We Need a Mass Movement Demanding Real Social Security and Medicare for All
The rising fortunes of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist US senator from Vermont, in the Democratic presidential primaries, provides a unique opportunity for organizing a new radical movement around key political goals including a national health care program for all Americans, not just the elderly and disabled, and a national retirement program that people can actually live on.
The elements are there already. Sen. Sanders is calling, on the stump, for expanded Social Security benefits, which with the collapse of employee pensions and the destruction of retiree savings in the Great Recession and the ensuing “lost decade” of the stock market, is badly needed. He is also calling for expanding and enhancing the Medicare program to cover everyone from birth to death, much as is done in Canada and in every other modern nation on the globe except the US.
The key here is to build a movement around these two programs that might work in parallel with the Sanders presidential campaign, but that would remain separate from it so that, when the election is over, win or lose, that movement will continue. If Sanders were to win the presidency, as is looking increasingly possible if polls can be believed, and if, as some polls also suggest, his win were to help Democrats to retake both the Senate and the House, then having an independent movement in place would be critical. Such a movement militantly demanding Medicare for all and enhanced Social Security benefits would put intense pressure on both a President Sanders and a new Democratic congress to deliver. Meanwhile, if Sanders were to lose, then a having a strong, well organized movement in defense of both programs would become even more urgently important.
Better yet, Sanders is a movement veteran, not just someone like Obama who supposedly did a little stint as a “community organizer.” Sanders’ entire political life dating back to his college days has been about fighting for more income equality, and improved lives for the poor, minorities and working people. One can criticize his record of support as a member of congress for most of the US government’s imperial policies abroad, and even for most of its illegal wars, but domestically, at least, his record of support for fairness and for more racial and economic equality, for worker rights and for women’s equality is pretty much unassailable.