The for-profit healthcare system has failed to protect most people during the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s increasing demand for policies like Medicare for All.
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This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.
Bernie Sanders: If we don’t believe that we are entitled to live in a world that has a clean environment and is not ravaged by climate change, we will continue to see more drought, floods, rising sea levels, an increasingly uninhabitable planet. If we don’t believe that we are entitled to live in a world of justice, democracy and fairness without racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, or religious bigotry, we will continue to have massive income and wealth inequality, prejudice and hatred, mass incarceration, terrified immigrants, and hundreds of thousands of Americans sleeping out on the streets in the richest country on earth.
Jaisal Noor: Welcome to the Real News. I’m Jaisal Noor. This is part three of our conversation with Micah Uetricht.
The coronavirus pandemic is one of the greatest threats our generation has faced, and the president of the United States has completely bungled the response. Despite spending more on healthcare than any other country in the world, the US now leads in cases and deaths. Where does the left go from here?
We’re joined again by Micah Uetricht. He coauthored the book with Meagan Day called Bigger Than Bernie: How We Go from the Sanders Campaign to Democratic Socialism.
So Micah, one of the most interesting things to come out of this is how people have come together in mutual aid societies to help each other, a lot of those self organization. I know that DSA chapters are part of that. And on the other hand, you have workers that are organizing, demanding unions maybe for the first time in sectors that have not been unionized. And you have Medicare For All popular with approval from the majority of Americans, despite the fact that we’ve been bombarded by criticisms of it in this presidential campaign for more than the last year. Talk about this moment right now.
Micah Uetricht: Well, it’s obviously an unprecedented moment that none of us have any real personal experience with thinking about how to, how it will reshape our whole lives and our whole politics. But, it certainly does make the case for many of the most basic policies that Bernie was basing his campaign around, and particularly Medicare For All at a time when we’re seeing projections of over 30% unemployment. Perhaps a system that ties your ability to get medical care to your employer is not a very good one, especially at a time of a pandemic like this one. So I mean, it’s a best of times, worst of times scenario.
There is an opportunity right now to continue fighting for the policies that Bernie helped popularize through his campaign. On the other hand, the Bernie Movement, of course, has just been defeated and so we have to wonder what’s going to come out of [inaudible 00:03:05] and we’ll be able to demand that the policies like Medicare For All that we now know are so desperately needed will actually be able to move in that direction. So it’s certainly a time for that movement that’s come together around Bernie to not sit on its laurels. This is a time of crisis in which things are not going to remain status quo level. They’re going to break one way or the other, and so that the movement that has cohered around Bernie needs to be demanding that the response to this pandemic be one that include the beefing up of the kind of policies that Bernie advocated for.
Jaisal Noor: We know that, and we talked about Naomi Klein’s book in that previous segment. But, it is possible to have a socialist shock doctrine as some might have called or a reverse shock doctrine. The Real News has covered how Spain is, I know groups, some of the major political parties in Spain are trying to have, make these payments going out to individuals in need permanent as a step towards some type of basic guaranteed income there. Talk about what’s happening across the United States to further that end. There is examples happening all over the country.
Bernie Sanders: Yeah, I mean, we’re obviously very far from being able to institute the kind of measures that a country like Spain has, but there is talk of instituting a expanded Medicare system or Biden, part of his concession to Bernie is he’s been saying that he’d willing to lower the Medicare age. It’s not a very robust concession on his part. He offered to lower the Medicare age to 60. That contrasts with even what Hillary Clinton was arguing for not too long ago, which was to lower it to 50. But, those kinds of shifts are essential to being able to move us towards Medicare For All.
The further we are able to push politicians like Biden at this moment for temporary measures or measures that are related to COVID-19 that opens us up to new opportunities to say, well if, as Biden says, “We shouldn’t have to go broke getting tested for and getting treatment for coronavirus, why should we be able to get broke, go broke for if we happen to have cancer or a broken bone?”
What distinguishes coronavirus sickness from other kinds of sicknesses where again, through no fault of our own we’re being pushed into getting medical care that is going to bankrupt us? So it’s in a moment where in crises, as now Biden has said, “Things can kind of break either way.” We can have the kind of shock doctrine that goes in a neoliberal direction or we could have a people shock doctrine, a socialist shock doctrine that can push us in the direction of a more humane society.
Jaisal Noor: We’re almost out of time for this segment. But, the Democrats, it looked like they risked being outflanked on the left from the Republicans because even people like total hawks, like Tom Cotton were pushing for this payment to all taxpayers around the country. The Democrats are even getting pressure from the right to put some of these common sense measures into place.
We have to leave this conversation here. But, I encourage people to check out this book, Bigger Than Bernie: How We Go from the Sanders Campaign to Democratic Socialism. It’s out now. You can order it online. You probably don’t want to be going to a bookstore right now, although some might have curbside pickup in your area, so check it out, a book that Micah Uetricht coauthored with Meagan Day.
This was a three part interview, so we encourage you to check out all three parts on the real news.com. Micah, thanks so much for joining us.
Micah Uetricht: Thank you very much for having me.
Jaisal Noor: And thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.
Thanks a lot for watching. I appreciate it. But, do us one more solemn favorite, hit the subscribe button below. You know you want to. Stay up on our videos.
Micah Uetricht is an associate editor of Jacobin magazine. He is the author of Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity.