Extracting nuggets of truth from corporate media is an art. For example when you read something in the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune you can be pretty sure this is what our betters would like us to believe. But what you see in some other publications like the Wall Street Journal is a different matter. This is because WSJ is one of the outlets members of the ruling class often use to talk to each other.
So Tuesday’s WSJ op-ed by Elizabeth Warren, in which the Massachusetts senator urged Democrats to campaign on Medicare For All is a sign the tide is turning. Liz Warren is no dummy. She’s up for re-election in 2018. She knows what sells, and she knows that unlike most Republicans, Trump is entirely capable of running simultaneously to the left AND to the right of Democrats.
The Affordable Care Act elegantly painted Republicans into a corner. It was a Republican plan, originally floated by the right wing Heritage Foundation and called Romneycare when it was enacted into law in Massachusetts in the 1990s. When Obama stole the Republican plan to bail out insurance companies it deprived Republicans of contributions from the insurance industry and Big Pharma, and left Republicans with nowhere to go politically. They could rage and rail against Obamacare, but it’s pretty much impossible to imagine a bigger favor than the Democrats did when they passed the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
So the plans pushed by the House and Senate Republican leadership are standard, boilerplate unimaginative things which pursue old Republican goals like turning Medicaid from a program supposedly based upon need into one funded up to a set amount and no more, instituting health savings accounts and using that Medicaid money for more tax breaks for the wealthy. Republicans might not like Obamacare, but they are for the moment unable to whip their own Senate majority behind the plan of their leaders.
Newspapers like the Boston Globe explain Liz Warren’s sudden reversal on single payer by telling us that while Medicare For All was a “fringe idea” nine years ago the public might almost be ready for it now. What no corporate media outlet will tell you is that a majority of House Democrats have now signed on to John Conyers’ current Medicare For All bill. So-called progressive Democrats are known for striking courageous poses when they don’t have majorities to pass them, this is a very different political moment than nine years ago. Physicians for a National Health Plan, the foremost pro-single payer doctors organization, called the House Republican plan a meaner version of Obamacare, putting them in the same territory as Donald Trump, who now admits calling the bill “mean.” Before he became president Donald Trump was on record more than once favoring Medicare For All. it’s a position he’s entirely capable of circling back to. Trump is plenty smart enough to know that if he can assemble a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to deliver Medicare For All before 2020, his re-election will be a lockdown certainty.
So where is the nation’s foremost proponent of Medicare For All, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders? The answer is nowhere. Early in the year Bernie’s office was telling people to expect a senate version of Medicare For All that might drop in March, or April or May. It’s the end of June now. Maybe Bernie has postponed the push for single payer because Democratic party unity is more important. Bernie just did kick in $100,000 of his followers money to pay for the Democratic party unity tour. Maybe Bernie doesn’t want to shame his fellow Dems – he is the party’s outreach chairman now – by getting too far out in front of them on this. The potential embarrassment is real. California Democrats, firmly in control of their state government killed their own single payer bill not two weeks ago.
Whatever the reason, the fact is there exists NO Medicare For All Senate bill to which Greens, Democrats and others might demand senators affix their name to. Nobody’s holding that up but Vermont Senator and Democratic party outreach chair Bernie Sanders. The US Senate is a good old boys club, and Liz Warren despite her gender is very much a good old boy. Warren will never put Bernie on the spot by introducing her own single payer bill, and neither will any other Senate Democrat.
So the tide is finally turning on Medicare For All. But at this moment Bernie Sanders is blocking that tide.
Bruce Dixon can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.