I Love Bernie for All of the Wrong Reasons – and All of the Right Reasons Too

Do I love Bernie Sanders for all of the wrong reasons? Do I love Bernie Sanders because he reminds me of my cranky grandfather from Brooklyn – minus the lying – and because he reminds me of one of my favorite comedians, Larry David? Yes. Do I stand beside him because he would be the first Jewish president?  Partly, yes.  His parents fled from Eastern Europe much like my own great grandparents.  This heartfelt connection is grounded in similar sentiment to those women who support Hillary who are ready for a female president, politics and policy be damned, including my own mother.  Do I love Bernie for some of the right reasons, too?  I think so.

Trust is a complicated thing. It is fragile. It is personal. I consider myself an Independent and not a Democrat. I have never been involved in any political campaign and never thrown my full weight behind a candidate.  That is, until now.

Bernie’s passion and his genuine straightforward approach is unquestionable. He is standing up to the big banks on Wall Street in order to support middle class Americans. His unwavering stance against greed and corruption is not limited to Wall Street. He tells it like it is. Greedy lobbyists supporting any number of causes influence our political system.

And that’s where his campaign finance overhaul comes in. As soon as campaigns are no longer beholden to the big pockets of big corporations, our politicians may be able to act on behalf of their constituents: the people, not the profits.  The campaign finance principle holds true whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Man, Woman, Black, White, Jew, Muslim, Catholic, feelin’ the Bern, making America great again, or supporting Hillary Clinton. Campaign finance reform is what will allow for ideas that are perceived to be radical long-shots in a gridlocked Congress to come to fruition. It is principle. It is fundamental. It must come first.

The Clinton campaign went on attack a couple of weeks ago, just as they started to grasp the gravity of Bernie Sanders as a threat to their plans for the White House. Regardless of whether he becomes president or not, his campaign has injected undeniable energy into the race and flooded the conversation with thought-provoking issues. Clinton’s approach to these issues has been troubling. The most troubling approach to me has been on the subject of universal healthcare.

Universal Healthcare: Cohen vs. Clinton at the Club in Chicago

In 2008, it sounded as if Hillary supported an end goal of Universal Healthcare in America.  She was appalled at the gall of the Obama campaign for knocking her stance.

Then here’s Chelsea not only challenging Bernie’s plan, but grossly mischaracterizing it.

According to politifact:

It’s impossible to predict with certainty how Sanders’ plan would play out in real life. But Clinton’s statement makes it sound like Sanders’ plan would leave many people uninsured, which is antithetical to the goal of Sanders’ proposal: universal health care.

We rate her claim Mostly False.

Bingo.  And since when is Hillary using the former first daughter as an attack dog?  I challenge Chelsea Clinton on the above discourse here at a Clinton campaign rally in Chicago.

And Chelsea nails the response!  She begins by agreeing that it is really important to have a public discourse on policy so that we can reach a consensus within the democratic party and move forward, in direct contradiction with what Hillary said in 2008.  She goes on to say: “if you had asked me” – with her own emphasis on “me” – rather than asking Hillary, “I think it’s very important that we have different policy discussions.”  Time and time again, I notice that supporters in the Hillary camp, from her own daughter outwards, don’t totally agree with what she has to say.  And isn’t it difficult to agree with her, when her stances are so often swayed by the political tide of the day?

Okay, Chelsea, let’s actually have that policy discussion.

Bernie Sanders stands for Universal Healthcare of the single payer variety.  While the plan has yet to be completely fleshed out, this means that Medicare would cover all American citizens with some basic level of coverage rather than only covering the elderly.  This is ambitious, yes, but moving towards a simplification of our convoluted system is imperative.  As it stands today, Medicare and CMS are the only ones publishing unbiased prices for services based on what they are actually estimated to cost.  Without a doubt, we must move in this direction or something similar if we want to reach an end goal of Universal Healthcare for all Americans.

More than anything, we must move forward.  Hillary Clinton seems content with the status quo that leaves millions uninsured and even more millions underinsured, while private insurers profit on ballooning prices that the layman (and even experts) can hardly understand.  The Commonwealth Fund, an independent scholarly organization, estimates that over $500 billion per year could be saved by investing in a single payer system in the US.  Over $500 BILLION.  Of course, it would take political buy-in and an initial investment from the federal government.  Those details need to be fleshed out, and Bernie’s current plan does not sufficiently flesh them out, nor does it need to at this juncture.  Just ask policy wonk and former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.  But for the Hillary Clinton campaign to disregard an opportunity of this magnitude, to improve the health of our nation and to save such large sums of cash is preposterous.

I can sense uneasiness among readers who wonder how on Earth we might gain political buy-in for such radical change.  Proponents of the single payer were shut down during initial ACA talks.  Firstly, we must allow the voice of the people to be heard.  It starts with campaign finance reform to allow candidates representing the people to once again take seats on Capitol Hill.  On that note, our female politicians could really teach their male counterparts a lesson in responsibility.  They are an inspiration.  Progressive minds, regardless of their political stance for a candidate, must do their homework and make it known that the single payer system is the end goal.  Right now, a certain candidate is doing the nation a disservice in the name of pragmatism that may more accurately be deemed cowardice.

If you really want to dive into healthcare and educate yourself on the problem, refer to this excellent 2013 article in Time Magazine.

“Taken as a whole, these powerful institutions and the bills they churn out dominate the nation’s economy and put demands on taxpayers to a degree unequaled anywhere else on earth. In the U.S., people spend almost 20% of the gross domestic product on health care, compared with about half that in most developed countries. Yet in every measurable way, the results our health care system produces are no better and often worse than the outcomes in those countries.”

I have worked with hospitals on making the cost of care, specifically the out-of-pocket cost for patients, become more transparent.  Check out this article I wrote back in 2014 to help explain healthcare costs and pricing (spoiler alert: nobody knows what healthcare costs because our system is overly complicated and in dire need of simplification).  I helped design this Price Transparency website at the University of Michigan Health System. Trust me, it was a challenge. Not even the most financially responsible hospital in the nation can tell you the cost for all of their services. They are reimbursed at different rates across all insurers (payers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, United, etc.) and prices for the same service or drug fluctuates tremendously from hospital to hospital. It is hardly based in any logic whatsoever. Instead, it is based on profit-driven greed by the private insurance companies and often times by for-profit hospitals. The only consistency when it comes to price is that uninsured patients end up paying more – far more, sometimes 100% more – than insurance companies do.

And while the Affordable Care Act has made tremendous strides in providing universal healthcare, we’re not quite there.  According to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, over 32 million people remained uninsured in 2014 after the ACA registrations.  That doesn’t even touch on the many more millions of underinsured Americans who are forced to meet high deductibles that they can’t afford to pay.

Again, the ACA made great strides.  It expanded Medicaid, provided the marketplace plans, regulated what uninsured patients may be charged and ended pre-existing conditions loopholes for insurers.  But now is no time to rest on our laurels.  The writers of the ACA – Bernie Sanders among them – were forced to make concessions due to gridlocked politics.  We have a long way to go to see that all Americans are not only covered, but covered completely.  In order to get there, we need a gross simplification of the system.  Medicare and CMS are the only trustworthy sources we have for estimating costs and keeping patients from being charged out the wazoo.  While a single payer plan is ambitious, it has to be considered as an optimal end goal.

An Evolution of the Candidates – Bernie and Hillary Over the Years

Many among us doubt Bernie’s foreign policy prowess when compared to Hillary Clinton’s experience as Secretary of State.  I think that Hillary has done an admirable job as Secretary of State and I, too, have doubted Bernie’s capabilities in this area.  Remember, however, that prior to Clinton becoming Secretary of State in 2009, she, too, was green to foreign policy having only been a senator.  The same could be said for Obama and countless other presidents.  When it comes to the presidency and the role of Commander in Chief, judgment is at least equally as important as experience.  Bernie was vehemently opposed to the 2003 War in Iraq and outlined a litany of considerations that ultimately and unfortunately turned out to be true.  Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, supported the war.

Kudos to Clinton for acknowledging her mistake in Iraq, but we can’t afford that lapse in judgment from our Commander in Chief.  While I have the utmost respect for Hillary Clinton as a stateswoman, I’ll take judgment over experience in the White House.  I trust that Bernie Sanders will surround himself by plenty of seasoned and experienced statesmen in his cabinet.

The Clinton campaign also launched an attack on Bernie’s gun record.  Sanders is strong on gun control.  He once lost an election for his stance on banning assault weapons in the state of Vermont.  Hillary claims that he has “flip flopped” on a vote he cast that prevented gun manufacturers from being prosecuted if someone buys a gun legally and then breaks the law.  There is nuance to the bill, and he now supports a revised version of it.  He holds a D-minus voting record from the NRA.  What is most important, and what he supports completely, is that guns do not get in the hands of criminals and that mental health issues are treated promptly.  If proper background checks are implemented, then suing gun manufacturers is irrelevant.

I’m not naive enough to believe that a presidential candidate, as any human being, may not evolve intellectually as they continue to learn and grow.  I would like to give Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt in some cases, as I would for Bernie on the gun legislation.  When it comes to this evolution, however, it is apparent to me that one candidate changes course when it is politically advantageous to do so.  That was the case for Hillary on gay marriage, Universal Healthcare, and the Iraq War decision.

Nor am I naive enough to believe that any great change or revolution will happen overnight.  Sanders supporters are not stupid or unrealistic.  Quite the opposite.  Let’s keep the forward momentum and see how far this ball can roll, because taking a chance beats the status quo.

For those among us, including my aforementioned mother, who would like to see a woman in the White House, consider that fellow crusader Elizabeth Warren is a likely running mate of Bernie’s.  Imagine her heading her own ticket for the presidency in four or eight years.  Let’s get the right woman in the White House, not just any woman.  Read her Op Ed here on the impact of enforcing the law through presidential appointments.  Do we really trust a candidate who made over $600,000 in Goldman Sachs speaking fees and these ties to Wall Street to enforce the law against white collar criminals?

So far, this revolution has not been televised. Maybe CNN should apologize and explain why the media has missed Bernie. I understand the conventional wisdom: Hillary Clinton was supposed to be the inevitable Democratic candidate.

UPDATE:

Paul Simon, My Parents, Bernie Sanders, and America

I remember my mother telling me the story of Paul Simon at the age of 17 coming in to play for her elementary school classroom in Queens, New York. He wasn’t famous yet, and his mother was my mother’s teacher. I remember my father telling me the story of how he got tickets for Paul Simon in Central Park in 1974 and how he took a date to hear Simon play. And I remember riding along in the passenger side of my father’s car en route to the Outer Banks for a beach trip. It was that 1994 Honda Passport that I would inherit as my first car, that I would whip around the streets of Alexandria making trouble. But long before I had my driver’s license, I was my father’s travel companion, the nine-year-old child of his first marriage. We were beach bound to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. Paul Simon’s Graceland was in the tape player, our heads bouncing and bobbing along to that deep and infectious African bass line that permeates the album and simultaneously my heart by way of my ears. We weren’t going to Graceland of course, we were going to the Outer Banks, but we did have reason to believe that we would be received when we got there.

We all have reason to believe that America will be well received in the competent hands of Bernie Sanders.  Consider this ad to be among the wrong reasons to vote for Bernie.

I took four months to travel the world and returned reinvigorated with pride in my country.  I trust that Americans will get this one right.  From Costa Rica to Japan and everywhere in between, I came across the same question: was Donald Trump for real?  No, I assured them.  Now I’m not so certain.  In national polls, Sanders beats Trump by higher margins than does Hillary.  Frighteningly, Hillary loses to Cruz where Bernie beats him out by four points.

I’m feelin’ the Bern.  I will not apologize.  This is a once in a lifetime progressive revolutionary American presidential candidate.  I will not apologize.  In the words of Black Thought, “yo, a revolution’s what it’s smelling like, it ain’t going to be televised.” I will not apologize, and neither will Bernie.

 

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