The Single-Payer Party? Democrats Shift Left on Health Care

Allison Miller checking a patient’s blood pressure during free health screenings in Los Angeles in 2012. On Thursday, California’s State Senate approved a preliminary plan for enacting single-payer health care.
David McNew / Getty Images

By ALEXANDER BURNS and JENNIFER MEDINA
New York Times

June 3, 2017 – For years, Republicans savaged Democrats for supporting the Affordable Care Act, branding the law — with some rhetorical license — as a government takeover of health care.

Now, cast out of power in Washington and most state capitals, Democrats and activist leaders seeking political redemption have embraced an unlikely-seeming cause: an actual government takeover of health care.

At rallies and in town hall meetings, and in a collection of blue-state legislatures, liberal Democrats have pressed lawmakers, with growing impatience, to support the creation of a single-payer system, in which the state or federal government would supplant private health insurance with a program of public coverage. And in California on Thursday, the Democrat-controlled State Senate approved a preliminary plan for enacting single-payer system, the first serious attempt to do so there since then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed legislation in 2006 and 2008.

With Republicans in full control of the federal government, there is no prospect that Democrats can put in place a policy of government-guaranteed medicine on the national level in the near future. And fiscal and logistical obstacles may be insurmountable even in solidly liberal states like California and New York.

Yet as Democrats regroup from their 2016 defeat, leaders say the party has plainly shifted well to the left on the issue, setting the stage for a larger battle over the health care system in next year’s congressional elections and the 2020 presidential race. Their liberal base, emboldened by Senator Bernie Sanders’s forceful advocacy of government-backed health care last year, is increasingly unsatisfied with the Affordable Care Act and is demanding more drastic changes to the private health insurance system.

In a sign of shifting sympathies, most House Democrats have now endorsed a single-payer proposal. Party strategists say they expect that the 2020 presidential nominee will embrace a broader version of public health coverage than any Democratic standard-bearer has in decades.

RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association, powerful labor groups that back single-payer care, said the issue had reached a “boiling point” on the left.

Supporters of universal health care, including activists with Ms. DeMoro’s union, repeatedly interrupted speakers at the California Democratic Party’s convention in May, challenging party leaders to embrace socialized medicine. Demonstrators waving signs with single-payer slogans have become a regular feature at town hall meetings hosted by members of Congress.

“There is a cultural shift,” said Ms. DeMoro, who was a prominent backer of Mr. Sanders. “Health care is now seen as something everyone deserves. It’s like a national light went off.” (Continued)

US Should Not Politicize the ‘Belt and Road’ Mega-Infrastructure Project

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, May 14, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

By Caleb T. Maupin
China.org.cn

May 16, 2017 – The biggest and most important international gathering of 2017 has taken place in Beijing. Over 100 countries were represented. 1,500 people attended, including various heads of state, the United Nations Secretary-General, the leaders of the International Monetary Fund, as well as some of the most well known and respected scientists and engineers.

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) was not a place of ideological podium pounding. The gathering of world leaders from all different backgrounds had only one real theme: Progress.

The forum did not discuss the merits of philosophers. Rather, it discussed the construction of high speed trains, power plants, highways, hospitals, airports and schools. The forum made specific plans for the China-led initiative of bringing impoverished countries into a more prosperous state of being, with infrastructure and investment in public services.

Over 100 countries and 50 intergovernmental agencies are on board with this New Silk Road initiative. Investment in the project has increased by 36 percent in 2016, with over 126 billion US dollars being spent. High speed rail is connecting the countries of Southeast Asia. Bangladesh has signed agreements for over 25 projects. An airport is being built in Nepal, along with a hydro-electrical power plant, and railway.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is bringing new hope to millions, as are the railway lines providing ocean access to landlocked regions in Central Asia. This is just to name a few of the hundreds of projects launched in the last four years.

It is those poorest corners of the world, the sections of the planet most affected by drug cartels, terrorism, extreme poverty, illiteracy, and lack of access to medical care and gainful employment, that so far have been the focus of the project. Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe are filled with hope as cooperation in the project offers access to a better life for millions of people.

At the center of it all is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, an institution devoted to sustainable development and providing an opportunity to historically impoverished countries.

It should be deeply reflected upon as to why the head of the state of U.S. was noticeably absent from this historic gathering while the heads of state of China, Russia, and Turkey spoke at the opening ceremony, along with the UN Secretary-General. Comments from some high ranking U.S. leaders view the project with cynicism, and present it as some kind of sinister plot to ensure Chinese world domination. At a Senate hearing in Washington last Thursday, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said, "The Chinese have a strategy. You name a part of the world, they are investing in it."

Some U.S. leaders have referred to the New Silk Road as China’s Marshal Plan. However, unlike the Marshall Plan, the New Silk Road has no political stipulations. While the United States required Marshall Plan countries to be anti-communist and partisan in the Cold War, China makes no such demands on participating countries. In his remarks to the forum Chinese President Xi Jinping stated, "We have no intention to intervene in the affairs of other countries or to export our social system." (Continued)

May Day in Yakima – David Bacon

May Day march in Yakima
Text and photos by David Bacon

What a beautiful day! Que Viva el Primero de Mayo!

We are here today in solidarity with people all over this country who have stopped work, who are marching in the streets like we are. And why are we marching? Because last week ICE picked up hundreds of people, mothers, children, even a DACA student, and deported them.

To that we say Not One More!

We are here in solidarity with the people in detention – 360,000 every year, with special prisons for mothers and children. The courageous people in the Tacoma center just organized a hunger strike two weeks ago to protest, and we march to support what they did.

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Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter Join Forces on Anniversary of MLK’s Death

Christopher Smith, right, leads chants during a protest for higher wages for fast food workers outside a McDonald’s in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday, April 14, 2016.

Forty-nine years after King was assassinated, the left’s organizing vanguards seek to continue his work. 

By Justin Miller

American Prospect

April 4, 2017 – On the April 4, 1968, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had come to support the city’s striking sanitation workers, virtually all of them African American. The workers were embroiled in a heated labor dispute with the city government over low wages, dangerous working conditions, and its unyielding opposition to recognizing their union.

Forty-nine years later, much has changed, yet much more has stayed the same. Despite landmark advancements in civil rights, black Americans still face staggering levels of systemic social and economic inequities and rampant state-sanctioned violence and discrimination. Black men are three times more likely to be killed by police than white men, and are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than white men. Meanwhile, black men make 22 percent less in wages compared with white men who live in the same areas, with the same levels of education and work experience. Black women make 11.6 percent less than their white counterparts. On average, white households hold 16 times the wealth of black households. Today, 54 percent of African American workers make less than $15 an hour.

And 49 years later, black activists are still leading large-scale movements to address these injustices. On the anniversary of King’s assassination, Fight for 15 workers and Black Lives Matter activists—many already involved in both movements—are joining together for a series of protests across the country to elevate their intersecting demands for racial justice and economic justice. The actions today not only seek to emphasize and build upon African Americans’ inextricable and intertwined struggle for both civil rights and economic justice of the 1960s, but create a broader front of intersectional progressive power to face off against the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back both.

Activists in 24 cities will be mounting demonstrations and teach-ins under the banner of “Fight Racism, Raise Pay.” They plan to call attention to the systematic targeting of communities of color—ranging from abusive local police departments that harass people of color, to Republicans in the states advancing anti-protest legislation in response to Black Lives Matter and Fight for 15 while at the same time stifling local minimum-wage hikes through state legislation. Activists will also call out the Trump administration for advancing an anti-worker agenda, supporting voter suppression, and threatening immigrant communities.

“Our two movements have a common bond in fighting the racism that keeps down people of color everywhere,” said Latierika Blair, a 23-year-old McDonald’s worker in Memphis, in a statement.

The actions center on Memphis, Tennessee, where thousands of workers, activists, and civil rights leaders will march to and hold a memorial outside the Lorraine Motel. In the mid-South city, Fight for 15 activists have encountered aggressive resistance as fast-food workers organized for higher wages and union rights. As The Guardian reported, organizers alleged in an a lawsuit filed in March that, with the “authorization from the president of McDonald’s,” the Memphis police department was authorized to arrest McDonald’s employees and engaged in a “widespread and illegal campaign of surveillance and intimidation.” Last November, the suit states, police officers allegedly followed organizers home after meetings, banned activists from entering city hall, and in one instance even stepped behind a McDonald’s counter to stop workers from signing a petition demanding better working conditions. Based on these and other allegations, the lawsuit argues that the police department was acting in concert with McDonald’s. 

“White supremacy and corporate greed have always been linked in America,” said Chelsea Fuller, an organizer with the Movement for Black Lives, in a statement. “The fast-food workers who are going on strike for $15 an hour and the right to a union are resisting the same institutional racism and oppression that fuels police violence across the country. We are stronger when we stand together, and so our movements are going to keep fighting back against the twin evils of racial and economic inequality that continue to hold back black and brown people.”

Less than 250 miles southeast, in Alabama, the state legislature, dominated by white lawmakers, passed a law prohibiting localities from instituting their own minimum-wage laws after the city council in majority-black Birmingham had passed legislation in 2015 to phase in a $10.10 hourly minimum wage. The NAACP promptly responded with a lawsuit claiming that the GOP super-majorities in the statehouse and the Republican governor rammed through the legislation in 16 days in order to block Birmingham’s ordinance—which would have largely benefited black low-wage workers—from going into effect, a move that the lawsuit claims was tainted with “racial animus” and undermines the power of the city’s black electorate. A judge has since thrown out the case. (Continued)

David Bacon – The Sadness of the Border Wall

TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 29MAY16 – On the Mexican side of the border wall between Mexico and the U.S. families greet other family members on the U.S. side. This takes place every Sunday at the Parque de Amistad, or Friendship Park, in Playas de Tijuana, the neighborhood of Tijuana where the wall runs into the Pacific Ocean. Catelina Cespedes, Carlos Alcaide and Teodolo Torres greet Florita Galvez, who is on the other side. The family came from Santa Monica Cohetzala in Puebla to meet at the wall.
Copyright David Bacon

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Looking at Fractions within the Working Class

By Allison L. Hurst
Professor, Oregon State University
From the USW Blog

March 18, 2017 – This has been a rough year.  After the election, I reposted a few articles on my Facebook wall, as did so many of my friends, about the “working-class vote.”  Did the white working-class just elect Trump?  I didn’t think so, but I also understood that the world can look very different to a working-class person than it does to a middle-class one.  I knew this because I grew up poor, and it is a constant struggle speaking to both sides of my life, my past and my present, my mother and my colleagues.  My mother, let me point out, did not vote for Trump.  She thinks he’s a jackass.  Two of her sisters did, however.  I don’t know anyone else in my extended family who voted for him.  There were lots of Bernie supporters, not many Clinton supporters, and a whole bunch of abstainers.

A friend of mine from college, someone raised on the less wealthy spectrum of the educated middle class, took issue with even the idea of the “working class.” What was this really?  He knew a lot of blue-collar workers, plumbers, builders, who made a lot more money than he or his mother ever did.  I gave him the quick sociological explanations — it’s about power, not money, but his question remained with me.  Based on power at work, two-thirds of Americans can be classified as “working class” (see Michael Zweig’s excellent The Working-Class Majority).  That is a hell of a lot of people.  They don’t all think alike.  It struck me that sociologists, myself included, have spent untold ink arguing over the distinctions within the middle class (lower-middle, upper-middle, professional-managerial, those with economic capital vs. those with cultural capital, etc.) and where the line is between wherever this middle is and the top, and yet we have spent hardly any time  looking within the largest class of them all.

So, I pulled out the General Social Survey (GSS), which has been asking thousands of Americans every year or so all about their lives, political identifications, and voting patterns. I decided to see if there were differences within the working class based on type of working-class job, and not on education, race or  income level.  Working-class jobs are those with little autonomy and often involving the use of one’s body – to wield a hammer, carry a baby, deliver a package from Amazon, stand all day greeting customers.  These jobs are held by a very diverse group of people; there are more people of color in the working class than in the middle or upper class.  When I refer to “the working class,” I mean this whole diverse group, not only white male workers.

Let me give you a snapshot of five fractions of the working class: the Builders, the Makers, the Movers, the Clerks, and those who Serve (I call this category “CookCleanCare” to remind myself of the range of work within this fraction).  Builders most fit the stereotype of “the working class” (three-quarters are men, most are white, and many of them do wear hard hats at work), but it is only one fraction.  A more diverse lot are Makers, including assembly-line workers, tool-and-die makers, sewers, and cabinetmakers.  This is the fraction that has seen the largest influx of women in the past few decades, although still mostly male.  Movers include a wide array of transport jobs, from UPS drivers to ambulance drivers to long-haul truckers, also mostly men.  Most of those in the other two fractions are female. The CookCleanCare group includes those who prepare our food, clean our messes, and care for our children.  The Clerks are our growing retail worker category.  Back in the day being a clerk was seen as a move up, but today’s clerks are generally poorly paid and even less likely to hold a college degree than CookCleanCare workers (the most educated fraction).

Here are some other interesting differences between the fractions.  Builders are the most likely to be living in the same place where they grew up, Makers the least likely.  Movers are the most likely to identify themselves as “working class.”  Twice as many Builders as Makers think of themselves as “middle class.”  Makers, in contrast, are more likely than the others to think of themselves as “lower class.”  In terms of income, Builders make the most money, Movers the least.   If we looked only at white men in each of the fractions, we would find the most instances of sexism, nativism, and racism among the Makers, perhaps reflecting the fact that this group has seen the biggest changes over the past few decades.  But it is important to note that a greater proportion of rich white men and white male managers express racist views than any working-class fraction does.

During the past decade or two, ever since Reagan really, we have been hearing a lot about how “the working class” has turned its back on the Democratic Party.   But this is only true if we limit “the working class” to white men without college degrees.  If we include the whole of the working class, this claim is simply wrong.  According to my analysis of GSS data, there has never been a presidential election in which the majority of the working class voted for the Republican candidate.

If we look at the working class based on broad occupational categories rather than race or education, we get a very different picture from “the working class” that political pundits have been talking about.  We don’t yet have GSS data for the 2016 election, but figures from 2012 suggest the value of analyzing working-class voters based on their jobs rather than income or education.

This graph of voting patterns in the 2012 Presidential Election, arrayed by largest supporters of Obama from left to right, shows that while all occupational groups gave Obama a majority, two working-class fractions were at the polar ends of the spectrum. The Professional-Managerial Class fell near the middle.

Organizing the data by job categories also helps us understand that white working-class men don’t vote as a unified bloc. If we look only at white men, Obama’s lead lessens, with Romney winning slight majorities with Makers, Movers, and Clerks (not to mention lots of PMC support).  Why were white male Movers, Makers, and Clerks swayed by Romney while white male Builders and CookCleanCare were not?  For one thing, the Democratic Party may have forgotten Movers and Makers.  Women and people of color in these fractions may find other aspects of the Democratic party compelling, but white males less so.  All five fractions took an economic hit during the Recession and, unlike the PMC, none of them have recovered, as you can see from the chart below.  Makers even saw their wages decline before the recession hit.

Peace and Solidarity Today

International Women’s Day – Photos and History

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – PHOTOS AND HISTORY
Photos by David Bacon

This year International Women’s Day has a deep meaning because of the desperate situation in which our country finds itself. Women in earlier eras confronted problems as great, and founded International Women’s Day as a way to fight for deep social change. Temma Kaplan, distinguished professor of history at Rutgers University, and a longtime teacher, scholar, and activist in pursuit of social justice, wrote a history of the day in 1985, “On the socialist origins of International Women’s Day” – Feminist Studies 11, No. 1 (1985), pp. 163-171. With thanks to her, following these photographs, taken on the University of California Berkeley campus and at Oakland City Hall on International Women’s Day, are selections from this important work.

To see the complete selection of photos: CLICK HERE

Berkeley:
Students, faculty and active women and their men supporters celebrate International Women's Day at the University of California campus in Berkeley.
Oakland:
Women and their men supporters celebrate International Women's Day in front of Oakland City Hall.

Bernie Sanders Loyalists Are Taking Over the Democratic Party One County Office at a Time

The followers of Sen. Bernie Sanders, shown above last week, are aiming to transform the Democratic Party’s power structure, starting with the lowest-level state and county committee posts.

In fight to define party in age of Donald Trump, Sanders followers want to transform it from the bottom up by taking control of low-level state and county posts

 

The followers of Sen. Bernie Sanders, shown above last week, are aiming to transform the Democratic Party’s power structure, starting with the lowest-level state and county committee posts. Photo: mandel ngan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

By Reid J. Epstein and Janet Hook

Wall St Journal

Feb. 22, 2017  – In Washington, Democrats are grappling with what it means to be a minority party in the age of Donald Trump. In the rest of the country, populist followers of Sen. Bernie Sanders are mounting a sustained effort to answer the question from the bottom up.

In California, supporters of the 2016 presidential contender packed the obscure party meetings that chose delegates to the state Democratic convention, with Sanders backers grabbing more than half the slots available.

In Washington state, they swept to power at the Democratic state central committee, ousting a party chairman and installing one of their own in his place. Sanders acolytes have seized control of state parties in Hawaii and Nebraska and won posts throughout the party structure from coast to coast.

Those gains come from an under-the-radar blitz in a debate over the future of the party following its bruising 2016 losses. While Democrats nationwide have put the focus on President Trump, the Sanders wing of the party has engaged in an intramural fight to remake the party in a more populist, liberal mold.

“It is absolutely imperative that we see a major transformation of the Democratic Party,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview last week. The party has “to do what has to be done in this country, to bring new energy, new blood.”

The party will choose its new chairman on Saturday at a meeting in Atlanta. Some in the Democratic old guard harbor concerns that a sharp turn to the left could alienate centrist voters, jeopardize the party’s position in the next presidential election and, before then, lead to primary challenges to incumbent Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.

The Brevard County, Fla., Democratic Party’s executive committee meeting in Rockledge drew a full house last week.

The Brevard County, Fla., Democratic Party’s executive committee meeting in Rockledge drew a full house last week. Photo: Jacob Langston for The Wall Street Journal

“Is the Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren wing of the party going to push us too far to the left?” asked former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who also served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “Only if they start going after incumbent moderate Democrats in primaries like the tea party did.”

Last week, a group of former Sanders campaign aides launched a super PAC with the explicit goal of mounting primary challenges to Democratic incumbents. Party leaders are urging Democrats to focus on fighting Mr. Trump and his GOP allies instead of turning their fire inward.

For now, the strategy of Mr. Sanders’s followers is to infiltrate and transform the Democratic Party’s power structure, starting with the lowest-level state and county committee posts that typically draw scant attention.

Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee chair Stacey Patel, standing, spoke at the meeting last week in Rockledge.

Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee chair Stacey Patel, standing, spoke at the meeting last week in Rockledge. Photo: Jacob Langston for The Wall Street Journal

“From where I come from in the Bernie movement, people believe that there are permanent obstacles to change,” said Larry Cohen, the board chairman of Our Revolution, the political organization that grew from the 2016 Sanders presidential campaign.

Resisting Trump Is Not Enough

 

Progressives also need to advance a concrete agenda, and that means taking on Democrats-In-Name-Only.

By Robert L. Borosage

The Nation

Feb 16, 2017 – Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, attends a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center where he and other members criticized many of President-elect Trump’s choices for cabinet positions, December 08, 2016. (AP / Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

Donald Trump’s provocations have stirred a resistance that is ferocious, diverse, and growing, shaking Republicans and stiffening Democratic spines. Raucous town-hall meetings targeting members of Congress in their home districts are making the fabled Tea Party protests of old look like, well, tea parties. This resistance is vital but not sufficient. While it dramatizes what we are against, our challenge is to integrate it into a demand for all the progressive changes we are for.

The danger here is that the default position of resistance is reversion, a return to what was. As Trump assails all things Obama, Obama’s agenda becomes what we have to protect. Trump postures about repealing the Affordable Care Act; Democrats defend it. Trump attacks the Dodd-Frank banking regulations; Democrats protect them. But this can easily descend into the ridiculous: The Trans-Pacific Partnership isn’t suddenly a good trade deal simply because Trump opposes it. Better relations with Russia aren’t a bad thing simply because Trump proposes it.

Democrats need to fight, but they need to fight for something.

This reflexive defense of the recent status quo is bolstered by inertia, especially at the top of the party. The House Democratic leaders—all septuagenarians—were easily re-elected to their party posts. In the Senate, New York’s Chuck Schumer took over from Harry Reid as minority leader, as long planned. The big outside money is flowing to the same operators (Guy Cecil and David Brock) and the same big institutions (the Center for American Progress, Priorities USA) as before. If Representative Keith Ellison’s effort to head the DNC is defeated, the party structure itself will remain largely in the hands of those who eviscerated it (or their designees). Not surprisingly, these longtime party leaders are invested in what was accomplished under Obama, eager to defend it against Trump’s calumnies, and intent on returning to power under similar terms.