From the "just when you thought you'd heard it all" department:
Recently, South Florida State Senator Walter "Skip" Campbell put a bill into the hopper that would require companies with more than 10,000 employees to devote 9 percent of their payroll costs to health care. In Florida, that translates to Wal-Mart, Publix [the supermarket chain], Burger King and MacDonalds. Sounds like a logical, decent and much-needed piece of legislation, if you ask me. As the senator noted, he decided to sponsor the bill because "we noticed some people on Medicaid are working folks. Should citizens of Florida continue to pay their medical care or should companies that employ them contribute?" Again, seems to me like the proverbial no-brainer.
Of course, chances for the senator's bill to pass our Republican-dominated legislature are on a par with Common Cause naming Jack Abramoff or Tom DeLay their "Man of the Year." As a political realist, Senator Campbell, who is, to date, the sole Democrat running for Florida Attorney General, knows his bill has virtually no chance of success in the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, Skip, who also happens to be one of the sharpest political minds in the Sunshine State, is a man who also knows that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In his own words, "I know it's not going anywhere, but we need to start the debate now."
A cynic might conclude that Senator Campbell's visionary measure is nothing more than a campaign ploy -- a means of getting his name and campaign into papers from Key West to Pensacola. I'm here to tell you that the cynics are wrong -- dead wrong. I've known Skip for nearly a decade -- he refers to me as "my rabbi" -- and can tell you that the man is a true believer. As the self-made son of working-class parents, he has long been a voice and an advocate for those who do their jobs, pay their taxes, raise their children, and still believe in the American Dream. In my humble estimation, Skip will make an outstanding Attorney General -- one whose only "special interest" will be the men, women and children of Florida.
How is it then that Senator Campbell stands accused of being nothing less than a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist? In two words: Barney Bishop. Who [or what], you may well inquire, is a Barney Bishop, and where in the world did he get the brass, the chutzpah to tar the good senator with the brush of Marxist Socialism? Well, Mr. Bishop is a high-powered Tallahassee lobbyist who represents the interests of -- you guessed it -- big business. To Mr. Bishop's way of thinking [and that of his clients], the only legitimate role for government is to protect, promote and defend the interests of that malevolent octopus called "Big Business."
In a message posted on his organization's Web site, Mr. Bishop, sounding like a Joe McCarthy retread, wrote, "We are absolutely opposed to mandatory health insurance. This is more appropriate for a socialist state." A socialist state? Does that mean Mr. Bishop considers England, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Canada, Israel and a couple of dozen other countries to be in the grip of godless Marxist ideology? In the same Web message, Bishop contended that "when I heard this dangerous proposal, I thought Karl Marx had risen from the dead and had assumed the bodies of extremist legislators . . ."
Karl Marx? Extremist legislators? Reading Bishop's manic broadside, I found myself thinking more of Groucho than Karl; a man with a twisted, off-kilter sense of reality. At least that Marx was funny. Labeling Senator Campbell's proposed legislation "Marxist" -- although humorous in a sick sort of way -- is an egregious insult to the needs -- not to mention the intelligence -- of all hard-working Americans. But what can one expect from a man whose bread-and-butter [better make that croissants and Alouette] is putting more millions into the coffers and pockets of those who already have billions?
I for one am sick to death of hearing the big-money boys and girls refer to programs and proposals with which they do not agree as "ultra-liberal," "anti-Christian," or, in this case, "Marxist." By their overuse, these terms have become virtually meaningless. To label a person or a program "Socialist" is not far removed from one child calling another a "queer," a "creep" or a "spazz." At least in the case of the child, we can offer forgiveness; they simply don't know the true meaning of the epithets they hurl. But in the case of a supposedly educated, worldly man like Barney Bishop, no forgiveness can be forthcoming; he should know better. But then again, as it is stated in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, "there is nothing new under the sun."
Back in the late 18th and early 19th century, the epithet of choice was "Mason." By the early 1840s, "Mason" was replaced by "Abolitionist." From there, the appellation of infamy became, variously, "Anarchist," Socialist," "Communist," Fellow Traveler," "Pinko," and the current favorite, "Ultra-liberal." And despite the vast differences between Masons and Anarchists, Communists and Liberals, these terms, when placed in the minds and mouths of self-serving buffoons, mean virtually the same thing: "I'm going to try and scare the daylights out of the masses so that they will side with my interests against yours."
Senator Skip Campbell is not a Marxist. Hell's bells, the man is a self-made multi-millionaire who owns five houses, flies his own helicopter, and has a wonderful plane with a superb pilot at his disposal. Skip is not a Marxist. What he is, is the American Dream personified; a man who, despite having become, through dint of hard work, vast intelligence and a great heart, a major success, has never forgotten that if the system is to work for anyone, it must work for everyone.
I for one will work just as hard as I can to ensure that Skip Campbell becomes Florida's next Attorney General. And once he takes the oath of office, I know that he will continue being both a voice for the voiceless and a friend to the friendless. Pay attention to Senator Campbell's candidacy; he is a man for the ages -- a term I do not use lightly.
Marx? Lenin? Perhaps old Barney has hit upon something without knowing it. Perhaps it is time we brought back Groucho and John, and returned Karl and Vladimir to the dustbin of history.