Tulsi, Warren and Bernie
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Following her appearance in the second round of Democratic debates (Wednesday July 31) Tulsi Gabbard garnered a fair amount of media attention and was the most googled candidate during the debate. (Google had blocked people from searching for her after the first debate, which resulted in Tulsi suing Google for $50M. That would go a long way in helping her campaign.) One of the main tenets of Tulsi’s campaign is to end regime-change wars. She shares this view with that of Jill Stein in 2016 and also Bernie Sanders 2016 and 2020. Indeed, Tulsi endorsed Bernie in 2016 and resigned from her position in the DNC following the corruption that was exposed within that organization at the time (actively sabotaging Bernie’s primary campaign). This was in contrast to Elizabeth Warren in 2016 who chose to endorse no-one in the primaries (hedge funding her bet) then endorsing Hillary Clinton in the general election. Somewhat surprisingly and confusingly, in the 2019 Democratic primaries Warren has adopted much of Bernie’s language and platform from 2016 particularly with regard to single payer Medicare For All (which she opposed in 2016). Perhaps even more surprising and confusing is Tulsi’s 2019 rejection of getting rid of private health insurance (which is what a single-payer Medicare For All plan would do). Instead, Tulsi apparently wants to keep private health insurance (September 26 2019: Tulsi has explicitly rejected Medicare For All and accepted the continuation of private health insurance). I argue here that Tulsi’s plan to keep private health insurance but disavow regime change wars is just as inconsistent as Warren’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton (rejection of Medicare for all) in 2016 and (apparent) support of a single payer Medicare for all plan for 2020. Tulsi champions the cause of preventing the death of her brothers and sisters in uniform by preventing the US government getting involved in unnecessary regime-change wars. She rightly points out that the government has lied (as Noam Chomsky would say, ‘manufactured consent’) for wars in the past, especially Iraq. Given her stance regarding the prevention of the death of enlisted US citizens in unnecessary regime-change wars, one might think she is against the unnecessary death of US citizens / inhabitants in other contexts too. However, Tulsi’s view is that although many US civilians will die unnecessarily due to their being unable to afford the premiums co-pays and deductibles of private health insurance companies, private health insurance greed should be allowed to persist (in contrast to Bernie’s view that such greed is immoral). The goal of any private-health insurance company is to deny coverage for your medical needs if it can, statistically resulting in the deaths of US citizens just as much as regime-change wars result in the deaths of US soldiers. In fact, according to Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_health_insurance_option supporters of a public option (e.g. Paul Krugman) have claimed that: “traditional ideas of beneficial market competition do not apply to the insurance industry given that insurers mainly compete by risk selection . . . . "the most successful companies are those that do the best job of denying coverage to those who need it most." In short, it seems inconsistent for Tulsi to say that the US Gov should seek to guarantee that no troops die unnecessarily in regime-change wars but that the US Gov not similarly seek to guarantee that no civilians die unnecessarily (in her rejection of single-payer Medicare for all). Tulsi did a post-debate ‘spin room’ interview with Anderson, uh, Anderson Cooper. In that interview Tulsi claimed that it is 'not American' to deny people the choice of continuing with their private health insurance if they like it. In reply, people would have more choice with Medicare for all, not less (regarding their doctors and hospitals) and would have more stability regarding their health coverage - people’s health coverage wouldn’t change if they changed/lost their job or had no job to begin with. No one cares about their health insurance plan (as Bernie points out) - they care about being able to go to the doctor or hospital they prefer. What if Tulsi nonetheless replies: the choice of having private health should not be denied. This is when things get ridiculous. On Tulsi’s way of looking at things, this would be like saying that soldiers should have the choice to fight in regime change wars if they want to. Many will die, just as many will die through greedy private health insurance companies refusing to pay for the treatment your doctor says you need. Tulsi further points out that war is expensive - US gov ending regime change wars would save money. By the same token, the private health insurance industry is expensive. The US gov ending it would save the country money, and most people would have more money in their pockets overall. Despite paying a bit more in taxes, this would be offset by the savings people would make in paying no premiums co-pays or deductibles. Other things being equal it's inconsistent to want to save money in one context (no regime-change wars) but not the other (no private-health insurance companies). What of the reply: soldiers take on a special responsibility, putting their lives on the line (which gov should recognize and not wastefully utilize in regime-change wars) but civilians haven't taken on any special responsibility in which they face personal danger. In which case, Tulsi might argue, the US Gov doesn't have a moral responsibility to seek to guarantee that such civilians don't die due to the greed of their private health insurance company (which has found a way to deny coverage). What about fire-fighters, the police, construction workers, all sorts of jobs that ordinary Americans do which potentially involve danger to their person? Death statistically occurs in these job contexts unnecessarily, due to people having private health-insurance that finds a way to fail to cover their health needs. Such deliberate failure regarding private insurance regarding coverage of health issues on the job may relate to psychological issues as well as physical ones, e.g. a university lecturer’s overload leading to suicide, teacher burn-out etc. These people, just like soldiers, have all undertaken a special obligation to do what they do, in order to help America (and try to pay their bills). In fact, since the US Declaration of Independence claims that all men (people) have the unalienable right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness, why should we distinguish between those who serve in the military and those who don’t, as far as avoiding unnecessary death (and resulting implications about health insurance) is concerned? Tulsi, we asked you to listen to your supporters who want you to be consistent and advocate a single-payer Medicare For All plan for 2020. You refused. Such a shame.