Friday, January 29, 2016

In defense of idealism

While I see people being critical of Bernie Sanders, I don't see them offering real alternatives. Worse, I don't see them offering improvements. For example, if you hear or read of people calling Sanders' Medicare for All plan, "pie in the sky" or "impossible", remember that those same people are quick to criticize rather than to offer helpful suggestions. No one ever said this would be easy. And Sanders is the first to say that he can't do it alone, that he will need help from all of us who support him and his vision for America.

On Vox, there is an article charging that Bernie's health care plan would cost twice as much as he claims it would. Kenneth Thorpe, the man who did the study, was happy to help Clinton and Obama in the past, but not so much with Sanders. Further reflection on the scene shows that while people are demanding details from Sanders, they're giving the other candidates a pass. Perhaps there is a very real concern that Sanders just might win.

If it's true that Sanders' health care plan would cost twice as much as claimed, it's important to ask why. There is at least one economist, Dean Baker, who is willing to point out why that is. Health care now takes 17% of GDP, a cost that is almost as big as the administration of the federal government alone. We pay twice as much as every other industrialized country and still have outcomes that are no better.

Only an industry almost completely bereft of any real domestic or international competition could accomplish that feat. Baker further points out that even if we don't get what we want, the kind of pressure Sanders would apply could force the health care industry to get real about insane drug and device prices, patent monopolies and their big money in politics. Sanders might even go so far as to point out that the American healthcare industry is very well protected from international competition. Just like Dean Baker has done.

So Sanders' plans are being dismissed as mamby-pamby pie in the sky dreams. He's an idealist. We get that. When John F. Kennedy proposed that America put a man on the moon by the end of the decade in a speech before Congress on May 25, 1961, was he considered an idealist? You bet. Did anyone dismiss him? Probably. Pie in the sky? Sure. But we got there and we put a flag on the moon.

When Franklin Roosevelt proposed The New Deal, did anyone think it was not possible? Sure. Did it get done? Yep. Idealist? To the hilt. How about the Women's Suffrage movement? Idealist, yet women still got the vote. The abolition of slavery? Goddamn right it was idealist. Our nation survived a brutal civil war to abolish slavery.

When the men and women of this country declared independence from the British Crown in 1776, was that idealist? Oh, yes. Few even thought it would be possible, but the men and women who believed in the ideal persevered and won out. And it wasn't just a political climate that people were worried about. They were worried about foreign boots on the ground. Yet somehow, they still prevailed.

A healthcare industry with no visible outside competition, that takes away 17% of GDP and uses a large portion of that money to influence Congress for laws that protect it is engaged in slavery of the American people. If we do not expose our health care industry to international competition, we can expect any health care plan for reform to be expensive. If we do not replace device and drug patents with upfront funding of medical research, we can expect to pay more for the drugs, devices and services we need. If we do not take big money out of politics, any change is going to be difficult and expensive.

Has anyone noticed that Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in the debates to make an explicit connection to the current political climate in Congress and the corrupting influence of big money in politics? That's something to consider while Clinton (just like every other Republican except Trump) goes to $1000 a plate fundraisers. Meanwhile, Sanders speaks at free events seeking only small donations while drawing tens of thousands of supporters to attend.

Considering their means of support, it would seem that Sanders is the only candidate who would prefer to run on the merits of the ideas he proposes rather than the money behind them. That's what idealism is all about.
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