This is but a taste of the nonsense you can expect to endure over the coming 16.5 months as the nation hurtles toward an electoral reckoning with the Trumpian monstrosity that was unleashed in 2016.
Of course, Republicans will spray this cheese into the wind at every opportunity, partially because the deliberately inaccurate vision of “socialism” they’re peddling will cost their wealthy benefactors a miniscule percentage of their fortunes, and partially because they still envy how much red-baiting TV time Sen. Joe McCarthy got back in the day.
Nowhere will this fraudulent bugaboo version of “socialism” be deployed more often than in the ongoing debate over reforming health care. The so-called “radical” Medicare for All plan championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders during and after his 2016 presidential campaign has become the go-to health care reform idea for most of the 2020 Democratic contenders, including several candidates at the front of the pack.
This has a number of individuals, specifically those who profit wildly from the current expensive mayhem system, breaking out in full-blown chicken-skin. Luckily for them but not so much for us, they have large media megaphones through which they can make their discontent heard.
“The for-profit health industry is aware that support for a national health system like Medicare for All has risen in recent years,” writes Michael Corcoran for Truthout, “along with unprecedented grassroots energy. Moreover, health care costs rank as the biggest concern among Americans. Resistance is almost entirely driven by the for-profit health industry, which works to portray the illusion of widespread opposition to — and fear of — a national health system. Corporate media outlets have helped them tremendously along the way.”
The pushback against Medicare for All is not solely relegated to the Republicans, the for-profit health care industry, and their allies in the media. According to reports, a top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave private assurances to a clutch of insurance executives back in February that Medicare for All is doomed under her stewardship, despite the fact that it is supported by a huge majority of Democratic voters and more than half of Republican voters. Millennials love it to pieces, and could turn out in droves if they get a chance to vote for it in the general election.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the if-you-believe-the-polls frontrunner for the nomination and the clear establishment candidate, is dipping his toes very lightly into Medicare for All while attacking progressives for even considering the idea. Biden’s $750 billion health care plan is essentially Obamacare 2.0 and includes the “public option” that was memorably discarded when the Affordable Care Act was first assembled.
“I think one of the most significant things we’ve done in our administration is pass the Affordable Care Act,” said Biden at a recent event in New Hampshire. “I don’t know why we’d get rid of what in fact was working and move to something totally new.”
Senator Sanders, who has not retreated one inch from his 2016 health care proposals, is having none of it. “We cannot continue to tinker around the edges while 80 million Americans lack health insurance or are underinsured with high premiums, copays and deductibles,” he said in response to Biden’s criticisms.
“We believe that health care is a human right,” said Sanders in Philadelphia on Monday, “and we are going to fight for a system that is based on human needs, not corporate profits.”
Beyond his competitors for the nomination who subscribe to various versions of his Medicare for All plan, Sanders also enjoys a number of high-profile allies in Congress. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley are all fierce advocates for the policy. Trump’s recent eruption of tactical racism has elevated the profile of “The Squad” even further, enhancing their ability to argue the position to a wider audience.
Never forget: Sanders got rousing cheers from a Fox News town hall audience in April when he explained his Medicare for All proposal to them. Support for this policy knows no partisan boundaries when it is laid out to voters directly, without passing it through the media filter of the for-profit health care industry. Speaker Pelosi and former Vice President Biden can’t, or won’t, accept this fact on its face, but it is fact nonetheless.
Which brings us back to the money needed to pay for these ideas, and to our grossly misplaced national priorities. The version of “socialism” Sanders and the others are offering is New Deal economics for the 21st century: Public money used for the greater public good. Period, end of file.
“Socialism” functions as a slur for those who miss the politics of the Cold War, but for others, it is bedrock common sense: This form of socialism is already practiced widely in the U.S. even as it is thoroughly taken for granted.
It is stop signs at intersections, clean water, highways, college scholarships, public schools, libraries, plowed streets, the Hoover Dam, firefighters, a thousand other things everyone uses to their benefit every day, and yes, socialism is also a publicly funded health care system that does not ruin the many for the profit of the few.
As for the money, well, that’s where those grossly misplaced national priorities come in.
The defense contractor Northrop Grumman, at the behest of the U.S. Air Force, has begun assembling the next generation of stealth weapons technology, the B-21 bomber. No one outside Northrup Grumman has seen the thing yet, but available reports suggest the bomber will be capable of carrying more ordnance — including a variety of nuclear-armed weapons — farther than any prior flying war platform ever has before.
“The Air Force has big plans for the B-21,” writes Kyle Mizokami for Jalopnik, “planning to purchase 100 bombers to replace the B-2 Spirit and B-1B Lancer, at a cost of $656 million each in 2019 dollars. The service has hinted it would like up to 75 more, and one think tank, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, suggested the service buy as many as 288 bombers.”
Math time: $656 million x 100 planes = $65.6 billion. $656 million x 175 planes = $114.8 billion. $656 million x 288 planes = $188.9 billion.
Estimated cost for the famously fragile F-35 Joint Strike fighter program: $1.5 trillion and rising.
Estimated cost of the so-called “war on terror”: $6 trillion and rising.
I am sensing a pattern here.
The price of a single B-21 bomber could fully fund Meals on Wheels for more than 65 years. The cost of the F-35 Joint Strike fighter program could fund the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program for more than 22 years. The cost of the “war on terror” could fund the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for more than 345 years.
According to the House Medicare for All caucus, that program will cost somewhere between $28-32 trillion over 10 years. That comes out to about $3 trillion per year, which means the “war on terror” budget alone could have covered the first two years. Add more than six months to that with the F-35 and B-21 funding, and we’re just getting started.
The Pentagon has requested $718 billion for its fiscal 2020 budget, an increase of $33 billion from 2019. The total annual cost of the CIA, NSA and the national security state is estimated to be around $1.25 trillion. Fossil fuel subsidies amount to around $649 billion per year. The list goes on, and on.
And that’s not counting all the “lost” Pentagon money we’re not supposed to know about. We know, and we would like it back.
There is a vast amount of money to be found in the hidden corners of the federal budget, and the rest can be acquired by taxing the wealthy and corporations. To say we can’t afford Medicare for All, simply put, is to lie.
The Air Force wants to call the B-21 “The Raider” as an homage to Doolittle’s Raiders, who launched an audacious bombing attack against Japan shortly after Pearl Harbor. Me? I think they should call it “The Vitamin,” especially in all their advertisements, because the copy writes itself: “B-21, a healthy cash supplement for Northrup Grumman.”
Call it socialism for the warmakers, and I am heartily tired of it. We can all afford to be healthy if we redirect those misplaced priorities away from killing people with expensive machines, and toward a system that is actually about keeping people alive and well.
Making a buck off the backs of the sick, the injured and the elderly is an idea whose time has come and gone. Ending that ruthless practice is part of the dreaded “socialism” Sanders and the others are talking about. Tell a friend.
This article has been updated.