Question: When is a Democratic majority not a Democratic majority?

Answer: When it’s a Democratic majority.

Sanders Pushing to Expand Medicare by Lowering Eligibility Age

"It's the right thing to do. It's massively impactful. It's popular."
Sen. Bernie Sanders during an interview  in D.C, on  Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is reportedly pressuring Democratic lawmakers to use the forthcoming multi-trillion dollar infrastructure package to significantly expand Medicare by lowering the eligibility age from 65 to either 55 or 60—an idea President Joe Biden floated on the campaign trail last April.

Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, also wants to extend Medicare's coverage to often-expensive services such as dental work, glasses and eye surgeries, and hearing aids, according to Politico.

"We have to look at the structural long-term problems facing our people," Sanders told the outlet in an interview Friday. "We're talking about physical infrastructure, affordable housing. We're talking about transforming our energy system to deal with climate change. We're talking about human infrastructure."

"In the rescue plan, we were able to take a major step forward in lowering child poverty—very important," Sanders added. "Now I want to deal with issues facing seniors as well."

The Vermont senator is aiming to include his Medicare proposal, which has not yet been finalized, in an infrastructure-focused spending package that the White House and congressional Democrats are currently discussing. The legislation will likely have to go through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process given Republican opposition to the nascent plan.

A leading congressional supporter of the far more sweeping proposal to expand Medicare to everyone in the U.S., the Vermont senator said his plan to make the program more generous in the near-term could be funded partially by allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, an idea Sanders believes would bring in around $450 billion in revenue over the next decade.

Earlier this week, as Common Dreams reported, Sanders and dozens of his congressional allies introduced The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act (pdf), which would lift a clause prohibiting the Health and Human Services Department from negotiating lower prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

Surveys have shown that the idea of lowering the Medicare eligibility age—which has been at 65 or older since the program's inception in 1965—is popular with the American public. A GoHealth survey from last October found that 70% of respondents not on Medicare at the time and 58% of Medicare beneficiaries supported the idea.

Additionally, according to an analysis by the healthcare consulting firm Avalere, lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 could extend the program's coverage to as many as 23 million people.

"It's the right thing to do," Sanders adviser Faiz Shakir tweeted Friday. "It's massively impactful. It's popular."

Published on Friday, March 26, 2021 by Common Dreams. Jake Johnson, staff writer.

No impuestos sin representación.

It is time to put stop to United States colonialism. Like the inhabitants of the District of Columbia, the 2,800,00 people of Puerto Rico have languished too long without the full rights of citizenship (for comparison. Wyoming has fewer than 600,000 residents; by population; Puerto Rico would rank about 34th among the 52 states). Guam (pop.165,000), the Virgin Islands (pop. 120,000), and American Samoa (pop. 60,000) are too small for statehood (giving them each two senators would throw the already profoundly undemocratic U.S. Senate wildly out of whack), but there is nothing in the way of changing their status to bring them as close to actual citizenship as possible by granting their elected Representatives full voting rights in the House and, in a bonus from getting rid of the Electoral College, enabling them to vote for president.

Progressives Urge Biden to Abandon GOP Outreach, Move Swiftly on Bold Package

"A Republican minority shouldn't be allowed to hold the nation's economic recovery and public health hostage."

by Jake Johnson
Photo: Tom Lohdan / Flickr // People for the American Way

\With Covid-19 killing thousands of people each day in the U.S. and the economy still mired in deep recession, progressives are calling on President Joe Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress to abandon futile outreach to the GOP and push ahead with a robust relief package after a pair of so-called "moderate" Republican senators voiced skepticism Wednesday about passing another major spending bill.

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), members of a bipartisan group of lawmakers calling itself the Common Sense Coalition, indicated shortly after Biden's inauguration Wednesday that they would have difficulty supporting relief legislation on the scale of the $1.9 trillion plan the president unveiled last week—a proposal progressives criticized as inadequate.

"Who cares what Romney thinks. Ultimately the effectiveness of the Biden admin will be determined by how often they ignore what Republicans have to say and jam stuff through reconciliation." —James Medlock, policy analyst

Romney characterized Biden's opening offer as "not well-timed" given that Congress "passed a $900 billion-plus package" last month. Some economists argue that between $3 trillion and $4.5 trillion in spending will be necessary in the short-term to bring the U.S. out of recession and pave the way for a speedy recovery.

"Let's give that some time to be able to influence the economy," Romney said of the December relief measure

Murkowski echoed Romney's concern, complaining that "the ink is just barely dry on the $900 billion." Biden's relief proposal—which includes $1,400 direct payments, a boost to unemployment benefits, and other key measures—would require "a fair amount of debate and consideration," said the Alaska Republican.

Given that Biden would likely need the backing of both Romney and Murkowski -- as well as other Republicans -- to achieve his hope of passing a relief bill with bipartisan support, progressives said the two senators' comments further bolster the case for ignoring the austerity-obsessed GOP and using unified Democratic control of government to swiftly pass an ambitious package.

"Who cares what Romney thinks," tweeted policy analyst James Medlock. "Ultimately the effectiveness of the Biden admin[istration] will be determined by how often they ignore what Republicans have to say and jam stuff through reconciliation."

Medlock was referring to the expedited, filibuster-proof process that allows passage of certain kinds of legislation with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes -- a threshold that would require the support of at least 10 Republican senators.

Biden has not explicitly endorsed passing coronavirus relief through reconciliation if Republicans obstruct his agenda. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during the new administration's first press briefing Wednesday that while the president's "clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill," Biden is "not going to take tools off the table for how the House and Senate can get this done."

With the reconciliation process a possibility, another -- and, according to some progressives, much better-option is to quickly eliminate the legislative filibuster, a move that would allow passage of legislation without any Republican support.

Democrats control the Senate by the narrowest possible margin, meaning they would need the backing of the entire caucus plus a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris to pass legislation in the absence of the filibuster, which Democrats can kill with a simple majority vote.

"A Republican minority shouldn't be allowed to hold the nation's economic recovery and public health hostage," progressive organizer Ilya Sheyman said, urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to use one of the two tools at his disposal to pass a major relief bill.
Amid growing GOP hostility to additional coronavirus relief spending, Biden's economic advisers are expected to meet with the Common Sense Coalition in the coming days, continuing outreach to Republicans and conservative Democrats -- such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) -- that began before the inauguration.

"We can do 1,000 straight days of this song and dance or we can just zoom ahead and enjoy a glorious, filibuster-free existence," tweeted Ryan Kearney of the LGBTQ Victory Fund. "Your choice!"

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Wednesday that while he has "no problem with reaching out to Republicans" and "would prefer to do it that way," he has no intention of wasting precious time trying to bring intransigent GOP lawmakers onboard.

"If we hear very early on that Republicans do not want to act in a way that meets the needs of working people in this country or the middle class, sorry, we're gonna do it alone," the Vermont senator said in an appearance on ABC.
As progressive Democrats and advocacy groups demand quick action, the timeline for movement of a coronavirus relief package remains unclear. Punchbowl News reported Wednesday morning that "Democrats do not expect to be able to send Biden a Covid relief bill until early March," when emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire for millions of Americans.

Progressives made clear that waiting until March to pass a relief bill would be unacceptable, given the enormity of the public health and economic emergencies that are ravaging the country.

"We urge the President to continue to act swiftly and boldly to address the multiple crises our nation faces," Rahna Epting, executive director of advocacy group MoveOn, said in a statement late Wednesday. "People's lives depend on it. We cannot allow Washington gridlock or Republican obstruction to stand in the way of the urgent needs of the nation."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, issued a similar call to action, demanding that the Biden administration and Democratic Congress work toward "the swift passage of a comprehensive and bold relief package that meets the scale of this crisis."

"We have no time to waste," said Jayapal.

[Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep]

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Fifty-one or Fight

"Less than six months before a mob of the sitting president’s supporters would descend upon the United States Capitol, a more solemn crowd gathered at its steps. Among those who arrived to pay their final respects to the
Flag of the 51 United States of America
late Representative John Lewis were Washington, D.C., residents who appreciated his unwavering support of statehood for the district. As they waited in line for the public viewing, a small group of Black women raised their fists in honor of the Georgia lawmaker known as the conscience of Congress, who saw their city’s struggle as the very kind of 'good trouble' that defines his legacy. Lewis had backed the symbolically named House Resolution 51 since Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s nonvoting delegate, first introduced it nearly three decades ago. In 1993, Lewis declared, 'It is not right that there is still an America where there is still some taxation without representation.'”

The rest of the story:
“The real fraud is that we call ourselves a democracy yet deny the people of our capital political representation:” D.C. Statehood Is More Urgent Than Ever by Hannah Giorgis (The Atlantic)

Nancy Pelosi's Inequality Commission Is A Joke (and the joke's on you)

If they want to get things done for their constituents, Progressives need to act more like the Freedom Caucus. In a closely divided House, their power resides in voting as a block.

Neera Tanden and Antony Blinken Personify the 'Moderate' Rot at the Top of the Democratic Party

What's so moderate about being on the take from rich beneficiaries of corporate America while opposing proposals that would curb their profits in order to reduce income inequality and advance social justice?

by Norman Solomon

Sometimes a couple of nominations convey an incoming president’s basic mindset and worldview. That’s how it seems with Joe Biden’s choices to run the Office of Management and Budget and the State Department.

For OMB director, Biden selected corporate centrist Neera Tanden, whose Center for American Progress thrives on the largesse of wealthy donors representing powerful corporate interests. Tanden has been a notably scornful foe of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing; former Sanders speechwriter David Sirota calls her “the single biggest, most aggressive Bernie Sanders critic in the United States.” Who better to oversee the budget of the U.S. government?

For Secretary of State, Biden chose his longtime top foreign-policy adviser, whose frequent support for U.S. warfare included pushing for the disastrous 2011 military intervention in Libya. Antony Blinken is a revolving-door pro who has combined his record of war boosterism with entrepreneurial zeal to personally profit from influence-peddling for weapons sales to the Pentagon. Who better to oversee diplomacy for the U.S. government?

"With few exceptions, Biden's current policy positions are destructively corporate, deferential to obscene concentrations of wealth, woefully inadequate for meeting human needs, and zealously militaristic." Standard news coverage tells us that Tanden and Blinken are “moderates.” But what’s so moderate about being on the take from rich beneficiaries of corporate America while opposing proposals that would curb their profits in order to reduce income inequality and advance social justice? What’s so moderate about serving the military-industrial complex while advocating for massive “defense” spending and what amounts to endless war?

Unless they fail to get Senate confirmation, Tanden and Blinken will shape future history in major ways.

As OMB director, Tanden would head what the Washington Post describes as “the nerve center of the federal government, executing the annual spending plan, setting fiscal and personnel policy for agencies, and overseeing the regulatory process across the executive branch.”

Blinken is ready to be the administration’s most influential figure on foreign policy, bolstered by his longstanding close ties with Biden. As staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden chaired the panel’s mid-2002 crucial sham hearings on scenarios for invading Iraq, Blinken helped grease the skids for the catastrophic invasion.

Overall, purported “moderates” Tanden and Blinken have benefited from favorable mass-media coverage since their nominations were announced several weeks ago. Most of the well-documented critical accounts have appeared in progressive outlets such as Common Dreams, Democracy Now, The Daily Poster, In These Times and The American Prospect. But some unappealing aspects of their records have been reported by the mainstream press.

“In her nine years helming Washington’s leading liberal think tank, Neera Tanden mingled with deep-pocketed donors who made their fortunes on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and in other powerful sectors of corporate America,” the Washington Post reported in early December. “At formal pitches and swanky fundraisers, Tanden personally cultivated the bevy of benefactors fueling the $45 million to $50 million annual budget of the Center for American Progress.”

The Post added: “As OMB director, Tanden would have a hand in policies that touch every part of the economy after years spent courting corporate and foreign donors. These regulatory decisions will have profound implications for a range of U.S. companies, dictating how much they pay in taxes, the barriers they face and whether they benefit from new stimulus programs.”

Blinken’s eagerness to cash in on the warfare state -- when not a formal part of the government’s war-making apparatus -- is well-documented and chilling. In a healthier political culture, Blinken’s shameless insistence on profiteering from military weapons sales, as spelled out in a Nov. 28 New York Times news story, would have sunk his nomination for Secretary of State.

As for Tanden, in recent years her Center for American Progress received between $1.5 million and $3 million from the United Arab Emirates, which is allied with Saudi Arabia in waging a long and murderous war on Yemen. CAP refused to back a Senate resolution calling for the U.S. government to end its military support for that war. On a range of foreign-policy issues, Tanden has shown dedication to militarism again and again and again.

By many accounts, progressive organizing was a key factor in preventing the widely expected nomination of hawkish Michèle Flournoy to be Secretary of Defense. (RootsAction.org, where I’m national director, was part of that organizing effort.) Last week, the withdrawal of torture defender Mike Morell from consideration for CIA director was a victory for activism led by CodePink, Progressive Democrats of America, Witness Against Torture and other groups.

During the first weeks of 2021, such organizing could be effective in helping to derail other nominations. High on the deserving list are Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom “Mr. Monsanto” Vilsack, a loyal ally of corporate Big Ag, and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines -- whose record as former deputy director of the CIA included working to prevent accountability for agency personnel who engaged in torture, as well as crafting legal rationales for drone strikes that often killed civilians.

Such deplorable nominees don’t tell the whole story of Biden’s incoming team, which includes some decent economic and environmental appointees. “There’s no question that progressive focus on personnel has led to far better outcomes than when Obama put a corporate- and bank-friendly Cabinet together with little resistance,” The American Prospect’s executive editor, David Dayen, correctly pointed out last week. At the same time, none of Biden’s high-level nominees were supporters of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign or are fully in sync with the progressive wing of the party.

The brighter spots among Joe Biden’s nominations reflect the political wattage that progressives have generated in recent years on a wide array of intertwined matters, from climate to healthcare to economic justice to structural racism. Yet, with few exceptions, Biden’s current policy positions are destructively corporate, deferential to obscene concentrations of wealth, woefully inadequate for meeting human needs, and zealously militaristic. It’s hardly incidental that the list of key White House staff is overwhelmingly dominated by corporate-aligned operatives and PR specialists.

Wishful thinking aside, on vital issue after vital issue, it’s foreseeable that Biden -- and the people in line for the most powerful roles in his administration -- will not do the right thing unless movements can organize effectively enough to make them do it.

Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" (2006) and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State" (2007). The article was first published

Joan Baez to Nancy Pelosi

Thank you, Speaker Pelosi, for not mincing words about the 126 Republicans who joined the lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General. As you said: "Instead of upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution, they chose to subvert the Constitution and undermine public trust in our sacred democratic institutions."

But in these virulent times are words enough?

Direct action is what John Lewis called “making good trouble.” Good trouble calls for a determined and unflinching willingness to stand up for the truth, no matter the consequences or inconvenience.

As Speaker of the House, you might be the only official in a position to do something, subtle or rash, to lift us above the moral morass in which we find ourselves.

Part of making good trouble is finding imaginative ways to confront one’s adversary.

How difficult would it be to establish something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where these Representatives, in order to be seated, would have to testify publicly to what they were doing and why, while being questioned by a Democratic or independent panel?

The point would not be retribution or punishment, but re-establishing, through public exposure, some extent of moral equilibrium and public trust that has been lost. Perhaps the most essential by-product would be re-establishing and demonstrating the authority and power of the Democratic Party by putting it on offense rather than defense.

Another interesting approach would be to not allow these Representatives to be seated until they attend a class on Constitutional Law (yes, like driving school), taught by an independent and respected professor who would explain to them the meaning of what they did in detail, and make sure they were able to retake their oath of office with full understanding.

Exceptional times need to be dealt with by exceptional measures, or else the most brazen authoritarian forces will continue to feel free to push ahead unchecked, as they have been doing.

My nonviolent community of troublemakers and I are here as a resource for you. Call any time.

Yours,

Joan Baez

UBI or Die

Nicholas Powers, writing for Truthout:

“I thought Universal Basic Income was a good idea,” said 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang to Bloomberg QuickTake. “But it’s more urgent than ever. It’s literally life and death.”

During the presidential campaign, Yang generated buzz by UBI on talk shows, speeches and town halls. He called it the Freedom Dividend in which each citizen got $1,000 a month. The idea of UBI goes back to Thomas Paine’s 1797 pamphlet “Agrarian Justice” that called for money to be given to all citizens, and to the fiery Sen. Huey Long’s Share the Wealth program in the 1930s. In 1966, it was the capstone of the civil rights movement when Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph proposed the Freedom Budget. The right-wing eugenicist Charles Murray has also advocated UBI to replace welfare programs, a position shared in part by Yang. Murray and Yang’s position is a cynical one that would leave individuals with cash but not enough to replace the social support taken away.

What drove UBI from the margins to the center of politics are the crises each generation has faced. The oldest one is poverty, whether in Appalachia or Harlem. Even before the pandemic, wage stagnation had since the 1970s eroded the lives of workers who faced international competition and high-tech machines cutting the need for human labor. Now the long-term economic effect of COVID-19 could be millions desperate for work, who will accept low wages, and internalize rage at failing the “American Dream.” The previous factor of mechanization will pick up speed and hit a tipping point.

A report by McKinsey & Company said that by 2030, a moderate rate of automation could lead to 400 million jobs displaced by robots or 800 million at a fast rate. How are the masses of people going to live when the work they can get is low paying and part time? Another existential danger is climate change, which will bring rising seas, droughts and fires that will cause interrupted supply chains, damaged infrastructure and more expensive food. How are people to work when train tracks are flooded or fiber optic cables are damaged by higher tides?

Is the solution to the crisis-filled future stimulus bill after stimulus bill? How many are passed before a society stumbles into UBI? Without waiting for a catastrophe, some municipalities have begun experimenting with small-scale versions. The cities of Hamilton in Canada, Barcelona in Spain and Stockton in California led the way, and now nine mayors of U.S. cities from Los Angeles to Newark joined Mayors for a Guaranteed Income to push for pilot programs and share data.

“The pandemic exposed just how fragile the economic underpinnings of our society are,” said Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. “COVID-19 has put us in the midst of another Great Depression which necessitates bold, New Deal-type investments in our people.”

The rest of the story:
One-Time Stimulus Checks Aren’t Good Enough. We Need Universal Basic Income by Nicholas Powers (Truthout)

Extra credit:
Which countries have experimented with basic income — and what were the results?: Everywhere basic income has been tried, in one map by Sigal Samuel (VOX)

Serious problem. Simple solution.

 

Dear Joe, It's Mitch McConnell or Your Base. You Can't Have Both.

by Norman Solomon, Reader Supported News

Near the end of his well-crafted victory speech Saturday night, Joe Biden decried “the refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another.” He went on to say that “we can decide to cooperate. And I believe that this is part of the mandate from the American people. They want us to cooperate. That’s the choice I’ll make. And I call on the Congress – Democrats and Republicans alike – to make that choice with me.”

If Biden chooses to “cooperate” with Mitch McConnell, that choice is likely to set off a political war between the new administration and the Democratic Party’s progressive base.

After the election, citing “people familiar with the matter,” Axios reported that “Republicans’ likely hold on the Senate is forcing Joe Biden’s transition team to consider limiting its prospective Cabinet nominees to those who Mitch McConnell can live with.” Yet this spin flies in the face of usual procedures for Senate confirmation of Cabinet nominees.

“Traditionally, an incoming president is given wide berth to pick his desired team,” Axios noted. But “a source close to McConnell tells Axios a Republican Senate would work with Biden on centrist nominees but no ‘radical progressives’ or ones who are controversial with conservatives.... This political reality could result in Biden having a more centrist Cabinet. It also gives Biden a ready excuse to reject left-of-center candidates, like Senators Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, who have the enthusiastic backing of progressives.”

Let’s be clear: The extent to which Biden goes along with such a scenario of craven capitulation will be the extent to which he has shafted progressives before his presidency has even begun.

And let’s be clear about something else: Biden doesn’t have to defer to Mitch McConnell on Cabinet appointees. Biden has powerful leverage – if he wants to use it. As outlined in a memo released days ago by Demand Progress and the Revolving Door Project, “President Biden will be under no obligation to hand Mitch McConnell the keys to his Cabinet.”

The memo explains that Biden could fill his Cabinet by using the Vacancies Act – which “provides an indisputably legal channel to fill Senate-confirmed positions on a temporary basis when confirmations are delayed.”

In addition, “Biden can adjourn Congress and make recess appointments” – since Article II Section 3 of the Constitution “gives the President the power to adjourn Congress ‘to such time as he shall think proper’ whenever the House and Senate disagree on adjournment” – and after 10 days of recess, Biden could appoint Cabinet members.

In other words, if there’s a political will, there would be ways to overcome the anti-democratic obstructionism of Mitch McConnell. But does Biden really have the political will?

McConnell is the foremost practitioner of ruthless right-wing hardball on Capitol Hill. During the last two administrations, the Senate’s majority leader has done enormous damage to democracy and the lives of many millions of people. Why in the hell should Biden be vowing to cooperate with the likes of McConnell?

Eighteen months ago, campaigning in New Hampshire, Biden proclaimed: “The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke. You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.”

It was an absurd statement back then. Now, it’s an ominous one.

Anyone who’s expecting an epiphany from McConnell after Trump leaves the White House is ignoring how the Senate majority leader behaved before Trump was in the White House – doing things like refusing to allow any Senate consideration of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland during the last 10 months of the Obama administration.

McConnell has made it crystal clear that he’s a no-holds-barred ideologue who’ll stoop as low as he can to thwart democracy and social progress. Cooperating with him would be either a fool’s errand or an exercise in capitulation. And, when it comes to Congressional workings, Biden is no fool.

Yes, Republicans are likely to have a Senate majority for at least the next two years. But President Biden will have a profound choice: to either fight them or “cooperate” with them. If Biden’s idea of the art of the deal is to shaft progressives, he and Kamala Harris are going to have a colossal party insurrection on their hands.

The young voters and African-American voters who were largely responsible for Biden’s win did not turn out in such big numbers so he could turn around and cave in to the same extremist Republican Party that propelled much of their enthusiasm for voting Biden in the first place. Overall, as polling has made clear, it was abhorrence of Trump – more than enthusiasm for Biden – that captivated Biden voters.

A CNBC poll, released last week, found that 54 percent of swing-state Biden voters “said they are primarily voting against Trump” rather than in favor of Biden. For Biden to embark on his presidency by collaborating with the party of Trump would be more than tone-deaf. It would be a refusal to put up a fight against the very forces that so many Biden voters were highly motivated to defeat.

Progressives are disgusted when Democratic leaders set out to ask Republicans for part of a loaf and end up getting crumbs. If Joe Biden is willing to toss aside the progressive base of his own party in order to cooperate with the likes of Mitch McConnell, the new president will be starting a fierce civil war inside his own party.
-30-

Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of many books, including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California for the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

This essay first appeared in Reader Supported News.

Where are James Comey and the Russians when you need 'em?

"Apart from barely squeezing through the swing states to defeat corrupt, incompetent, lying, corporatist Donald Trump, the Democratic Party had a bad election.

"Loaded with nearly twice as much money as the Republican Party, the Democratic Party showed that weak candidates with no robust agendas for people where they live, work, and raise their families, is a losing formula. And lose they did against the worst, cruelest, ignorant, lawbreaking, reality-denying GOP in its 166-year history.

"The Democrats failed to win the Senate, despite nearly having twice the number of Senators up for re-election than the Republicans. In addition, the Democratic Party lost seats in the House of Representatives. The Democrats did not flip a single Republican state legislature, leaving the GOP to again gerrymander Congressional and state legislative districts for the next decade!

"Will all this lead to serious introspection by the Democratic Party? Don’t bet on it. The GOP tried to learn from their losses in 2012, which led to their big rebound. Already, the Democratic Party is looking for scapegoats, like third party candidates."

The rest of the story:
Loaded with nearly twice as much money as the GOP, the Democrats showed that weak candidates with no robust agendas for people where they live, work, and raise their families, is a losing formula: Biden Has Ousted a Lying and Corrupt Trump—But That Doesn't Mean Democrats Had a Great Election Day by Ralph Nader (Common Dreams)

Music Break

In my Chicago days, the soulful pianist John Wright, who never broke through as a natonal star despite four or five albums on Prestige, was a club mainstay, worth a drive or a train ride anytime he played. His first record had Wendell Roberts on bass and drummer Walter McCants.

From the No Comment Desk:


Full Court Press

A letter to the editor of the London Review of Books:

Frederick Wilmot-Smith writes about prospects for the Supreme Court in the wake of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death (RBG’s Big Mistake, LRB, 8 October). The immediate worry is that the radical conservatives on the court will now decide that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and overturn Roe v. Wade. But this is only the beginning. Republicans have been packing the federal judiciary for decades with judges who can be counted on to undermine the power of government in order to advance the agenda of the Republican Party.

Congress should enact laws overriding anti-democratic decisions made by the Supreme Court and codifying the rights of the people. It could, for example, pass a National Voting Rights Act giving every citizen over the age of 18 the right to vote, requiring uniform voting procedures for every state and every election, making each federal election day a national holiday, controlling partisan gerrymandering, extending the time available to complete the 2020 census, and putting in place procedures to protect the voting process. It could also pass a National Policing Code to establish uniform policing procedures and standards throughout the US, and to guarantee every person in the country fair treatment by the police; a National Gun Control Act that would implement reasonable regulations for gun ownership and usage, and ban automatic weapons; a National Marriage Act, guaranteeing the right of two people to marry in every state; and a National Reproductive Rights Act.(Emphasis mine - JG)

All of these could be ruled unconstitutional by activist conservative justices on the grounds that Congress does not have the power to enact such laws. Many incorrectly believe that it would be necessary to amend the constitution in order to change the balance of power between Congress and the Supreme Court. Congress, however, has at its disposal many methods, expressly authorized by the constitution, that would enable it to confront the court, including restructuring the federal judiciary and limiting the types of case that may be heard by the courts. Perhaps the most important tool is the assertion of its own power to interpret the constitution, particularly under the post-Civil War 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Each of these expressly grants Congress ‘the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article’.

If the Democrats win an emphatic victory in November and then Congress takes strong action to define and enforce the rights of the people, some fear that the Republican Party will just undo or counteract those actions when they return to power. To that I say, don’t be afraid. Once rights are granted to the people, whether by the judiciary or Congress, they do not willingly give them up. Living in a democracy requires every generation to fight for its rights.

Ray Kwasnick
Boston, Massachusetts

Seven? Eight? Ten?

Who's counting?
Certainly not Aaron Sorkin.



Sidebar:
 Was Bobby Seale really bound and gagged in court? Did the anti-war activists actually dress up in police uniforms? We break down Aaron Sorkin’s new movie: What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in The Trial of the Chicago 7 by Matthew Dessem (Slate)
 Sorkin’s film plays fast and loose with characters and facts, but he got one thing right: Retrying the Chicago Seven by Todd Gitlin (American Prospect)
 The Chicago 8 Trial, Revisited by John Kendall Hawkins (CounterPunch)

 

Words of wisdom from Sen. Bernie Sanders:

In this, the most important election in the modern history of the United States, it goes without saying that during the next 17 days we have got to do everything possible to see that Donald Trump is defeated and Joe Biden is elected as our next president. Trump is the most dangerous president in the modern history of our country and we must defeat him by the largest margin possible on November 3.

But that is not enough. We must also fight hard to secure a Democratic majority in the Senate. If Republicans continue to control the Senate and Mitch McConnell remains majority leader it will be very difficult for us to do what has to be done, even if Biden is president and the Democrats remain in the majority in the House.

But accomplishing all of those things, as important as they are, is still not good enough. We must do even more.

In this unprecedented moment in American history we must make clear to the Democratic leadership and everyone else that we cannot return to the same old, same old establishment politics. We cannot continue to ignore the needs of tens of millions of working families. We cannot continue to accept a political system where billionaires buy elections and an economy which has more income and wealth inequality than at any time since the 1920s. We cannot accept a government where the very rich get much richer while a majority of Americans live in economic desperation.

We must think big, not small. Yes. In the richest country in the history of the world we can provide a decent standard of living for every man, woman and child.

Together, we must restore faith in American democracy, and the way that we do that is by fighting for a strong, progressive agenda that represents the needs of working people, and not just the billionaire class, lobbyists and wealthy campaign contributors.

Here is the simple truth:

The working class of this country is hurting like never before. As a result of the horrific coronavirus pandemic and the worst economic collapse in a century, millions of working people have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table, pay their bills, and cover their rent or mortgage payments.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented moment in American history that requires an unprecedented response. No more "business as usual." No more "same old, same old style of politics." We need a grassroots movement which forges a new vision for America and creates a government based on the principles of justice, not greed.

As we approach the most consequential election of our lifetimes, let us not lose sight of the progressive agenda we must advance together — an agenda to create a government that works for all of our people, not just the wealthy few.

Now is the time for real health care reform. It is absolutely absurd that we are the only major country on earth that ties health care to employment status. How cruel is it that in the middle of a pandemic, as tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs, they also lose their health care? We are going to take on the health insurance companies and end the international embarrassment of being the only major country not to guarantee health care for all. The time is long overdue for us to grant health care as a basic human right to every man, woman and child in this country. We need Medicare for All.

Now is the time to confront the climate emergency facing our country and the world. We do not have any time to waste in addressing the climate emergency facing our planet. According to the scientists we have only a few years to act before there will be irreparable damage. That is why we must fight for a Green New Deal if we are serious about saving our planet for our children and grandchildren. Further, by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels, we can create millions of good-paying jobs as we move toward energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Now is the time for real criminal justice reform. We must invest in jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration. We must end the disgrace of the United States having more people in jail than any other country on earth — disproportionately Black, Latino and Native American.

Now is the time to reform our police departments and end the militarization of local police forces. If a police officer is involved in a killing, he or she must be held accountable, and those found guilty must be punished with the full force of the law. Every death of a person held in police custody must be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Now is the time to take on the pharmaceutical industry and dramatically lower the prices of prescription drugs. As millions of Americans are painfully aware we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. While the pharmaceutical industry makes tens of billions a year in profits and gives their CEOs exorbitant compensation packages, one out of five Americans are unable to afford the medicine their doctors prescribe.

Now is the time for real economic reform, and an economy that works for all and not just the few. Before the pandemic began, half of American workers were living paycheck to paycheck. Now, as a result of the pandemic, that situation is even worse. When you have no job and nothing in savings, how can you pay for food, rent, health care, childcare, car payments, and other expenses? Yet, while so many working families are struggling, the billionaire class has never had it so good. In fact, just 467 billionaires had $731 billion in wealth gains during the first five months of the pandemic. That is obscene.

At a time of massive unemployment, starvation wages and enormous unmet needs, we need a federal jobs program that guarantees employment for all who are able to work. We can create millions of good-paying jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel and building the 10 million units of affordable housing that our country needs.

Now is the time to fundamentally alter our country's approach to education. We need a universal, high-quality, affordable childcare system. We need to adequately fund public education so that every school district in the country, regardless of zip code, is able to attract high-quality teachers and provide reasonably sized classes. We need to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and cancel all student debt.

In my view, the lesson that must be learned from this challenging moment in American history is that we cannot rely on unfettered capitalism to protect us. The rich, the powerful and wealthy campaign contributors are doing just fine. Too many others are being left behind, struggling hard just to survive. The question now is whether, as a nation, we will finally learn that lesson and make the bold changes we desperately need in order to become a more just society.

Sisters and brothers, let us never stop fighting for the kind of country we know we can become. Let us go forward together and defeat Donald Trump, elect the most progressive Congress in American history, and create a government and an economy that works for all of our people, not just the few.

That's our vision for the future, and that's a vision worth fighting for. Please join us.

In solidarity, Bernie Sanders

They shall not pass!

This day in 1936, 100,000 residents of East London rallied to force back Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts.

The famous Battle of Cable Street marked a decisive defeat for the fascist movement in Britain. The son of Jack Shaw — one of the first and youngest cockneys to join the International Brigades in Spain — recounted what his father saw that day:
"My father told of boarding a tram along with other Young Communist League members at Aldgate. They had been told blackshirts were on board en route to an outdoor meeting in East London. He said he and his comrades walked down the aisles, easily recognising the fascists in their black uniforms and “giving them a good hiding”. As the tram stopped outside the London Hospital the bruised and battered fascists staggered into the conveniently located casualty department.
"The Battle of Cable Street swirled around several nearby streets with the biggest mass of people at Gardiners Corner at Aldgate East. The main fighting took place between the anti-fascist protesters and the police, who were seen to be protecting the Blackshirts who could not proceed on their march. Many of the police had been brought in from other districts and had far less compunction than local policemen in brutally assaulting demonstrators. My father was arrested for throwing a brick that broke a policeman’s nose. He has always denied this as he was one to use his fists (which he certainly did) rather than throw missiles. He initially escaped arrest with the help of a couple of elderly women pulling him away, but was soon rearrested.
"Taken to Leman Street police station he witnessed scenes of police brutality away from the public gaze. Calling all who were arrested “Jew bastards” whether they were or not, young policemen with their sleeves rolled up were using fists and truncheons to beat up those arrested. The swing doors of the police station suddenly burst open and my father’s good friend Charlie Goodman appeared. His head had been used like a battering ram by the four policemen who were carrying him. My father said about the station: “There was blood everywhere.”
"My father was one of 64 who were jailed. He was sentenced to three months hard labour in Bristol prison. While on remand at Wormwood Scrubs he was seen by Sir Basil Henriques, the Jewish philanthropist who was very active in the East End. Sir Basil, a visiting magistrate, my father believed, reprimanded him for being a hooligan and said it would have been better for Jews to have stayed away. This was the overwhelming attitude of the Jewish establishment. The visit must have been on a Friday (five days after the battle) as Sir Basil apparently said: “You should be at home watching your mother light the Sabbath candles.” My father replied: “I’m on the streets so that she can continue to light the Shabbos candles.”"

Tales of Empire, Chile edition.

Charles Horman was an American journalist and documentary filmmaker who discovered evidence of U.S. involvement in the events leading up to the overthrow of the socialist government of Chilean leader Salvador Allende. On September 19, 1973, he was executed in the Estadio Nacional in Santiago de Chile by the Chilean
Charles Horman
military junta with the support and assistance of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. State Department.

Born on May 15, 1942 in New York City, Charles graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and later from Harvard University. Working as filmmaker at KING-TV in Portland, Oregon, Charles created the short documentary "Napalm," which won a Grand Prize at the Cracow Film Festival in 1967. He wrote articles as an investigative journalist for various magazines and newspapers. Charles protested against the Vietnam War at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and was honorably discharged from the Air National Guard in 1969. Charles met Joyce Marie Hamren while both were visiting Europe in 1964. They were married four years later. In December 1971, Charles and Joyce embarked on a journey that eventually led them to Chile. They settled in Santiago, where Charles undertook various projects including the production of an animated film for children in conjunction with Chilean friends. Charles also collaborated with Pueblo Films and wrote the script for a documentary film on the social and economic history of Chile. In early 1973, Charles began editing and publishing a small non-profit news magazine, Fuente de Información Norteamericana (FIN), that focused on social and political issues.

On September 17, 1973, six days after the US-backed military takeover, Charles was kidnapped by CIA agent Ray Davis and the Chilean military and taken to the Estadio Nacional, which had been turned into a make-shift concentration camp. There he was interrogated, tortured and later executed on the orders of Pedro Espinoza. A second American journalist, Frank Terrugi, was killed in the same way. One month later, Charles' body was found in a morgue in the Chilean capital. The murder of Horman and Terrugi were later dramatized in the 1982 film "Missing." -- Daniel Polivka
As I miss the bees and possums and butterflies and songbirds, so shall I miss the small planes lifting from Clover Field, their buzzing whispering to these earth-bound ears of freedom and imagination and unfettered joy.

Life After Facebook

Now we're all 'friends', there is no love but Like,
A semi-demi-goddess, something like
A reality-TV-star look-alike,
Name Simile or Me-Two. So we like
In order to be liked. It isn't like
There's Love or Hate now. Even plain 'dislike'
Is frowned on: there's no button for it -- A.E. Stallings
“The apocalypse movies never mentioned all the sitting around.”
All these women with big hats, sunglasses and masks make the Venice boardwalk look like the site of a convention of Spy vs Spy impersonators.

2020

The fat old guy claims he's a "young, vibrant man" compared to the fit old guy.

With the neolibs once again up top, the opportunities for the left are down ticket

Joe Biden might want  to tell us what he's going to do as president. From 2016 the regulars should have learned that "Not Trump" is not enough. If Biden is so electable, a big if, it won't matter what progressives do. But it is disheartening that once again the two major parties are offering a miserable choice. A lot of folks who care about issues like climate change, economic justice and endless war have serious doubts about Biden's candidacy that are not going to appeased by platitudes and generalities. My guess is that many activists will find their energies better spent on local, state and congressional races where they'll be able to find candidates more in tune with their concerns. 

Press Note:

If only the American media would approach celebrity news with the same sense of proportion and relevance as West Highland Free Press on the Isle of Skye:

The opposition needs to become fierce.

Only one political division matters, that between the 1% and the rest of us. 

2020 will witness the culmination of a political counter-revolution that began with the Barry Goldwater campaign and came to power with the administrations of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. If Bernie Sanders had won, he would have faced a corporate-dominated congress that would have resisted his every policy move. For real change to have happened, a people's movement of enormous scope and power would need to have been organized. 

Not much is changed by his loss. We still need to build people-power from the ground up. We still need to create or restore institutions that represent the majority -- labor unions, community groups, co-op businesses and services, independent parties, international alliances. 

Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go

It should be the active position of the left that, though the Democrats have dealt the country a bum deal over the last half century, progressives are going to go all out to defeat Donald Trump. But in doing so they shouldn't lie about Joe Biden and corporate Democrats. On the contrary, this is an opportunity for the Working Families Party, DSA, and anyone else organizing against the duopoly to raise consciousness, recruit new members, and fill their coffers. Trying to paint Biden as an acceptable nominee won't work; disgruntled voters will see right through it. But his election can be sold as a necessary first step on the way to a living wage, universal health care, fair taxes and economic security.

Covid

"Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it." -- Arundhati Roy

Poet and he don't know it

I never understood wind.
You know, I know
windmills very much.
I have studied it
better than anybody
else. It’s very expensive.
They are made in China
and Germany mostly.
—Very few made here, almost none,
but they are manufactured, tremendous
—if you are into this—
tremendous fumes. Gases are
spewing into the atmosphere. You know
we have a world
right?
So the world
is tiny
compared to the universe.
So tremendous, tremendous
amount of fumes and everything.
You talk about
the carbon footprintv — fumes are spewing into the air.
Right? Spewing.
Whether it’s in China,
Germany, it’s going into the air.
It’s our air their air
everything — right?
A windmill will kill many bald eagles.
After a certain number
they make you turn the windmill off.
That is true.
—By the way
they make you turn it off.
And yet, if you killed one
they put you in jail.
That is OK.
You want to see a bird graveyard?
You just go.
Take a look.
A bird graveyard.
Go under a windmill someday,
you’ll see
more birds
than you’ve ever seen
in your life.
~ D. Trump 12/21/2019

After November

Win or lose the presidency in 2020 election, the Democrats are failing as a political party. They're headed for the same encyclopedia entry as the Whigs.

Getting rid of Trump is essential, but it is only a first step. After Nov, we have to come to grips with the reality that the Democratic Party's allegiance to corporate power is unshakable. New forms of political action are necessary. New organizations have to be created to represent working people and the middle class. As much as possible, Sanders' "revolution" must be formalized. There are models for what might happen next: from the militant labor action of the sort that created the vibrant middle class, the civil rights movement and the Mobilization Against the War to the Occupy Movement, the Women's March and the children's fight for gun control

Whether Joe Biden wins or Donald Trump does, we can't return to the neoliberal governance that made Trump possible in the first place. Trump may be gone but the need for universal health care, the housing catastrophe, decaying infrastructure, failing welfare state, endless war and climate change will still be with us. On their own, corporate Democrats cannot be counted on to do anything about any of it. It's up to us.

Chomsky on Neoliberalism

"Scientists have been warning of a pandemic for years, insistently so since the SARS epidemic of 2003, also caused by a coronavirus, for which vaccines were developed but did not proceed beyond the pre-clinical level. That was the time to begin to put in place
rapid-response systems in preparation for an outbreak and to set aside spare capacity that would be needed. Initiatives could also have been undertaken to develop defenses and modes of treatment for a likely recurrence with a related virus.

"But scientific understanding is not enough. There has to be someone to pick up the ball and run with it. That option was barred by the pathology of the contemporary socioeconomic order. Market signals were clear: There’s no profit in preventing a future catastrophe. The government could have stepped in, but that’s barred by reigning doctrine: “Government is the problem,” Reagan told us with his sunny smile, meaning that decision-making has to be handed over even more fully to the business world, which is devoted to private profit and is free from influence by those who might be concerned with the common good. The years that followed injected a dose of neoliberal brutality to the unconstrained capitalist order and the twisted form of markets it constructs."

The rest of the story:
Chomsky: Ventilator Shortage Exposes the Cruelty of Neoliberal Capitalism by C.J. Polychroniou (Truthout)

The LA County Health Officer has issued two separate orders:

1) Self-quarantine of anyone exposed to an individual diagnosed with or showing symptoms of COVID-19.

2) Self-isolation of anyone diagnosed with or showing symptoms of COVID-19.

It is very, very important that you take these guidelines seriously, for the sake of your health, as well as the health of your family and community.

There are critical differences between self-quarantine and self-isolation.

Here's what the new orders mean for you:

Self-Quarantine Order
Required for anyone exposed to a person diagnosed with or showing symptoms of COVID-19.
You must stay in quarantine for 14 days.
You cannot leave your place of quarantine for all 14 days.
The only exception to leave quarantine is to receive medical care.
If you develop even mild COVID-19 symptoms, you must self-isolate.

Self-Isolation Order
Required for anyone diagnosed with or showing symptoms of COVID-19.
The self-isolation period must last at least 7 days.
Notify anyone you've had contact with while symptomatic to self-quarantine themselves.
You must continue to self-isolate for at least 72 hours after you've stopped experiencing COVID-19 symptoms without the use of fever-reducing medications.
The only exception to leave self-isolation is to receive medical care.
If you think you need to see a doctor or undergo testing, please contact your health care provider.

The County's COVID-19 website, updated regularly, has excellent resources for senior citizens, children and families, employers and employees, and much more. Please bookmark it: https://covid19.lacounty.gov/

While you're distracted...

"As much of his government battles the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump is pushing ahead with major reversals of environmental regulations, including a restriction on scientific research that some doctors worry would complicate future pandemic controls.

"Federal employees across multiple agencies said the administration was racing to complete a half-dozen significant rollbacks over the coming month. They include a measure to weaken automobile fuel efficiency standards, which one person familiar with the plans said would be issued as early as next week.

"Other efforts include loosening controls on toxic ash from coal plants, relaxing restrictions on mercury emissions and weakening the consideration of climate change in environmental reviews for most infrastructure projects."

Credit...Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The rest of the story:
Coronavirus Doesn’t Slow Trump’s Regulatory Rollbacks by Lisa Friedman (The New York Times)

PSA: Grocery Shopping Tips in COVID-19

Beltway Kabuki

"There is only one choice in this election. The consolidation of oligarchic power under Donald Trump or the consolidation of oligarchic power under Joe Biden. The oligarchs, with Trump or Biden, will win again. We will lose. The oligarchs made it abundantly clear, should Bernie Sanders miraculously become the Democratic Party nominee, they would join forces with the Republicans to crush him. Trump would, if Sanders was the nominee, instantly be shorn by the Democratic Party elites of his demons and his propensity for tyranny. Sanders would be red-baited -- as he was viciously Friday in The New York Times’ “As Bernie Sanders Pushed for Closer Ties, Soviet Union Spotted Opportunity” -- and turned into a figure of derision and ridicule. The oligarchs preach the sermon of the least-worst to us when they attempt to ram a Hillary Clinton or a Biden down our throats but ignore it for themselves. They prefer Biden over Trump, but they can live with either.

"Only one thing matters to the oligarchs. It is not democracy. It is not truth. It is not the consent of the governed. It is not income inequality. It is not the surveillance state. It is not endless war. It is not jobs. It is not the climate. It is the primacy of corporate power -- which has extinguished our democracy and left most of the working class in misery -- and the continued increase and consolidation of their wealth. It is impossible working within the system to shatter the hegemony of oligarchic power or institute meaningful reform. Change, real change, will only come by sustained acts of civil disobedience and mass mobilization, as with the yellow vests movement in France and the British-based Extinction Rebellion. The longer we are fooled by the electoral burlesque, the more disempowered we will become."

The rest of the story:
The One-Choice Election by Chris Hedges (TruthDig)

From 2014: Banksy Foresees Greta Thunberg

The magnitude of the coronavirus catastrophe
really hit home when Santa Monica announced
it had stopped writing parking tickets.

"We are only as safe as the least insured person in America." -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a speech on Friday addressing "the lessons the nation can learn" from the coronavirus outbreak, which has intensified progressive demands for Medicare for All, paid sick leave, and other policies that would provide health and economic security for all.

Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, noted that America's for-profit healthcare system has left tens of millions of people in the U.S. uninsured or underinsured in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the need for a system that covers everyone as a right.

"If this isn't a red flag for the current dysfunctional and wasteful healthcare system, frankly I don't know what is," Sanders said of COVID-19. "We are only as safe as the least insured person in America."

"This crisis should be a moment in which people ask fundamental questions about the dysfunctionality of our current healthcare system," the Vermont senator added.

In addition to demanding a Medicare for All, single-payer healthcare system, Sanders called for the immediate expansion of unemployment benefits and paid sick leave to help workers and others affected by the coronavirus.

The government's response should "pay attention to the most vulnerable people in this country," Sanders said, not just the wealthy and large corporations.

Watch Sanders' full speech:
 

Read the rushed transcript of Sanders' remarks below:

Good afternoon everyone, thank you for being here. In the midst of a major healthcare and economic crisis currently facing our country, I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about the lessons we can learn long-term about what we are experiencing today.

As I discussed yesterday, our country is facing, as everybody knows, a medical and economic crisis, the likes of which we have not seen for generations. And we must prepare for this response in an unprecedented way, making certain that our government responds effectively, and protects the interests of all our people regardless of their income, or where they live. In other words, this is not just about giving tax breaks to large corporations, but about remembering the people today who don’t have much money, who are nervous about their economic futures and healthcare prospects.

Needless to say we must massively increase the availability of test kits for the coronavirus and the speed at which the tests are processed. We need to anticipate significant increases in hospital admissions, which means that we will need more ICU units and ventilators, we will need more doctors, nurses, and medical personnel of all kinds - and we must make sure that these frontline personnel are well protected from the diseases they are treating. I have talked to nurses recently who worry very much about whether they are getting the kind of knowledge and equipment they need so that they do not get sick.

We need to significantly improve our communications and collaboration with other countries to ensure that we are learning everything that we can about the successes and failures of other countries as they deal with this crisis. And furthermore, we must be honest with the American people and communicate as effectively and directly as we can with all of the scientific information that we can provide.

Further, and most importantly, our response to this entire crisis must be guided by the decisions of doctors, scientists, and researchers, not politicians.

But as we struggle with this crisis, it is also important that we learn the lessons of how we got to where we are today, and what we must do in the future so that we are better prepared for similar crises that may come.

Poll after poll already shows us that the American people understand that we must do what every other major country on earth does, and that is to guarantee healthcare to all of our people as a human right, not a privilege. As we begin to see the failures and vulnerabilities of the current healthcare system, my guess is that those numbers and the demand for universal healthcare will only go up.

The American people are asking: how is it possible that we spend twice as much per capita as the people of Canada and other major countries, while 87 million of us are uninsured or underinsured.

And obviously, in this crisis, and unbelievably, it means that people who are sick today, people who woke up this morning with symptoms of the coronavirus, are saying, “you know I feel sick but I cannot afford to go to a doctor.” And when somebody is not treated for the virus – somebody who is unable to afford to go to that doctor – that means that that infection can spread to many others, putting us at risk.

So it’s not just a question that in normal times – tragically, unbelievably – that we lose 30,000 people a year because they don't get to doctor on time, but now the lack of healthcare threatens other people as well.

How could it be, that when we spend so much more than what other countries are spending, we have millions of people who may be dealing with the virus but they cannot go to the doctor because they can’t afford it? That is a question that must resonate in every American’s mind.

If this isn’t a red flag for the current dysfunctional and wasteful healthcare system, frankly I don’t know what is.

For the benefit of all of us, we must make sure that every person in this country who needs to seek medical treatment can go to a doctor free of charge regardless of their income. That is obviously what we must do now in the middle of a crisis, but it is what we must do as a nation in the near future.

Here are just a few instances about how absurd and dysfunctional our current healthcare system is.

It has been estimated that a full battery of tests for the coronavirus costs over $1,300. First of all, take a look at that – $1,300 to get the test people need to have to know if they have the virus or not.

In America today, 40% of our people don’t have $400 in the bank to pay for an emergency expense.

We have half of our people living paycheck to paycheck.

If their car breaks down they can't afford to get it fixed, and if somebody tells them it costs $1,300 for the test to determine whether you have the coronavirus if they’re sick, what are they supposed to do? What happens to them?

How can someone without insurance afford to pay $1,331 to get tested when they don’t even have $400 in the bank? What are they supposed to do? What happens to them? Do they go to a payday lender where the average interest rate is over 390%? Do they borrow money from their family? Or do they go without the test? Which every doctor in the world will tell them is a test they should have.

And while the Trump administration says it may cover co-pays to cover the cost of testing for those who have insurance, they will not cover the cost of treatment - which could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

How cruel is that? How absurd is that? To say to people, “we’re sorry you have coronavirus, we covered the cost of the test, but now you’re on your own and it’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars to get treated.” That is totally absurd.

Clearly what we need to do is to make sure that if someone has the coronavirus that person gets the treatment that they need.

In other words, our current system leaves people uninsured, but even if you have insurance you may not even have the ability to travel to a doctor near you.

Because now we’re talking about a system in which many rural hospitals have closed down and they cannot find a doctor in their communities.

The reality today, and this is an issue we must to deal with, is that we don’t have enough doctors, we don’t have enough hospitals, and we don't have enough clinics in rural communities and inner cities.

Further, we are in a situation when we desperately need affordable prescription drugs, yet we have a pharmaceutical industry that continues to make billions in profits by charging outrageous prices for prescription drugs, sometimes 10x more in this country than in other countries.

In my view, the most cost effective way to reform our dysfunctional and cruel system is to move to a Medicare for All, single-payer healthcare system.

And I think in the midst of this crisis, more and more Americans understand the truth of that.

It is nearly impossible to believe that anyone can still think it’s acceptable to continue with a healthcare system that leaves tens of millions of people uninsured. The cruelty and absurdity of that view is more obvious in the midst of this crisis than it has ever been.

And let’s be clear. Lack of healthcare and affordable medicine does not only threaten the healthcare and well-being of the uninsured. It threatens everyone who comes in contact with them.

In fact, what this crisis is beginning to teach us is that we are only as safe as the least insured person in America.

Further, we are the only major country on earth that does not mandate paid family and medical leave. And we’re seeing how that crisis is impacting where we are today.

As we speak, there are millions of workers -- right now -- who are being told to go to work, yet they may be ill and should be staying home.

But these very same families will face financial ruin if they don’t go to work. These are workers in the restaurant industry, transportation industry, tourism, retail -- in other words the people who interact with the public every single day.

Right now, at a time when half of our people live paycheck to paycheck, and at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we must directly address the economic desperation facing a huge number of Americans.

So we must finally pass a paid family leave program in the United States to keep this virus from spreading and to keep Americans healthy.

We must do it right now.

People should not be going to work when they are sick, it is unfair to them, it is unfair to the people they are in contact with. And yet, that reality exists, because we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family leave and sick time.

Finally, from a national security perspective, it is incomprehensible that we are dependent on China and other countries for masks, for prescription drugs, for rubber gloves, and for key parts needed to make advanced medical equipment like ventilators.

As a result of globalization and our disastrous trade policies, we have been outsourcing millions of jobs and factories overseas that have gutted our economy. Now we are seeing another tragic and devastating result of those policies, as we find ourselves dependent on other countries to provide the most essential things we need to combat a pandemic and protect the lives of the people in our country.

Now trade is a good thing, but it has to be based on common sense principles. It has to be based on protecting American workers and protecting our national security, making sure we are producing what we need in this country in the event of a national crisis.

Now is the time to begin bringing back production and manufacturing to the United States and enact fair trade policies so that we are never in this position again.

Now here is the bottom line. As we are dealing with this crisis, we need to listen to the scientists, to the researchers, and to the medical professionals, not politicians.

We need to move quickly to prepare for the exponential increase of cases we will be seeing here in our country.

But as we do that, we must begin thinking about how, as a society, we can create a healthcare and economic system that is humane, that is compassionate, and that works for all people, not just the wealthiest.

Now that is an issue that people have had to think about for a long time, but I think in this moment of crisis more and more people understand that we need fundamental changes to our economy, and we need fundamental changes to our healthcare system.


Published on Friday, March 13, 2020, by Common Dreams. Sanders Says Coronavirus 'A Red Flag for Current Dysfunctional and Wasteful Healthcare System' by Jake Johnson, staff writer (Common Dreams)
 
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