A Jacobin doubleheader: “The Case for Single-Payer” and “Bernie vs. the Washington Consensus.”


Thinking, drinking and surveying the landscape, there is serious doubt in my mind that I can ever again identify with an American political party, especially the two biggest political monopolies.

I’m also no longer interested in fealty to symbols. I genuinely respect YOUR superstitions and addictions, so long as they don’t intrude on my space. I won’t whistle or splutter karaoke. By the same token, my butt and knee are mine, not yours. Open your eyes and see the world around you. Follow the money.

But I digress. Insofar as the various branches of Let’s Pretend We’re Democrats can get aboard with ideas like the two that follow, all the better. I might yet vote for them on occasion.

Otherwise, the tag “independent” largely summarizes my lot in life. So be it, although running for a council seat as a Sanders-style indie “genuine” Democrat still might be great fun, only if I can suppress the gag reflex at the thought of  the party’s local management.

The Case for Single-Payer, by Timothy Faust (Jacobin)

Winning Medicare for All would allow us to take a giant step toward health justice.

Last month, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders introduced his Medicare for All Act — a bill that, if passed, would establish a federal, universal, single-payer health care system in the US. The legislation stands against a cruel summer of “repeal and replace” blood lust, most recently championed by senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, and years of mewling, milquetoast non-ideas from mainstream Democrats.

Toward Health Justice

The United States may be a country where Saudi princes can fly to get a heart transplant, but it remains a place where poor men die fourteen years earlier than rich men. In a land of resplendence, the powerful condemn the marginalized to chronic illness, because it’s not profitable to provide nutritious food or adequate shelter.

Fragmented and commodified, the present model treats health care as something that only happens when people are insured, not a holistic process spanning an entire life. Single-payer could begin to change this. Once the federal actor bears the costs of providing care and not providing care, it could finally be a tool for realizing health justice.

If people are getting sick and dying because they don’t have a place to live, or if the places they live are unsafe, then housing is health care, and you build housing to bring health care costs down. If people don’t have access to healthy food to eat, then food is health care, and you provide them with affordable or free food options to bring health care costs down. If people live in fear of their personal safety — if they are assaulted or beaten at home, at work, by the police, or by their domestic partners — then safety is a form of health care, and you provide safe havens for them to bring health care costs down.

In other words, a single-payer program is not the goal. Single-payer on its own cannot be the goal. Single-payer does not solve the biggest sin of commodified health care: that taking care of sick people isn’t profitable, and any profit-driven insurance system thus disregards the most vulnerable.

Sick people, people with disabilities, poor people, pregnant people, trans people, people of color — all of them are valuable to insurance markets only inasmuch as profit can be extracted from them; afterward, they are drained, discarded, abandoned to charity care, or, absent that, to the carceral state. Corporations have proven themselves unable and unwilling to look these problems in the eye, and people suffer while Democrats use public money to bribe corporations into trying to ameliorate the health care crisis.

Single-payer alone does not solve these problems. But it gives us a fighting chance to square up against them …

Then there’s this wonderful opening sentence.

Bernie vs. the Washington Consensus, by Branko Marcetic (Jacobin)

Yesterday, Bernie Sanders showed his commitment to a sharp break from the foreign policy platforms of both the Democratic and Republican establishments.

It connects to a long overdue foreign policy rethink … but the robber barons aren’t going to like it.

Breaking from the Consensus

Perhaps most significantly, Sanders used his speech to rebuke not just the neoconservative worldview, but some of the core precepts of the bipartisan foreign policy consensus, like the concept of American exceptionalism and the projection of “toughness” through a willingness to use force.

“Blustery threats of force, while they might make a few columnists happy, can often signal weakness as much as strength, diminishing US deterrence, credibility, and security in the process,” he said in a thinly veiled dig at Trump, currently in the midst of an unnecessary contest of brinkmanship with the North Korean dictator.

Going further, Sanders declare the death of the concept of a US “benevolent global hegemony” — a notion embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike and often used to justify meddling in foreign countries. Events like the Iraq War, he said, “have utterly discredited that vision.”

In a rather remarkable section of his speech, Sanders went further than just about any mainstream US policymaker in rattling off a list of the US government’s past misdeeds — some of which, he noted, the US public would probably be aghast to learn about for the first time. To justify his point that intervention and force are the wrong approach, he cited events like the Iraq and Vietnam wars as well as the 1973 military coup in Chile. He particularly stressed the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected government, engineered by both the US and British governments, which, as he noted, ultimately resulted in the country’s 1979 revolution and the anti-American hostility the US contends with today.

“What would Iran look like today if their democratic government had not been overthrown?” he asked the audience. “What consequences are we still living with today?”