You want Congress to take quick action to move the country forward and you have to choose between the “Green New Deal” and, for example, reducing the price of drugs. Which would you choose?
Before you answer, consider a CNN report on Feb. 21 that the cost of a drug which enables a 67-year-old woman with a rare neuromuscular disease to walk has skyrocketed to $375,000, with a monthly copayment of $3,800. And consider another CNN report June 29 that a drug needed to treat a boy suffering from infantile spasms shot up from $1,600 to more than $23,000 a vial.
That is the dilemma facing proponents of the resolution which Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, sponsored on Feb. 7 calling on the federal government “to create a Green New Deal.” The initiative, which Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., co-sponsored in the Senate, links addressing climate change to an economic overhaul promising to “create millions of good, high-wage jobs…,” “provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security…” and “counteract systemic injustices.”
Voters who gave Democrats a 40-member majority in the House of Representatives want change that will do all of that. But how to balance what will be a longterm goal with demand for action now? Even Democrats are split on the plan and President Donald Trump will veto it anyhow.
It makes no sense, therefore, for Democrats to spend their political capital now on the Green New Deal when they can more quickly tackle individual parts of the plan, particularly drug cost and health care, including the opioid epidemic. They are already considering several proposals: Medicare for all, championed by Bernard Sanders; allowing people 55 to 64 to enroll in Medicare; allowing states to expand Medicaid to all their residents. And opposition is already being mobilized, with 25 groups creating a Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, The New York Times reported. “We have a structure that frankly works for most Americans. Let’s make it work for all Americans. We reject the notion that we need to turn the whole apple cart over and start all over again,” Charles N. Kahn III, president of Federation of American Hospitals, told The Times.
That argument was made in 2010 against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and it is being similarly countered. “They make billions of dollars a year in profits from this dysfunctional health care system and pay their CEOs outrageous compensation packages,” said Sanders, again a presidential candidate.
A new health care overhaul will once again be played out in the streets, as happened with Obamacare. The argument against it will probably be similar: It would be too expensive, hence would have to be rationed — or, as Sen. Chuck Grassley, RIowa, infamously said, “pull the plug on grandma.”
And then there is the claim which then Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., made in 1993 that Bill and Hillary Clinton’s failed health care reform proposed “centralized, bureaucratic socialism.” That bogeyman dates back to at least 1896 when William Jennings Bryant was labeled a socialist and a communist, Huffington Post noted. It surfaced again in 1932 against Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and against President Harry Truman’s proposal for a national health care system. “Hitler and Stalin and the socialist government of Great Britain all have used the opiate of socialized medicine to deaden the pain of loss of liberty and lull the people into nonresistance,” declared Clem Whittaker a co-founder of Campaigns Inc.
The “socialism” scare is back not just for health care reform but also for the whole Green New Deal, especially since Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez identify as “Democratic Socialists.” Detractors point to Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro as part of a campaign to defend the almost parallel system which has been stealthily created over the last 75 years.
Opposition will be much stronger and more heavily financed in a world shaped by billionaires Charles Koch and the Devos Walton families. Koch’s money paid for training programs at places such as the University of Virginia law school and George Mason University so that James Buchanan and his acolytes and a mindboggling array of institutions could peel away popular support from popular programs and even the Constitution, following the playbook Buchannan and others wrote for another southern neighbor, Chile under Augusto Pinochet.
As indicated in previous columns, their still unfinished drive to create a system run by “the property rights supremacists” has been documented by Duke University professor Nancy MacLean in “Democracy in Chains,” which should be required reading for progressives. Green New Deal opponents will use the plan as another opportunity to further divide Americans.
Democrats must urgently expose the ways in which Koch, in particular, has manipulated the system so that the courts are packed with activist rightwing judges, public schools are starved of funds so private charter schools can be funded, elections are rigged to create Republican majority state houses, labor unions are being eviscerated, climate change is being denied, taxation and finance are manipulated and regulations are gutted. They can start with health care to win the people over and be in a better position to make a case for the Green New Deal.