB 840, but last reports are that it passed the State Senate in May. However, it is quite likely that Governor Gropenfuhrer will veto the bill if it crosses his desk, driving home the need to unseat him in 2006.

Here are some links to the facts:
Toyota 'moves forward' to Canada (NYTimes, soul-sucking registration required)
Scranton Times-Tribune: A Striking Trend
Health Care For All California: SB 840 and other advocacy for a California-wide single payer health care solution