The last few weeks have caused me to notice a few things we have neglected to take care of in our society, aka, the Greatest Country on Earth. The experience of a frightening and deadly pandemic has argued for certain social and economic policies much more forcefully and persuasively than the liberals in the “Democrat” party have been able to with everyday facts and logic.
Universal health care has been on the table since the days early in the 20th century as a proposal from organized labor. Democratic presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama have supported the idea. Congressman John Dingell (D-Michigan) first introduced a universal health care bill in 1943. It has been re-introduced in every session since then by Dingell, his son who succeeded him in office, and his daughter-in-law Debbie Dingell who continues the family tradition as the Representative from Michigan’s 12th congressional district. The bill has never moved beyond a committee hearing in all those years.
In 2010, President Obama barely eked out a much compromised bill to increase the availability of health care in the US. The Republican Party immediately set out to kill it and has been trying ever since, in spite of its popularity. It took one Senator to get off his death bed to pass it and another, a Republican this time, to keep it from being rescinded.
While the rest of the developed world moved toward universal health care, the U.S., for the most part, continued to treat it as a fringe benefit attached to employment. It has become staggeringly clear what a bad idea this was when we saw unemployment shoot up to almost 20% over the last few weeks.Suddenly, people who were used to having coverage found themselves naked in the face of a deadly pandemic.
Moreover, many of the people they counted on for service in food establishments, hotels, and even their own homes had always been without coverage and now presented themselves daily as vectors of the epidemic. Many, more likely most, had no health insurance, no sick leave policy protection, and no alternative but to continue working to pay for rent, utilities, and food.
It is a formula for a public health disaster, and we walked right into it with our eyes wide open. Indeed, the Democratic Party knew the value of good social policy yet even most Democrats had no appreciation for the perfect storm scenario Republican skinflintism had created.
Obamacare is a good place to start. Add a public option. Then, over time, work toward a Medicare-for-All plan. Personal health is a public asset. Nothing says it quite like a pandemic.
So the need for universal health care is number one on our list of things to do post-pandemic. I will add a few more things to America’s To-Do List in the coming days. But this has to be the one aspect of social policy that requires immediate attention.