Today the 600,000+ people in the U.S. who died from COVID won’t be marching for Medicare for All.
Neither will many Democrats in Congress who campaigned on the most popular form of universal health care, a basic human right that people in the U.S. lack.
My own congressperson Jared Golden co-sponsored M4A legislation last time around. Then he ran for re-election and took campaign contributions from big tech firms looking to expand into the for-profit health care sector. Guess who doesn’t support M4A anymore? His rationale: he’s heard from constituents that they want to keep their employer-sponsored healthcare. Really? Then why do Mainers call it the Unaffordable Care Act?
Once you’ve been sick with your ACA mandated insurance you understand that Obama’s deal with the insurance industry to guarantee their profits had nothing to do with providing you with a reasonable standard of care.
The so-called squad of progressive Democrats came under fire this year from lefty organizers who wanted them to withhold their vote to re-elect Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi until she agreed to put M4A to a vote. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, formerly the darling of people who yearn to believe the Democratic Party serves people rather than corporations, has fallen from grace over the “Force the Vote” issue. Progressive types see her coddling Pelosi, whose wealth has grown by hundreds of millions in office, and whose husband just raked in $5 million in profits buying tech stocks Congress was about to regulate.
14.6 million people lost their health insurance during the pandemic. Pelosi’s response: continue enjoying the gold standard health care she has as a member of Congress while showing off her two refrigerators full of gelato. Together she and her husband have grown obscenely wealthy as she represented the interests of corporations rather than the people, and no one in the squad cares to oppose her. (Note: that’s why electing women doesn’t solve anything.)
Republicans are just as bad, but they’re more honest about it.
It’s clear that health care is a top priority for many voters. Inadequate insurance plus major illness is a leading cause of household bankruptcy and home foreclosures. Many of my friends are affluent enough in retirement to live in Mexico part of the year and receive their health care at affordable prices. Many of my friends are low income enough to be on MaineCare, a medicaid expansion program that applies to any children and some adults in my state. Many of my friends can only afford catastrophic health insurance because the premiums for comprehensive coverage are too high for the middle class to handle.
That’s why Democrats continue to run on promising to support M4A.
A slew of so-called progressive Democrats claimed they supported it while campaiging, and then backpedaled as soon as they were in office.
I’m involved with both Maine’s campaign to pressure Jared Golden to support M4A as well as the campaign to mandate that the legislature enact universal health care by a ballot initiative in 2022. And I support today’s rally in Portland which will hear from Jess Falero, an advocate for the unhoused who will eloquently share just how much it sucks to be without housing AND health care.
But here’s the reality as I see it: two things need to happen before the U.S. can achieve univeral coverage via M4A.
First, the Pentagon would have to be defunded to afford it.
The reason we have warfare but not healthcare is that both are enormously expensive and members of Congress would rather keep their bread buttered than help their neighbors who are struggling. (Just yesterday the Senate voted to increase Biden’s $715 billion Pentagon budget by another $25 billion to keep the weapons industry lobbyists happy.)
Second, the workers of this nation will need to stage a general strike.
As we saw from the pandemic, their labor is essential to turning the profits demanded by capitalists. Only withholding that labor would exert enough pressure on our elected officials to bend to the will of the people.
Here’s hoping that today’s marches display the desperation people feel around health care in this country, and bring together organizers who can make it happen, without being coopted by the Democratic Party.