Face Masks for All

Bernie Sanders is displaying his savvy political instincts and moving the United States in a good direction.

His proposal “Face Masks for All” giving everybody 3 reusable masks- is a masterstroke. The Government buys them, the post office delivers them. The nation gets the message use these without the hostility and law enforcement threats.

Trump’s learning disabilities cripple his understanding the policies that to stop the virus: shutting down the economy creates social distance therefore subsidies should replace the lost income. In that manner the hardships of social distancing become tolerable. A feisty spirit that we are all in this together becomes possible.

Trump foolishly lent the prestige of his office to dividing the nation over the use of face masks. Stifling the outrage that says wearing a face mask is a necessary project.

A sequence of events around the Roger Stone pardon have a surprisingly positive ring. Stone appeared in public with a chic black face mask reading “Free Roger Stone.” Softly, but clearly this archdeacon in the political operators church reminded conservatives that face masks are no socialist plot.

Of equal importance, the black mask was vaguely menacing satisfying Trump’s fear of empathy. You could wear it and be virile.

 Shortly after that Trump wore a face mask in public. Anybody who thought Trump was becoming rational were quickly disabused when he suggested postponing the election adding to the evidence that his favorite government is dictatorship with him in charge.

Now Bernie is urging Congress to say please wear the masks and we will help you do it. Even with a vaccine next year, it will still be 2022 before masks become optional. Creating a consensus around this habit is desirable.

That process is now underway and hopefully will be part of the final deal for the new subsidy package.

A mask is no more a restriction on liberty than insisting persons cover their genital in public or people wear seat belts. It is an opportunity for showing off just like any other clothing which was exactly Roger Stone’s point.

Bernie’s proposal is a chance for our political system to make lemonade. We need examples like this because the vaccine will create tensions with the anti-vaxxers. Fashioning an agreement will be difficult finding a way out of the face mask dilemma would be a good precedent.

With his Masks for All proposal Bernie is showing how medicine with no out of pocket expenses can make governing easier and popular.

Democrats Should Adopt Bernie’s Menu

Senator Bernie Sanders set the table, and it is up to the Democrats to taste the feast.

Bernie dreams of a generous future festooned with goodies: pre-paid medical care financed by taxes; tuition-free public colleges and with it lower college tuitions from competing private universities. Dramatic increases in the minimum wage to $15 as opposed to the small bumps Democrats currently back.

The difference is political: a bump to $15 demonstrates the benefit of voting Democratic, small bumps are anonymous, make minor differences in people’s lives and get attributed to “government” not the party. The big bump invites voters to join the Democrats and that is Bernie’s style.

Dining with Bernie includes workers’ benefits required by law.  Sick pay is mandatory and staying home to care for a sick child comes with a pay. It could be part of a Democratic legislative program giving all workers the benefits that strong unions provide workers. This is a norm in Europe.

Bernie’s elderly guests would get higher social security payments. This benefit could start a national program of income security that means workers don’t have to accept harsh working conditions. They can tell their boss treat us right or we will walk. Current neo-liberal policies are designed to accomplish the opposite forcing people to work to avoid starvation and homelessness.

Creating a grim future discourages political participation but fosters anger. This anger often feeds Republican hostility to immigrants and other groups. Bernie loves anger if it unites “working families.”

The big meal in Bernie’s feast is a rosy future. Climate change makes a sustainable economy highly desirable. It’s a sharp contrast with Republicans funding an army to fight space wars. Democrats would hire workers to build green housing, and work on public works protecting communities from flooding. The Senator’s path to full employment has government-funded jobs building resilient communities. It’s an exciting positive future. It would be foolish for Democrats to ignore the political power of campaigning for an environmentally friendly path to economic growth.

Bernie pulled out of the Presidential sweep stakes after doing a last favor for the Democratic Party. The Wisconsin election was also a general election. For example, a conservative State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly was being challenged by Democrat Jill Karofsky. A constitutional amendment seeking to increase the influence of crime victims is supported by Republicans and vigorously opposed by the Civil Liberties Union.

By staying in the race, Bernie insured that Democrats would show up even if only by absentee ballots.

The Democrats must avoid a trap. They are mindlessly rejecting Bernie’s idea in phobic reaction. They should be incorporating them into their presentations and transforming them. They represent a plausible and generous future.

The most dangerous trap is mindlessly rejecting Medicare for all. The news that ten to twenty million workers are unemployed because of covid-19 shattered the case for the Affordable Care Act. Private insurance terminates when a worker loses a job. Even if the insurance continues the co-payments can wreak havoc with a family income. It is no way to win friends or votes.

The notion that hospitals should stay within a budget goes out the window when the world-wide demand drives up the prices of everything. A Georgia hospital network found a supplier in Mexico charging $7 each for N95 facemasks, which usually cost 58 cents a piece.

The present system has each hospital and the Feds competing for supplies. A competition that drives up prices. A national health system minimizes such problems.

Democrats again have an opportunity to offer voters health insurance with no out of pocket expenses. They should relish this prospect, but most of them ran away fearing they will be punished for tax increases rather than praised for making healthcare a right.

There is no reason to damn Bernie’s proposals as unrealistic. The health care system needs to take control of its costs and mustn’t be at the mercy of its suppliers. Democrats can prosper if they eat at Bernie’s table.


Proclaiming Victory

Proclaiming victory. The left should shout with pride-it’s a Bernie Sanders victory! His two candidacies arrived at an historic moment and given us the rebirth of a left-wing political force, well-financed, with the capacity to stay in the race and learn from its mistakes.

The result is awesome- the left has a future. After two presidential campaigns-an in-your-face unapologetic socialist movement had the support of about 3 in 10 of the people who voted in the Democratic primaries. This is the rebirth of the left as a significant political force. It’s an historic moment.

Even after victories, Joe Biden is looking over his shoulder to see if the pandemic will tip matters in Bernie’s direction. The left is a power in U.S. politics, it should savor its progress and pursue its campaign to make capitalism fair and just with renewed vigor.

The Corona Virus has made Medicare for all a national necessity. A first step is the $150 billion in the economic stimulus to help hospitals treat the surge in patients.

An obvious sign that this is historic moment is the abrupt return of the bi-partisan Congress. Remarkably the United States Senate is in a can-do mood. This Republican body where votes often divided on party line have unanimously passed the biggest economic aid package in history. The virus and public health warnings have united the warring political parties—historic.

Moreover the aid package includes key Democratic demands like increasing the miserly unemployment benefits, and money for income-tax filers. Passing in record speed again with Republican support.  Even Trump joined in.

Of course, Bernie has little to do with these changes. Events caused this new cooperation. But Republicans and Democrats adopted policies that are compatible with Bernie’s ideas. It’s a testimony to the validity of his ideas, just as the failure of his campaign to win the nomination is a reason to revise the left’s program.

Anticipating that unemployment applications would go through the roof, the Senate’s $2 trillion package boosted unemployment insurance payment by $600. This is a radical move. The national average unemployment benefit check reports the Washington Post is currently $385 a week, which is “less than half the typical weekly paycheck in the United States.” Supplementing this money, most income tax filers will be eligible for one-time payments of between $1200 to $2400 and $500 per child. This is compatible with a guaranteed income, the socialist alternative to welfare payments for those belittled as needy.

Bernie insisted his plans weren’t radical. It turns out he is right. Confronting a public health imposed recession, Republicans and Democrats responded by helping the wage earner. Sander’s values and politics are majoritarian.

The package started at one trillion and but to become law it reached $2T, the path to unanimity required spend, spend, and spend more. Traditionally Republicans have criticized this policy but practiced it, the Democrats usually opted for a balanced budget. Bernie was identified with those who thought government spending would increase wages and economic growth. When push came to shove everybody accepted this policy.

The day after Senate passage came the news that the United States had entered a new era-3.3 million wage earners had filed for unemployment insurance. It dwarfed a 38-year-old record from 1982 when 665,000 applied in one week. This number is a mere fraction of 3.3 million, another sign that we are in a historic era. In the space of three weeks the United States has gone from full employment at 3.5% to projections of 5% or more.

A sudden government imposed economic downturn is a new historic reality. Only time will tell if it brings an authoritarian or democratic result. One thing is certain the left will fight for a democratic result.

Bernie’s plea for Medicare for all met a vicious counterattack from Democrats. The stand patters claimed it would harm those with gold plated health insurance exploiting divisions within the Democratic Party. The attackers called themselves pragmatists and take pride in their political realism refused to recognize that this line of attack weakened the Democratic Party. These supposed realists created conflict when harmony is a wiser course.  Bernie’s policies often strengthen the party by uniting the prosperous and those struggling to make ends meet. This is an opportunity the pragmatists rejected. They asserted, it would never work, it would never pass. In a few short weeks, this political realism evaporated.

Bernie would bring those who have seen their living conditions stagnate back into the Democratic Party. This 2 trillion-dollar package creates such an opportunity for Democrats. Bernie would be wise to point this out and try to persuade the pragmatist to try idealism. Leadership from the left is possible.

The Corona Virus has shown that Bernie is right, big activist government is in the national interest and in the Democrat’s best interest. The left shouldn’t be shy about pointing out the political realism of their policies.

Normally, politicians believe the candidate who articulates an optimistic view of the future wins.

The Democratic Party has yet to take advantage of the left’s view that global warming represents a unique opportunity to move the United States into a prosperous future.  The pragmatist should embrace the policy of rebuilding the American economy so that is environmentally friendly. This is the path to economic prosperity, higher wages, and shorter work week giving Americans more hours of leisure.  This is the socialist nirvana that the Left can urge on the Democratic Party.

The left will have an opportunity when it comes time to restore the U.S. economy to press its objective. Party leaders would do well to see the essential realism in left-wing demands.

Bernie has started the ball rolling. Events have demonstrated that the Federal Government not private enterprise is the safety net.  Bernie offers an alternative.  It is more than a safety net, it should be the engine of prosperity and may be just maybe after we will restore prosperity and bring climate change under control.




Warren Demonstrating She is the Leading Candidate to Replace Trump

A Senator, whose reelection campaign is eclipsed by speculation about her running to replace Donald Trump breeds a certain impatience, a smart alec scoffing “what makes her so special.”

One way to meet this challenge is with oration, a deft presentation of ideas. This is what Elizabeth Warren did with a rousing speech to the democratic wing of the Democratic Party at the Netroots Convention. These activists support candidates who reject corporate money and are fed up with neo-liberalism and its failure to energize much less offer substantive benefits to the 99%.

Her remarks in New Orleans weren’t off the cuff, the speech was prepared — an optimistic program for uniting the left with their uneasy compatriots in the center.

Her compelling argument for unity spells out left wing principles but with a presentation that commands the respect from more traditional Democrats. In this reading, she addresses how she would govern. It’s only a sketch but it displays a clarity that hold out the promise that would make her a leader of Congress and the nation

The Senator has close ties to these political geeks, she reminded her audience that Netroots pressed Congress to pass the Consumer Financial Protection Board, her brainchild as a Professor at Harvard Law School.  The scholarly article captured the popular imagination with this persuasive argument — consumer protection agencies safeguard children from dangerous toys or make cars safer for adults and children, but no agency protected the public from dangerous financial agreements.

The CFPB wasn’t created “just because a professor had a good idea.” Warren called it “an uphill fight. Wall Street spent more than $1 million a day lobbying against this agency.  They called in every favor, pulled every string, hired every lobbyist they could find, trying to stop us.”

“But we beat ‘em.”

“We built a broad coalition of people” and that is the grand object of her speech, creating a “broad coalition” that will turn the November midterm election into a blue wave putting Democrats back in power.

But her unity isn’t of “can’t-we-all-get-along” variety. In this era of Trump, she calls it a “fight.” The “question, hanging over people’s heads, determining their fate: Who does government work for?

“The powerful corporations – the banks, the credit card companies – that had ruined these families’ lives just to make a few extra bucks?  They were getting away with it because those who ran the government weren’t willing to stand up for working people.”

She promises that behind closed doors she will fight for the many not the few. A promise she kept with a new bill that requires America’s billion-dollar corporations to put employees on their board of director.

Her respect for the left and her opposition to corporate greed makes her different from Democrats who plead for unity and while asking the left to tone it down and be “realistic.”

Her message is the opposite, the people united can emerge victorious and wrest control from the rich and powerful.

Like Abraham Lincoln, who described his childhood as “the short and simple annals of the poor,” Warren has distilled her upbringing into the pithy phrase, “I grew up in Oklahoma on the ragged edge of the middle class.” Saving nickels, her family made the down payment on a home, and then her father’s heart attack left him too frail to earn a good wage in a strenuous job. The bills piled up, fear cast a pall over the family, foreclosure loomed, her mom at 50 went to work for a minimum wage.

The pain and tension of life on the “ragged edge” remains seared in Warren’s memory. One morning, she went into her parent’s bedroom, and “my mother had out her best black dress.  You know the dress. It’s the one that only came out for weddings, graduations, and funerals.  She was crying.  She kept saying: ‘We will not lose this house.  We will not lose this house.’ She was fifty years old.  She’d never had a regular job.”

One obstacle facing the Senator is uncertain black support. It is my opinion that Elizabeth Warren can go to any black church or meeting and tell this story and walk out having establish a bond with her audience. She evokes the fear, recognizes the courage it takes to overcome the helpless feeling as bills pile up faster than the paycheck. These are experiences that unite the races, experience common to millions of Americans.

She also joins hands with Black America and repeatedly damns “racist law enforcement” and its spawn the war on drugs. She ties her support for legal pot to larger changes in the criminal justice system.

From her life story Warren’s point of view shifts, “For a long time, I thought this was a story about my mother.  About her courage, and her grit.” But “I came to understand that story…is also a story about government. When I was a little girl, minimum wage was enough to cover the basics for a family of three.”

Warren brings the message home, it’s the left-wing version of Make America Great Again. “When I was a little girl, minimum wage was enough to cover the basics for a family of three.  Today, a full-time minimum wage doesn’t pay the rent on the median two-bedroom apartment in any state in America.” The job that “saved my family fifty years ago wouldn’t even keep a mama and her baby out of poverty today.”

It wasn’t that long ago the government, “the guys in Washington set the minimum wage based on what it would take to support a family.” Today “Republicans who run the show make decisions like that based on what would maximize the profits of the big corporation.”

Unlike Bernie her fellow lefty Presidential contender, she isn’t locking in a number–$15— as salvation, but a principal, a welfare state principal: a just society supports a family. There are many ways to get there—low rent housing, higher minimum wage, healthcare with no co-pays or insurance premium—financed with higher taxes but government must have a realistic plan for insuring that people earn enough to pay their basic bills. Bernie of course support these policies, but he focuses on grievances and anger.

Warren emphasizes policy and applaudes the courage to fight the influence exerted by the rich and powerful. By highlighting the goal of establishing a minimum income that supports a family she is giving Congress and bureaucrats a clear goal that voters can rally behind.  This is the mark of an effective executive.

Warren and Sanders will muster the moral force of the government on behalf of housing, feeding and dressing families. Bernie’s urge is to mobilize public opinion and bring about a revolution. He reflects the sound judgment that when the top 1% have as much wealth as the bottom 90% there is surplus wealth that should be taxed. This approach has the advantage of turning higher taxes into a social justice issue.

What feeds his revolution is focusing on how unfair it is that so few should have so much. Sanders appeals to people’s anger with the wealthy, Warren appeals to people’s courage urging them to fight back. And like Bernie, she reminds everybody if the electorate unites, “the high and the mighty” can be “beat.”

Warren is more artful and turns conservative arguments on their head. The Supreme Courts Citizen’s United decision held corporation are persons with rights including making campaign contributions, Warren adds theyh also have obligations. Her latest project is a bill requiring giant corporation be federally chartered to honor their obligations as citizens to employees, the environment, and social well-being.  This is an argument for the Accountable Capitalism Act. In an email blast, she reminds us this approach won’t cost the taxpayer a penny but it would give workers 40% of the seats on the Board of Directors of America’s largest corporations.

Bernie has a greater propensity to offend moderate Democrats who often turn to the rich for campaign contributions. What Warren understands and Sanders glosses over, no progress can be made unless both wings of the Democratic Party remain united.

It is here that Warren displays a knack that resembles Lincoln’s great accomplishment, he kept the Republican Party united by identifying a legal argument against slavery. The Federal Government had no authority to end bondage in the states, but its legal reach did extend to the West where no state governments had been created. This argument against slavery expansion kept the pro-Southern Republicans from New York City and the abolitionist working together and enabled the newly created Republican Party to take the White House

Creating a viable coalition is a critical task for any President and the Netroots speech demonstrated Warren’s appeal to the left wing of the Democratic Party even as she was making an appeal to moderate Democrats to stay loyal to the Party.

How is it that the few can command the many, she demanded? “What is it about our politics that prevents our government from working for working people?  How come the majority never gets to rule in Washington anymore?”

There is the power of money “because of Citizens United and the revolving door between industry and government, money doesn’t just talk in Washington.  Money shouts, money screams, money commands.  And a lot of politicians – on both sides of the aisle – follow the money.”  Let’s pause and focus what makes Warren different from other Democratic candidates: “politicians – on both sides of the aisle – follow the money.” She isn’t a Democrat who blames the Republicans for everything, and she implies that she would damn Democrats opposing her policies as unprincipled hirelings of the rich.

Another reason the wealthy impoverish working families, “Republicans have conspired to rig the rules of democracy itself – using everything from partisan gerrymandering to voter suppression to the census.  Thanks to their years of work, the system is badly tilted. The majority is cut out of government because Republicans create election districts only they can win.”

Democrats will “have to fight uphill the whole way.  But we are not without power.  We are not without hope.  And we are certainly not without motivation.”

The most immediate solution and the one that is cured by elections is getting working people united. “The rich and powerful learned that the best way to stop us from changing the system is to set working people against each other. So they’ve become experts at the politics of division.  Frankly, it might be the one thing Donald Trump is good at – well, that and kissing up to two-bit dictators.”

The politics of division, “Trump’s story” like the left’s maintains “working families keep getting the short end of the stick” but they never accept responsibility for “the decisions he and his pals are making every day in Washington. No, the problem is other working people.  People who are black or brown.  People who were born somewhere else.  People who don’t worship the same, dress the same, talk the same as Trump and his buddies.”

“They want us pointing fingers at each other, so we won’t notice their hand in our pockets!”

Warren is taking an early lead in the Presidential race because she has better ideas than the other candidates and promises to use the ideas to mobilize Congress and the voters.