By Greg Grandin
The Nation (7/16/19)
Let’s be clear: Bernie Sanders’s heresy, what sets him apart from every Democrat running to unseat Donald Trump, is not simply that he calls himself a socialist in a country long proudly identified as capitalist. Those two labels, socialist and capitalist, are open to too many interpretations and represent too many historical examples (everything from Norway to the United States, Stalin’s Soviet Union to Hitler’s Nazi Germany) to pin down. Rather, a more precise way to define the historic nature of Sanders’s campaign would be to focus on his promotion of social or economic rights and how they relate to the individual or political rights found in the US Constitution.
Sanders, by waging practically a one-person crusade to legitimize social rights, is striking at the core cultural belief that holds the modern conservative movement together: an individual-rights absolutism that has, today, little to do with economics or political philosophy but rather forms the essential, cultish element of right-wing identity politics.
“We are proud that our Constitution guarantees freedom,” but now “we must take the next step forward and guarantee every man, woman, and child in our country basic economic rights—the right to quality health care, the right to as much education as one needs to succeed in our society, the right to a good job that pays a living wage, the right to affordable housing, the right to a secure retirement, and the right to live in a clean environment.”
First, some definitions: Individual or political rights are aimed at restraining government power. They presume that virtue is rooted in the individual and that the public good, or general welfare, of a society stems from allowing individuals to pursue their interests—to possess, to assemble, to believe, to speak, and so on—to the greatest degree possible. A legitimate state is a state that restrains itself, that limits its role to protecting the realm in which individuals pursue their rights. Economic or social rights presume that in a complex, industrial society, with its imbalances of power and often extreme concentrations of wealth, the state has a much more active role to play in nurturing virtue through the redistribution of wealth in the form of education, health, child care, pensions, housing, and other common needs.
Opposing our rotten system
Sanders made the distinction between these two sets of rights the centerpiece of his historic June 12 speech at George Washington University, in which he defended democratic socialism as the country’s only possible redemption, not just from Trump but also from the rotten system that produced Trumpism. Calling for a 21st-century bill of economic rights, one modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 proposal for a Second Bill of Rights, Sanders said, “We are proud that our Constitution guarantees freedom,” but now “we must take the next step forward and guarantee every man, woman, and child in our country basic economic rights—the right to quality health care, the right to as much education as one needs to succeed in our society, the right to a good job that pays a living wage, the right to affordable housing, the right to a secure retirement, and the right to live in a clean environment.”
Most countries of the world—including those Scandinavian countries that Sanders often mentions—understand individual and social rights not to be in conflict but rather to be mutually sustaining. They find no functional discord between, say, running a national health service and guaranteeing due process or between providing public education and allowing freedom of speech. …
Here’s Another Reason They Hate Him: Sanders Urges All 2020 Democrats To Reject Insurance, Big Pharma Cash “Can’t Change a Corrupt System by Taking Its Money”
By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (7/17/19)
Arguing that fundamental changes to America’s profit-driven and deadly healthcare system will be impossible to enact as long as political leaders continue to accept industry cash, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday will deliver a Medicare for All speech calling on 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to join him in rejecting campaign donations from insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists, executives, and PACs.
“You can’t change a corrupt system by taking its money,” Sanders will say in the address, according to an excerpt released by his campaign. “If we are going to break the stranglehold of corporate interests over the healthcare needs of the American people, we have got to confront a Washington culture that has let this go on for far too long.”
In his speech, Sanders will introduce and take the “No Health Insurance and Pharma Money Pledge,” which states: “I pledge to not take contributions from the health insurance or pharmaceutical industry and instead prioritize the health of the American people over health industry profits.”
“Taking the pledge means that a politician or candidate’s campaign will adopt a policy to not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or executives of health insurance or pharmaceutical companies,” according to Sanders’s website. “The pledge does not apply to rank-and-file workers employed by pharmaceutical giants and health insurance companies.”
“The struggle we are having in this country for healthcare for all—for a Medicare for all single-payer system—is really not a debate over healthcare policy. It is a question of whether, as a nation, we are prepared to take on the incredible power of the insurance industry, the drug industry, and the entire healthcare industry.”
According to financial disclosures, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg are among the 2020 presidential candidates who have accepted campaign donations from healthcare executives.
Just hours after launching his campaign in April, as Common Dreams reported at the time, Biden attended a high-dollar fundraiser hosted by Daniel Hilferty, the CEO of insurance giant Independence Blue Cross—a company covered by Sanders’s pledge.
Biden’s creative definition of “sin”
Biden—an opponent of Medicare for All who called support for such a plan a “sin“—has also received large donations from pharmaceutical behemoths Merck & Co. and Gilead Sciences, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
“Sanders has opted not to hold fundraisers catering to wealthy donors,” the Post noted, “and is not seen by insurance and drug companies as an ally.”
The Vermont senator tweeted Wednesday that candidates who refuse to take the No Health Insurance and Pharma Money Pledge should explain to the American public “why those interests believe their campaigns are a good investment.”
“The main point that I’m going to be making is that the struggle we are having in this country for healthcare for all—for a Medicare for all single-payer system—is really not a debate over healthcare policy,” Sanders said in an interview with the New York Times ahead of his speech. “It is a question of whether, as a nation, we are prepared to take on the incredible power of the insurance industry, the drug industry, and the entire healthcare industry.” …