Litmus Test 3: Medicare for All

This is the third part in a series on Democratic values and their possible application in a litmus test approach to an endorsement process for Clackamas County Democrats. Your comments are welcome.

The Clackamas County Democratic Party recently unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for universal healthcare coverage or Medicare for All. Since we as Democrats have a tendency to rarely agree on anything whatsoever, how was this possible?

The consensus comes from a core value stated most succinctly by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Social Justice Through Social Action.”

For FDR this meant that government had not only a role but an obligation to promote social justice. In the midst of the Great Recession, it became apparent to him that social injustices in the form of great concentrations of wealth, legal ,racial and gender discrimination, and rampant abuse of workers both economically and physically, were the source of human and economic misery.

The concept of free unregulated markets and allowing economic royalists (railroad, timber, steel barons and bankers) to run the nation’s economy had failed completely. What was good for GM clearly wasn’t good for the country, despite the contrary-based notion fostered by GM and its ilk.

FDR’s New Deal created the foundation for the U.S. to win World War II, the Cold War, and to become the pre-eminent superpower in the world. And it has been under attack since the day it was introduced. The attackers? Those very same “economic royalists” who saw their ability to capture great wealth undermined with the resulting reduction in their capacity to exploit workers, discriminate based on race or gender, and control markets.

FDR did not invent the concept of social justice or social action. He did advance it. In the U.S. perhaps the most clearly stated version of this core value comes from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The signers of this document clearly saw the role of government to be “to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In fact, it is the very reason that governments were formed. Not to protect private property, not to protect accumulated wealth, not to defend discrimination in any form, but to secure social justice through social action.

It is this understanding of the centrality of government by the people and for the people that is the core value which led to a unanimous vote by the Clackamas County Democratic Central Committee to endorse universal healthcare.

Nothing could be more fundamental to the unalienable right to happiness and life than receiving the healthcare required to maintain it.

As with FDR, the markets have once again created a situation where economic royalists can afford to pay for the best care possible while many of the rest all too often go without any care.
For too many, life-saving and life-altering care is beyond their reach while for the few elective surgery is routine.

Meanwhile, as much as 20 percent of the cost of care is eaten up by excessive administrative costs, massive salaries to CEOs and outrageous dividends to insurance company stockholders.

Once again, the lack of market regulation by the government acts to undermine rather than promote democracy. Once again, those who, by circumstance rather than hard work, enjoy wealth that buys them the best healthcare at the cost of 99 percent of the population. Once again, the government has failed to promote the general welfare of all by taking healthcare out of a profit-driven system.

The result is the most expensive yet modestly ranked healthcare delivery system of any developed country in the world. And the only capitalist-driven medical system in any industrialized country.

These are the values and conditions that created a unanimous vote for universal healthcare by Clackamas County Democrats. There was no need for debate, no need to discuss how to do it or how to pay for it. Because everyone understood it was their obligation to correct this wrong.

When the time came, every Clackamas County Democrat in the room stood up to be counted. Now it is time for our elected officials to do the same.