Posts Tagged ‘Medicare for All’

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We can’t stay this way forever—with physical distancing (now that all 50 states have finally issued some kind of Stay at Home order), schools closed (and operating with a semblance of education through online teaching), businesses shuttered (even while the stock market soars).

The question that seems to be on everyone’s lips is, when are things going to go back to normal?

But who wants to return to normalcy? The novel coronavirus pandemic has revealed, if nothing else, just how dysfunctional the situation was in the United States even before COVID-19 started to cut its deadly path across the country. Tens of millions of workers have been furloughed and laid off and there’s still relief for them in sight. Instead, they’re being forced to have the freedom to drive to food banks to obtain groceries and other household supplies. All the while, their fellow employees, who labor in activities that have been deemed essential, are told to endure dangerous commutes on public transportation and to continue to work under perilous conditions, with little regard for their personal safety. Workers didn’t have any say before in the decisions concerning their jobs, let alone in the other policies adopted by their corporate employers—and they certainly don’t now.*

The pandemic has also demonstrated just how unequal life is in the United States, both geographically and socially. New York City is a perfect example of the obscene inequalities that have characterized economic and social life throughout the country, both before and now during the current crisis. As I showed the other day, if one compares the map of where frontline workers live within New York with the map of the confirmed cases in the city, the two are virtually identical. And those areas, the poorer neighborhoods that make up the outer boroughs of the city, are heavily black, Latino, or mixed race. Before they were hit by COVID-19, they had less wealth, lower incomes, substandard healthcare, and inadequate schools—and now (as reports come in, from Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and elsewhere) they’re suffering disproportionately from both the dreaded disease and the uneven and unequal response to it.

I could go on. My only point is, a return to normalcy means going back to those same conditions—in which workers, blacks, Latinos, and others who make up the bottom of the economic and social pyramid are assaulted by and fundamentally excluded from the major decisions that govern their lives. Who would want that?

If voters needed any more reason to be dismayed by the choice of Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, all they need to do is look at his “plan to safely reopen America.” It’s a plan to get back to normal—and only back to normal. Nothing is supposed to change.

Sure, as Biden explains, there will have to be lots of work before getting there. His plan is basically the existing common sense (at least outside the gang of hacks and grifters who currently occupy the White House): physical distancing, testing, and adequate equipment for healthcare workers and hospitals.

And after that? Biden proposes the United States “reopen more businesses and put more people back to work”—in consultation with “top experts from the private sector, industry by industry, to come up with new ideas on how to operate more safely.” And labor unions and other employee groups? Well, they’re encouraged to work with OSHA “to figure out what protections workers need on the job during this period.”

But that’s it. In Biden’s plan, they play no role in the corporations that have been bailed out thus far, and will no doubt receive more loans and grants as stimulus plans are devised further on down the line. There’s no room for workers to obtain seats on corporate boards, no stimulus for organizing more unions to represent workers in the post-pandemic economy.

As for the obscene racial inequalities that plague the U.S. economy, which preceded the pandemic and have only been magnified in recent months, all Biden promises is to “focus like a laser” on “the racial disparities in Covid-19 cases”—as if those disparities are themselves not caused by the racial disparities that are the result of the way the American economy is currently organized.

That’s as far as Biden is willing to go. He makes absolutely no attempt to begin to imagine, let alone devise a plan for, fixing the U.S. economy and the healthcare system. No new role for workers in the places where they work. No redress for the grotesque inequalities we see around us. No renewal of the local public healthcare system, let alone Medicare for All.

There’s nothing in Biden’s plan to help or inspire anyone—except the small group at the top who want to keep things as they are and just get back to normal.

 

*Unless, of course, they threaten to withhold their labor or go on strike, which more and more groups of American workers have begun to do.

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