I fancy myself something of a casual observer in the coronavirus saga. I have made an active effort to minimize the amount of time and attention I dedicate to the news about it. In a lot of ways one could argue this makes me unqualified to be writing anything in relation to it. To those who would argue that case, I urge you to re-read the title of this “blog” — or whatever it’s classified as — and ask yourself what you were expecting in the first place.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I’d like to say that there is already, and will continue to be, a great number of things we can learn from the coronavirus situation.
Probably the most obvious and most trivial realization is that we are not in a post-pandemic world. I’m not sure that anyone really ever believed that to their core, but we all collectively seem to have been acting that way since shortly after typhoid.
Look, I’m sure a historian could write an entire novel about the specific ways in which that statement is untrue, but broadly speaking, as a sentiment, it’s near enough to the truth to be getting on with.
It’s also got some really fascinating implications for the less obvious things I’m about to delve into, so let’s take it as read that hubris was a factor in this getting out of hand.
Democrats tend to think, at least a noticeable amount more than conservatives, and are infinitely more self-reflective. It’s those qualities I can appeal to here, but it’s also those qualities that make how they are dealing with this pandemic so revolting and vile.¹
Final disclaimer: this is something that anyone who uses the internet should already know, but when I speak monolithically about Democrats or Republicans or Millennials or Boomers or whatever, it should be taken for granted that I am referring to the aggregate. Should you read anything here that offends you personally as a member of one of those groups, realize that it’s probably because you don’t have that quality, but the general group itself does. Perhaps this should make you reconsider your affiliations or priorities? I don’t know! Just realize it’s not a personal attack. Unless your name is used.
The most important non-trivial thing we are going to learn from coronavirus is that public health — and more specifically: access to healthcare — is moderately important. Actually, it’s vitally important; it’s absolutely crucial to any society that its members are healthy. We’re seeing now what happens when we leave people out.
Something I’ve heard a lot about this pandemic is that it disproportionately effects “the most vulnerable” in our society. Namely: the elderly, but also those who are immunocompromised already, or those with certain other preexisting conditions. It’s the elderly that everyone’s worried about though.
I don’t have a problem, per se, with being concerned about the elderly, but it is the hypocrisy here that really irks me.
“The most vulnerable” in our society have been getting shafted by the medical system for decades and nobody has done anything about it. People are dying of insulin rationing and all we get is hand-wringing from our leaders. The queer population is at risk for HIV infection but Truvada is absurdly expensive. People lose their jobs, their houses, their retirements because they need cancer treatments that bankrupt them and we have no protections to ensure they have an income while they cannot work.
So I question this outsized response to the virus. Not because I think it’s unwarranted, but because it is hypocritical we’re doing it now, when the problem has been there in plain sight, for decades.
In the United States alone there are an estimated 34.2 million diabetics. The American Journal of Managed Care mentions a study in which a little over 25% of respondents with diabetes reported underutilizing their insulin because of costs.
The government response? I dunno, I’m not a professional journalist and I really only did a cursory glance at the results I found on Google, but it’s pretty sparse. Lots of talk, no action, and this is an entirely preventable issue: just make more insulin and give it to the people who need it. Will it be expensive? I dunno, yeah, probably, but just nationalize an insulin producer and pump that stuff out and people won’t be risking their lives.
Sounds like a stupid thing to suggest though. It’s un-American! It’s socialist! It would never get bipartisan support!
But, uh, as of writing this line, at 4:31 PM PST on 20 March, 2020, the recorded deaths due to coronavirus in the US is 250 and there are like, 18,000 confirmed cases. [Author’s note: it is now significantly higher but that doesn’t change the argument.]
We’re going to dump $1 trillion on some idiotic tax-rebate scheme, we’ve pumped a couple trillion into the economy by subsidizing shareholders and businesses already, all the major cities are locking their populations down, and lots of people are begging the military to come and save us.
I get it. Diabetes isn’t transmissible. How can I compare apples and oranges?
That’s not the point. The point is that our most vulnerable populations have been getting screwed by the American healthcare system for ages now and nobody wants to do anything about it. But suddenly old people are dying and we’re all panicking.²
So … what changed? Why is this the mother of all problems?
Because now it affects you.
Because all the diabetics in the United States could have banded together to vote for a universal healthcare program but it wouldn’t have been enough people. Because the entire queer community could have come together to demand subsidizing Truvada and we’d have been laughed at when we failed. That’s just ignoring the fact it’s impossible to mobilize an entire cohort of people for a common cause in the first place.
No, what changed is that this virus can be caught by anyone and, more than that, it can kill the people who disproportionately voted for the current leadership. If you don’t make that group of people feel safe and protected and loved, they will not turn up for you at the polls.
So now we come to the major issue that Democrats are embarrassing themselves on: universal healthcare.
Four years ago we had a candidate who ran on a platform of universal healthcare. This year we’ve got the same one. And what did Democrats do? They’ve gone for the listless, uninspiring old pseudo-racist in droves while the younger voters have gone for the candidate who offers a valid solution to the problem.
Oh sure, Joe Biden has a healthcare plan too. He promises that it’ll cover 97% of the population. Taking him at his word, that sounds alright I guess — better than what we’ve got now. But Bernie Sanders has a plan that will cover every single person. Everyone. All of them. That sounds like a better option.
Of course if you’re a boomer or in Generation X you’re fine with another compromise solution that doesn’t actually fix the problem because you’re either already on Medicare or you will be soon. You’re not sweating it.
Which would probably explain why Biden’s demographics are … Boomers and Generation X. Those of us who will have to watch the people we know who are in that at least 3% of the population who won’t be covered get sick, lose their homes, or die because they can’t afford healthcare — we’re not so thrilled. In fact, we find your lack of concern revolting.
However, every Biden supporter I’ve spoken to is quick to remind me that it’s about electability. If the Democrats put up a candidate who can’t beat Donald Trump in the election, or who can’t win over enough of the Democratic voters, then it’s a loss for all of us.
What I have to say about that is: fuck you! How dare you?
Here we are in a situation demanding we all pull together to keep each other safe and healthy and you’re going to tell us that electability is more important than making everyone insured? The Democratic party was supposed to be, is a party that bills itself as, a party with some progressive values.
But you know what’s really hilarious? The Republicans are adapting their policies and doing the previously impossible with shocking ease. I hate admitting that but …
If there’s one thing that’s anathema to the Republican party, it’s giving money to regular people. Yet here is Donald Trump, a man who needs to win an election in a few months, urging the Republican senate to rush through a bill to throw $1 trillion at tax rebates for everyone. Do you have the slightest idea how unelectable that is to his base? How inconceivable that action would be just a month ago?
“How would Bernie pass universal healthcare?” the Biden fans ask. “It’s unrealistic,” you say. Well, here we are, folks. Here we are with a public health crisis and the Republicans are carving up that GDP they love so much and throwing it to the people. Bernie Sanders, as president in a world still reeling from coronavirus, will be able to pass his healthcare for all plan. Well, nothing is for certain, as we’re seeing now, but even if he fails, at least we tried to do the right thing, instead of half-assing it for the umpteenth time.
Biden says he wants to listen to “young people” and you know what, that’s fine. Biden has a long history of saying things he won’t do and doesn’t mean. We’ve been quite clear — you can look at the demographics. If he wants to listen then he can do what is best for everyone, drop out, and endorse Bernie Sanders.
If enough Democrats don’t come out to vote for him because they don’t think he can get it done, then Democrats don’t deserve the White House. It’s as simple as that.
Biden’s supporters are overwhelmingly a group of people who already have or soon will have quite acceptable healthcare through Medicare. That is the only reason his limp, underwhelming expansion of the already flaccid Obama miscarriage we call The Affordable Care Act is remotely palatable to them.
The rest of us deserve better.
And if Biden’s demographics are seriously going to expect the rest of us, those of us who aren’t going to be as adversely effected by this virus, to seriously care about their health, it would be a wonderful gesture if you could do the same for us. 3% of people who aren’t covered will still suffer and if that’s acceptable to you, then frankly, I’d like to have my bars opened again because you deserve the same amount of consideration as that 3% you’ll turn your back on does.
If that hurts to hear, I suggest you think on this for a while. Electability? Pfwah. How about doing the right thing and not throwing an entire segment of the population under the bus. Trying to do the right thing and failing is admirable.
The present state of the world demands our solidarity as a species. The coronavirus makes that painfully obvious and there is now no excuse for achieving anything less than universal healthcare coverage for every single American, documented or otherwise.
Author’s note: I’ve edited this article briefly after publishing it. There have been no substantive changes other than making the hyperlinks more appealing. I.e. — I folded them into the text as links, rather than having them clutter up the content.
¹ I should clarify here that as a leftist I tend to be forced to side with Democrats when it comes to voting, so I have a long history of lowered expectations of the party. But if you’re wondering why I refer to Democrats as “they” rather than “us”, it’s because I have higher standards and expect more from “our leaders” than Democrats have to offer.
² Yeah, I know, it’s not just older people, but they’re the ones who get it the worst and whose recoveries are the most doubtful. This is obviously a bad thing for anyone of any age to get and minimizing that is no good. However, diabetes is also something anyone can develop at any age and the older you are, the more of a toll it takes on your system, so it’s not a terrible analogy in that regard, either.