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Friday, April 3, 2020

Remember 2020

“It is the loss of that long memory which deprives our people of the connective flow of thoughts and events that clarifies our vision, not of where we’re going, but where we want to go.”  ~Utah Phillips, US labor organizer
It took us 102 years to forget the Spanish Flu epidemic.
It took us only 76 years to forget FDR’s call for universal health care.
It took us fewer than 52 years to forget LBJ’s war on poverty.
We are still in need of affordable health care. We still have poverty. And economic inequality and equal opportunity for all are further away today than when FDR or LBJ made their calls on the national conscious.

Yet we may be closer to obtaining the goals of both of these administrations than we think.  As the quotation from Utah Phillips implies, we need to know where we want to go before we can get there. The TRUMPID19 Pandemic (formerly referenced as COVID-19), coupled with a uniquely vigorous (although for too many, disappointing) primary process, helped to reveal where many of us want to go.
Affordable healthcare enabled our Party to regain the US House and played a role in expanding our majorities in the Oregon legislature. It is a unifying issue. One barrier was the issue of employer-based health insurance. Prior to two weeks ago, it was difficult to envision a transition from our current employer-based system to a public option or universal care. With millions now unemployed and their health insurance either already curtailed or about to be, it seems like there is an opportunity to address this issue.
Likewise, as millions of us who live one paycheck away from crisis during normal times, are plunged into a world where the next paycheck has become an unknown, the public debate on expanding unemployment insurance to match the rest of the developed world, funding medical leave and forgiving student debt has taken a very positive turn. Our own Board of County Commissioners has enacted protections against foreclosures for victims of TRUMPID19 who cannot afford to pay their mortgage or their rent.
The complete mishandling of this pandemic by the White House has proven the Reagan statement that has guided conservatives since 1980 to be a lie.  As Governors fight each other for needed medical supplies and more than 5,000 of us have already died, we know that “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help” just isn’t true. To the contrary, the nine most terrifying words in the English may well be:   “I’m from the Government, and I have no help.”
Prior to the 1980s, both parties supported raising the minimum wage, expanding help to those in need and protecting workers’ rights to decent work. Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act and created the EPA in 1970. Our own Senator Hatfield was a co-sponsor of a bill to expand the right-to-strike.

So while you’re holed up in your home, take a moment and send an email or call your legislators’ offices, both Federal and State, and ask them to be bold. Ask them to remember that what makes this country great isn’t how we treat our billionaires but rather how we treat our service workers, our health care professionals and our production workers making PPE equipment. Remind them that we need national planning not just for the next pandemic but for industrial policy so that we never again are victimized by global supply chains that fail, that fail to not only provide us with what need when we need it, but that also fail US workers whose jobs are shipped overseas so that Wall St. can make an extra dime at the expense of Main St.  FDR labeled these folks “economic royalists.”

 We need to remember.