An Astrological History of the Pursuit of Universal Healthcare: Part I
Right now, everybody is talking about healthcare reform. This includes astrologers who are attempting to predict if President Obama will be successful or not. But as in any other kind of analysis, we can’t look at the current reform attempt just by itself, but in the broader context of the history of healthcare reform efforts. To know the past is to know the future. Astrology can show us how we got to today.
Due to the contentious nature of this topic, I would like to remind you, the reader, that here at the Political Astrology Blog our agenda is not political, but astrological. That does not mean we haven’t made up our own opinions, but we also haven’t made up our own facts. There are many extremely questionable claims and comparisons being made all over the Internet about this topic, and anything in the comments section endorsing such ridiculous and false absurdities will not be honored. We urge civil and respectful debate, but we must insist that everyone stick to the facts. End disclaimer.
Saturn in Pisces, Saturn in Virgo
This article focuses solely on a recurring cycle of Saturn of which today’s healthcare reform effort is a part. Saturn has an orbital cycle of just under 30 years, and a half-cycle of just under 15 years. It is the planet of responsibility, maturity, authorities and establishments, and hard-fought failures and successes. The anxiety people have about turning 30? It’s their Saturn Return, which can alternately be a challenging success or failure, but nonetheless, the crossing of the final threshold into adulthood. For everyone it is different, although it is usually the beginning or end of a long commitment or a defining achievement or failure, like a marriage, a divorce, a child, a career, etc. You may have heard the stories of the Saturn Returns of your favorite actors and musicians on TV without even realizing it. Anytime you hear about an event being compared to something that happened about 30 years ago, such as the 2009 protests in Iran that are challenging the government that was installed in 1979, you know that the government of Iran is experiencing a Saturn Return.
Saturn’s presence in Pisces, as well as it’s opposing sign Virgo, appear to mark distinct and inter-related periods where progress or attempts at progress in universal healthcare and other liberal reforms are made. Once I started down this rabbit hole of a topic I discovered that the desire for universal healthcare did not always exist, and it did not develop overnight. It is intrinsically related to the developments of other liberal reforms, which makes a good deal of common sense. The history of healthcare reform is parallel to the history of liberal reforms, as they both deal with defending the basic needs and rights of the individual. What makes these instances of Saturn particularly remarkable is that historians, as well as regular folks, who are not aware of anything too specific in astrology would and do form meaningful connections and comparisons between the events that just happen to be connected by a planetary periodicity. So I’m not jamming jigsaw puzzles together to make them fit, the correlations between the celestial and earthly events appear to be organic, notwithstanding correlation not necessarily implying causation.
Why Saturn in Pisces and Virgo? I’m not sure. Saturn in the squaring signs, Gemini and Sagittarius, also mark important but minor developments between the major highlights of this topic in Pisces and Virgo, but in the interests of brevity I haven’t included them here. I’m not sure if the developments are characteristic of Saturn being in Pisces or Virgo or if these events occur because of a reaction to a particular inception. It might be both. The events that I cover prominently feature US Presidents, perhaps necessarily so because for this article I am dealing primarily with the history of healthcare in the United States. However, it is interesting that the inauguration of George Washington occurred while Saturn was in Pisces (in the same year as the French Revolution), a likely inception chart for the office of the presidency itself. The US presidency is certainly an authority and a massive responsibility, so a particular affinity with the cycles of Saturn might make a bit of sense. But the pattern seems to extend even before Washington’s inauguration, to the first acts of protest in the American Revolution while Saturn was in Virgo, including the Boston Tea Party. I would start from then, but since this article is specifically about the pursuit of universal healthcare and is already far too long, I’m starting with a year famous for a global phenomenon of liberal reform.
Revolutions of 1848
Saturn in Pisces, January 25th 1847 to April 3rd 1849
All was not well in Europe in 1848. It was a year of revolutions, in Ireland, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, Switzerland, Poland and other places. They all had different causes but they were united by ideas of popular liberalism and democracy, increasing the power of the people. The uprisings were met with violent resistance from the aristocracy.
On February 29th 1848, Karl Marx published the Communist Manifesto, the culmination of his thoughts on philosophy and economics, the influential and ever-controversial work for which he would forever be known. Marx was born with Saturn in Pisces, and the book was published at his Saturn Return. While the book raises eyebrows and swift condemnations today, its general precepts of fairness and justice were wide-reaching and still relevant today.
The countries that did not experience revolutions had passed laws that pacified discontent, and for the first time, were concerned with public health. In England for example, on August 31st 1848, Parliament passed the Public Health Act, the first law of its kind. It was designed to improve the awful sanitary conditions of cities and towns that were affecting the health of citizens, through central and local government authorities.
In the United States there were no revolutions per se, but there were grumblings of discontent that were about to explode by Saturn’s next transit through Virgo, and the seeds of organizations would be planted in this time, ready to come up again in future Saturn in Pisces or Virgo periods.
- On May 7th 1847, the American Medical Association was formed. Yes, that American Medical Association, the one that has historically opposed all government-led efforts to improve healthcare or increase access. And so all the Saturn Returns for pro-universal healthcare movements necessarily were also Saturn Returns for organizations opposed to government-led universal healthcare.
- On July 19th-20th 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention was held, widely considered to be the beginning of the women’s rights movement in the United States. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an abolitionist and women’s rights activist, proposed to pass a resolution before the assembly for women’s suffrage. Much of the assembly was hesitant to support the measure. Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and suffragist, and the only black man in attendance at the Convention, persuasively and eloquently argued for the measure to be passed. It was. The early women suffragists also supported a host of other progressive aims, and over time, women would be crucial players in the fight for universal healthcare.
- On June 2nd 1847, two Maryland slave owners were arrested after breaking and entering while they were hunting down their “property” in the free state of Pennsylvania. When the sheriff learned they were looking for their slaves, they were let go. This disgusted the local black community and a local white university professor and theologian, John McClintock. On June 30th, when the slave owners tried to leave with their slaves a riot broke out and one of the slave owners was killed. They were arrested for inciting a riot and were brought to trial on August 25th. They were eventually acquitted and the case received wide attention.
- On that same day, the founding convention of the Communist League was held in London, the first explicitly communist political party in the world.
What do these things have to do with healthcare?
The basic motivation behind the development of communism is the same sentiment that drives the call for universal healthcare: to correct gross inequalities and injustices in human societies. The US Constitution in its original form did not explicitly protect the rights of all people from racism, sexism, other prejudices and the perils of capitalism, and so the dominant class of people left to their own devices, did not, despite the underlying egalitarian sentiments of all the American founding documents, “All men (people) are created equal”, etc.
All this required the relentless efforts of decent people mindful of justice over the ages to reform the conditions of their societies to fulfill the promise of our inalienable rights and meet the challenges of our inescapable needs. To form a more perfect union. So whether you agree with it or not, communism was the inevitable reaction to the injustices incurred by the unbridled free markets of the Industrial Revolution. The desire for universal healthcare is the inevitable reaction to exorbitant prices, stingy insurance companies and all other manner of abuses, exploitation and neglect found in our healthcare system. Injustice breeds reaction.
Obviously no one today is talking about the revolution of the proletariat, the abolition of private property, or classless societies, but communism’s essence of righteous equality is what has been most influential on modern progressivism, a democratic egalitarian philosophy of enlightened concern for the basic universal needs and freedoms of the individual. And so it has been influential in winning the basic human rights that people take for granted today.
All of these developments also happen to be coincident with the Pisces ingress of the then-newly-discovered planet Neptune. And in fact if there was one planet to represent the ideals of egalitarianism, it would be Neptune, but that is another story.
Saturn in Virgo, August 25th 1860-July 10th 1863
In November 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States on a platform of restricting slavery to the states that it was already in, but not letting it spread. The Civil War was already brewing. Attempts on Lincoln’s life were feared before he had even been inaugurated. As soon as he was, southern slave states began to secede.On April 12th 1861, the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.
While at the heart of the conflict was the problem left unsolved by the founding fathers, (whether authority ultimately was left to the states or to the central government), the moral dimension of the conflict inexorably tied up state’s rights with the oppression of human rights (slavery), and the powers of the central government with the protection of human rights. In no single act of Lincoln’s was this more apparent than his Emancipation Proclamation. On September 22nd 1862, he issued the executive order declaring the freedom of all slaves in the Confederate states.
During and after the Civil War, tensions erupted between Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Should black men be freed and have the right to vote before black and white women have the right to vote? These tensions between the struggles against racism and sexism would resurface in a very different way a few Saturn Returns ahead.
Lincoln demonstrated that the government could be used towards just ends, a key rationale for universal healthcare. Time and again the government would have to step in to rectify grievous injustices that the states were not able or willing to confront. However, how just a government is often depends on who is in the driver’s seat, as we shall see by Saturn’s next passage through Pisces.
The astute observer will notice that just as the Revolutions of 1848 coincided with Neptune’s ingress into Pisces, Neptune’s ingress into Aries occurred on the very day the Civil War started. Additionally, the Civil War was the Uranus Return of the Declaration of Independence, and the Uranus Return after the Civil War occurred during the escalation of US involvement in WWII. There is a bigger story here concerning Uranus returns and ingresses and US wars, but suffice it to say that the revolutions of Uranus mirror the revolutions of America, but I digress.
Rise of Labor Unions
Saturn in Pisces, February 29th 1876-February 5th 1879
The country was still reeling from the Panic of 1873, employment was less secure and managers were being faced with tough choices. The unstable economic climate drove up memberships in unions. On July 19th 1876, the Workingmen’s Party was formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first Marxist-inspired political party in the United States. It was built around the notion that workers have a right to unionize and receive a fair wage.
On November 7th 1876, America voted between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden for President. The popular vote went to Tilden, but the electoral votes were disputed, and after months of bitter legal battles, the disputed electoral votes went to Hayes, winning the presidency by one electoral vote. Sound familiar? On the election of 1876, Mercury was in early Scorpio, opposite Neptune at 3 Taurus. On the election of 2000, Mercury was in early Scorpio, square Neptune at 3 Aquarius.
Historians speculate that a deal was struck on March 2nd 1877 in order to end the dispute, now referred to as the Compromise of 1877. It began when Thomas A. Scott, owner of the Pennsylvania railroads (and widely considered one of the first “robber barons”), proposed that the Democrats would accept Hayes as President in exchange for the removal of federal troops from former confederate states, in short, the end of Reconstruction. Historians have pointed to this “compromise” as the Republican party abandoning blacks in the South, and the formation of the “Solid South” for the Democratic party until a future Saturn in Pisces period in 1964, with the signing of the Civil Rights Act.
Great Railroad Strike of 1877
Meanwhile, a number of economic factors forced Baltimore & Ohio Railroads to cut wages two times in one year. This triggered a massive revolt, the first nationwide strike in American history, now known as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. Workers began to strike on July 14th 1877 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The governor sent militias to break up the strike, but they refused to shoot, and he called for federal troops. Meanwhile in Cumberland, Maryland, the strikers began to attack the militias. On July 21st, President Hayes sent federal troops and Marines to various strike sites.
The strikes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the most violent. Thomas A. Scott, the broker of the “Compromise of 1877”, and the owner of Pennsylvania Railroads famously said of the strikers,
Give them a rifle diet and see how they like that kind of bread.
Kind of a more sinister update on “let them eat cake”, right? The federal troops did give the strikers a rifle diet, with a side of bayonets for good measure. Instead of quelling the strikes, they infuriated the workers further. The strikes spread across Pennsylvania and multiple cities in Illinois. Buildings were set on fire, tens of workers and police died in violent clashes. The Workingmen’s Party was able to increase membership and organized demonstrations of thousands of people in several cities. President Hayes’ federal troops steadily went from strike to strike gunning down workers and scaring people back to work. 45 days after it began, it ended.
Distrust between labor and business lingered for a long time afterward, leading to more strikes and increased labor unionization in the years that followed. These unions would be among the first to advocate for national health insurance.
Saturn in Virgo, October 6th 1889-August 29th 1892
The Progressive Era is generally considered to have lasted from 1890 to 1920, about 30 years. You know what that means. Saturn. In this time the middle class developed a wariness of big business and radical movements. Calls for government intervention on behalf of the people prevailed over the laissez-faire attitudes of the previous decades.
Probably the most significant law passed in this time was the Sherman Antitrust Act, which was signed on July 2nd 1890. It forbade companies from owning entire industries. It was designed to eliminate monopolies and encourage competition for economic growth. The law was largely unused until Saturn reached the opposing sign, Pisces.
Saturn in Pisces, April 13th 1905-March 19th 1908
The Progressive Era was in full swing, and no one epitomized it more than Theodore Roosevelt. President Roosevelt had been making quite a name for himself as the progressive trust-buster, and self-proclaimed steward of the people under the Square Deal. His favorite law? The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. He was genuinely responsive to the needs of the people.
On February 28th 1906, muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair published the shocking exposé of the disgusting state of the American meatpacking industry, titled ‘The Jungle’. Roosevelt, an avid reader, was shocked by the book, and sent commissions to pay unannounced visits to meatpacking plants to verify the charges. They were true. In response, Roosevelt formed the Food and Drug Administration on June 30th 1906, to regulate and supervise the safety of all food and medicinal products, in the interest of public health.
Many credit Roosevelt with being the first President to campaign on universal healthcare in 1912, (which was a Saturn in Gemini event), but he developed his first public thoughts on universal healthcare on May 8th 1907. A group called the Committee of One Hundred wrote a letter to Roosevelt asking him to create a commissioner on public health. He wrote back:
Our national health is physically our greatest national asset. To prevent any possible deterioration of the American stock should be a national ambition. We cannot too strongly insist on the necessity of proper ideals for the family for simple living and for those habits and tastes which produce vigor and make men capable of strenuous service for their country. The preservation of national vigor should be a matter of patriotism. I can most cordially commend the endeavors of your Committee to bring these matters prominently before the public.
It was a very nice “no”. But it was so nice a “no”, that he did go on to push for national health insurance just a few years later.
As a Republican of the Lincoln tradition, he enjoyed the enormous support of black and female Americans. Roosevelt was supportive of racial equality and women’s right to vote, even having wrote on the latter subject for his undergraduate thesis. He even invited Booker T. Washington to the White House to discuss race relations, which earned him serious flak from the South. Afterwards he was more cautious on issues of race.
An event occurred during the Saturn in Pisces period that changed the trajectory of African American voting patterns. On August 13th 1906, racial tensions erupted between white residents of Brownsville, Texas, and the all-black 25th United States Regiment at the nearby Fort Brown. A white bartender and a white police officer died. Despite evidence that the whole thing was a set up, and despite the insistence of the white commanders at Fort Brown that all of the soldiers were in their barracks at the time of incident, the residents of Brownsville and investigators continued to accuse the black soldiers of the crimes. When the 25th Regiment were questioned (they were never brought to a fair trial), they responded that none of them knew who had committed the crime. As a result, President Roosevelt had all 167 men dishonorably discharged for a so-called “conspiracy of silence”. Booker T. Washington begged him to reconsider, but Roosevelt held firm. This disgusted black communities and many whites, especially since the story was covered up until after the 1906 Congressional elections, so that no pro-Republican black votes would be lost. It would not be until the 1970’s that the facts of the case came out and the 25th Regiment were cleared of the charges, although only one of them had survived to see justice by that point.
As a result of the Brownsville Affair, Roosevelt’s presidency marks another turning point where the Republican and Democratic parties began to turn into the other. The Republican party’s claim to fame as the progressive party of Lincoln, the party that saved the union and freed the slaves, was beginning to crumble. So disappointed were black Americans in Roosevelt, that Woodrow Wilson, a fervent white supremacist Democrat, received the majority of their votes in the 1912 election. Even W.E.B. Dubois voted for Wilson. By the next Saturn in Pisces period, the party identification of blacks would be cemented with the Democrats as it became the more liberal party, with the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Republican party on the other hand became more conservative, and resisted civil rights for all Americans.
Wilson’s Attempt at Global Cooperation
Saturn in Virgo, August 12th 1919-October 7th 1921
The world had just been ravaged by World War I. War lost its glamor. The Treaty of Versailles was signed and world leaders were looking to make sure another conflict of that magnitude could ever occur again. It was a nice try.
The League of Nations
The Versailles Treaty called for the creation of an inter-governmental international organization to arbitrate future disputes and avoid wars. It was called the League of Nations, the forerunner of today’s United Nations. Wilson the academic, was very keen on the idea, as it was an extension of progressive goals into the global sphere, and particularly his own brand of idealism of spreading democracy across the world. Congress was not so keen.
On September 4th 1919, Wilson, in frail health, campaigned across the country to drum up support for the United States’ inclusion in the League of Nations. After 8000 miles, 40 speeches in 29 cities in 22 days, he collapsed in Pueblo, Colorado, and was forced to go back to Washington. Meanwhile legislative bartering on behalf of the League of Nations was proving ineffective. On October 6th, Wilson suffered a stroke and was ill for 2 months.
On November 19th 1919, the US Senate rejected entrance of the United States into the League of Nations. The limits of the Progressive Era had been reached. This would not be the last time the United States would be dismissive of international organizations. One Uranus Return later, the United States would defy the United Nations to invade Iraq. Ironically, this was done under the banner of Wilsonian idealism: to spread democracy. Given the globally destabilizing effect that war has had, Wilson could only have cringed beyond the grave.
Despite Wilson’s failure, the Progressive Era still ended on a good note. On August 26th 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was certified, giving women the right to vote, who voted for the first time in the 1920 elections. Also in 1920, the American Medical Association began to make its first statements against nationalized health care as more and more model bills were proposed by groups such as the American Association for Labor Legislation. AMA was just getting warmed up.
The Right to Healthcare
So far we’ve seen Saturn demarcate the struggles for democracy and liberty, the rights of black men and all women, the rights of workers, the duty of the government to intervene on our behalf against big business, and even a struggle to achieve these rights and freedoms for the whole world. The early rumblings about another right were beginning to crescendo. The stage was set for people to start thinking about another basic need, if not a primary need: medical attention. After the onset of the Great Depression, which disillusioned a nation convinced by the free market’s saving power, more and more people began to recognize that the government must secure and provide for people’s basic liberties and needs, and sure enough, this began to include the right to healthcare. A man who agreed with that premise was elected President in 1932, and made the first attempt (of many) to pass a national health insurance program under something called the New Deal.
Read Part II
All charts in this article use Whole Sign Houses, are cast for noon if the time is unknown, Washington DC if the place is unknown. Credit goes to Nick Dagan Best for his assistance with my research.