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.