Barney Frank talks about healthcare and foreign labor, 1994

by Jason Ong

In 1994, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank addressed the crowd at an event where various speakers talked about unemployment among older workers. I watched CCTV's archive tape of this event, and a couple of things he said seemed prescient:

[caption id="attachment1150" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Congressman Barney Frank, 1994, Courtesy CCTV"]<a href="">Congressman Barney Frank, 1994[/caption]

Frank said that one of the best ways to alleviate unemployment would be a universal healthcare system, one that would supplement employer-connected COBRA. And this universal system, he emphasized, shouldn't drop people for preexisting conditions. He received a lot of applause for these remarks, but he acknowledged that healthcare reform would face a lot of partisan opposition. Of course, it would take about 15 more years before the United States actually passed that kind of healthcare legislation, and only after a lot of argument and compromise. It's only recently been upheld by the Supreme Court, but it's still a very partisan issue.

Frank also mentioned a growing worldwide market for production and labor, a new economy where anything could be produced anywhere. And he stated that he wanted other nations to adopt working standards like those in the United States: to set higher wage levels, to ban child labor. This is still a topic of discussion today, as there's been a lot of press about how Apple products are produced in Chinese factories, under allegedly negative conditions. In his speech, though, Frank never mentioned China. When he spoke about other nations, he meant Europe and Japan. Perhaps he didn't anticipate China's big rise in the manufacturing industry.