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  June 22, 2017

Republican Health Care Plan: A Win-Win for the Wealthiest

Dr. Jane McAlevey says at the risk of losing support from their base at the polls, Republicans are forging ahead with the Bannon plan of destroying the American safety net and all liberal measures along the way
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Jane McAlevey is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Before academia, she worked for 20 years an organizer in the labor and environmental justice movements. She is a regular contributor to The Nation magazine, which chose her book, "Raising Expectations and Raising Hell" (Verso 2012), as the "most valuable book of 2012."


SHARMINI PERIES: It's The Real News Network, I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Senate Republicans unveiled their long awaited healthcare reform proposal on Thursday. The proposal intends to significantly roll back Medicare coverage, reduce taxes on the wealthiest, reduce coverage for the poorest and reduce the regulations for health insurance companies. The house of representatives have already passed a similar bill to dismantle Obamacare in early May but senators decided to write their own version. They hope to vote on this before the Senate recesses on July 4th. Joining us to take a closer look at the senate republican health care proposal is Dr. Jane McAlevey.

Jane is the author of Raising Expectations and Raising Hell. Dr. McAlevey has a new book out, No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age. Thanks for joining us today Jane.

JANE MCALEVEY: Always a pleasure to be here, thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: So jane let's start off with your assessment of the new bill.

JANE MCALEVEY: I mean first of all everyone's still trying to actually analyze it because they've been holding it a secret for so long. But without actually reading every word of whatever the senate just did, we know from the punch numbers that are coming out right now, the key numbers that not only is it the idea that Trump said he wanted a less mean bill is sort of hilarious because it's an even meaner bill. What's shocking about it is I do think that people generally expect the senate to be slightly more mature, a slightly more refined institution a little bit more in touch with what the average American person if not the American voter.

We assume the house is going to be vicious, right-wing, ideological anti working people, anti power and we count on the senate historically, up until very recently to be slightly more grown up and mature. This entire process just throws the concept right up in the air. There's nothing more mature about how they handled this. There's no more sense of civic engagement or civic responsibility that came out of how the senate did this. The process is an outrage, the result's an outrage. The question is, they're going to try and jam through what's essentially a massive tax cut for the super rich of America and for corporate America on the backs of working people in this country and the least well off and the elderly.

SHARMINI PERIES: This is a problem even for the republicans Jane, for the moderate republicans the bill goes too far. For the hard-liners it doesn't go far enough. Do you think this bill will even get the 51 votes that they need to pass?

JANE MCALEVEY: What's encouraging right now is I think it may not actually pass. Unlike a lot of bad things that are actually happening and we don't seem to be stopping, there's a combination of factors about why I think this may be stopped. Principally frankly, it's because it creates some strange bedfellows, right? You've got republican governors who are trying to figure out how to plug budget holes. You've got CEO's of major hospital and healthcare corporations who are like, freaking out. In addition to our types, in addition to people in the progressive movement who are already advocates for working people, for justice, for poor people, of course it's outrageous.

I think it is so severe, it is not differentiated enough from the house bill that I actually think there's a good chance that this is going to get defeated again. That's if we do our work hard and fast in the next few days. It'd be really nice to teach them a lesson, frankly. That even when they work in secrecy and even when they work in the most anti-democratic manner possible. The rap that they've been putting out is well this is how the democrats did Obamacare, we should just revisit that for a second to say that is a total unmitigated lie, which isn't surprising, right? Lying has become fashionable these days out of the republican leadership in the white house and the senate and the house.

There were 18 months of public debates that took place. The idea that they can sneak what's obviously a horrible bill so horrible that they want no one to have to read it, no one to have time to mobilize against it and shove it down America's throat between now and a holiday that's meant to celebrate the great democracy, right? July 4th our patriotic moment each year. It's really an insult to American democracy that they would actually try to do this leading into this sort of patriotic holiday of the year.

SHARMINI PERIES: According to polls, which tend to agree with you, that repealing Obamacare is the least popular legislation in history it enjoys only 17% approval, which means that the republicans that voted for Trump also disagree with what the republicans have proposed here, why do you think they are so intent on passing a healthcare bill that they can put their name on it at the risk of taking a hit at the ballot box?

JANE MCALEVEY: I think it's a really good question Sharmini and I think there's a couple factors behind it. One: We have to remember that the context in which this current debate about healthcare, this week has taken place sits inside of the brain child of Steve Bannon and the super ideological right-wing that sits around him who are in the white house who are determined to "dismantle" the administrative state.

That famous quote of his from earlier in the year. If you see the destruction of Medicaid and Medicare to signature X that took a tremendous amount of mobilization and organizing and deep power building in this country to pass in the mid 1960s, if you put it on the continuum, that this has been a multi-decade attack by the super ideological right-wing and their corporate allies to roll back the clock on every good thing passed on this country as a result of a strong trade union movement and a strong civil rights movement. Then to me you start to think this makes more sense, right?

There's such ideologue right now that defeat at the ballot box for some of them is like that's a willing sacrifice for Steve Bannon, by the way. Breitbart news and Steve Bannon, he's down at the ballot box at 2018 or 2020 so for the sort of architects of the right-wing strategy, I think for them it's perfectly fine to sacrifice some of their own, they don't mind, seriously.

So at an amicable level you look at the attack on the voting rights act, you look at the attack on the national relations act, you look at the repeal and the attack of Medicaid and Medicare, these are the signature programs that it took decades for progressives stronger than we have today progressive movements to pass to make the United States just a little bit less unequal and quite a bit more fair and we're way past that now.

I think if you're Steve Bannon, I think if you're sitting in and you can visualize this, I can visualize this. If you're sitting in the war room of the ideological right, which is who's governing the country right now, sacrificing a few of their colleagues in a swing state election to meet the long term objective of actually rolling back every single gain the progressive movement in this country fought for decades ago, that's okay with them. I think that's a really realistic assessment of the people who are driving the ideological right wing war room right now.

It's fine for them, they don't care. They are totally happy to sacrifice some republicans in broader service of we're going to take this country back to the gilded age of the 1920's. Get the title of my new book, Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, everyday I wake up and I sort of think to myself I'm so glad that we stuck gilded age in there, the new gilded age because we are in it and they are taking us to it. And to get out of this mess it's going to take the kind of movements that we built coming out of the last gilded age in the early 1930s and 40s and 50s and 60s.

So if you look at this as a continuum of an assault on everything good, then it makes sense.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right Jane, thank you so much for joining us and we will be following the passage of this bill and I hope you can join us again, thank you.


SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on the Real News Network.


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