How progressives may kill California progress

How progressives may kill California progress

In the aftermath of the 2016 national election, California took up its constituent changes in local Democratic party control.  The election put a number of Bernie Sanders’ supporters at the helm of their county committee, but others were largely labor allies, people of color who support the traditional party structure and policies.

Kimberly Ellis, who had been a Hillary supporter but got the Bernie imprimatur, ran for chair and lost.  She has demanded, in the best Bernbot tradition, not only a recount but a certification that every vote was cast by elected party leaders.  Those validated her loss – and she’s not giving up. She still insists the whole thing was rigged!

This echoes the “Bernie was robbed” mantra. I suggested, in a spirit of help, that since California has paper ballots, anyone worried that the primary election exit polls indicated fraud, could easily pick a precinct and go count the paper ballots. So far nothing.  The rant exceeds the desire for truth I guess.

Into this story comes a renewed effort to raise single payer as the state’s health care plan.  As a long-time supporter, I had an early (January 2017) discussion with one of the advocates at my suggestion. I think it’s worth discovering if we can do this in light of the horrid plans of the GOP. 

However, I am 14 years into the politics of single payer, and what was always lacking was essential economic analysis of costs to patients and methods of payment by citizens and the state.  Without that, I stressed, I could not be involved. My large membership is pretty much all for it, I can’t just go back with generalizations and do it all over again.

The analysis has been done. It was provided by an economist from UMass-Amherst and is amazingly realistic. Yes, there are problems, including raising costs for lower income people and establishing Medicare as the rate system for reimbursements.  All this needs some serious work, but it is fixable I think. Those issues aside, the analysis showed this was in the range of the possible. It was rather uplifting.

The state’s analysts say it will cost $400 billion. True, but that’s what it costs NOW. About 70% is paid for by some part of government, federal or state. Some significant savings would come from waste and cost controls on administering health care, drugs, etc.  The rest, about $100 billion, is what we pay in premiums that could be parsed out in a payroll tax of 2.8% that is vastly less than most already pay for insurance.  The tax is in lieu of insurance premiums, not on top of them.  Of course it’s more complex than I’m saying here, but it’s not covering the existing $400 billion cost anew.

The economics were and are not part of the bill. As a result, this time it got stalled in the Assembly, so the Speaker pulled the bill in order to make it a 2-year effort into which the economic language could be placed.

And the SCREAMING began – “Dems sell out single payer”!! 

And…no they didn’t. They saved it.  NO principled legislator can, in the face of the chaos in Washington, pass a bill without knowing the costs to people and to the state.

So here comes the division again – “Establishment Dems”, “Corporate Dems”, etc. versus “True Progressives”.  Well…no.

Since 2004 single payer as a framework bill, no economic plans included, was passed every year. It was championed first by Senator Sheila Kuehl then, when she was termed out, by Senator Mark Leno.  Sheila’s bill passed every year at the hands of traditional liberal Dems. Every year. And every year it was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  But Dems kept on with it until we had the Affordable Care Act. And then, without an economic analysis of how it would dovetail with the federal ACA on costs, there was greater reluctance.

But here’s the point: Democrats passed single payer every year. Again and again and again. It bogged down when so-called progressive supporters failed to provide the serious economic analysis needed to explain costs and coverage as well as sources of revenue in the face of ACA.  That was needed, we supporters had promised to do it. We didn’t come through. And then whined and said we hadn’t promised – but I was there, and yes we did.

But “Establishment Dems” are the enemy?

The “Establishment Dems” are also the people who brought California a tough hate crimes law, the most comprehensive law protecting women’s right to choose, massive protections for LGBT people, women’s reproductive clinic protection in the California FACE Act, and solid plans to develop new jobs linked to retrofit of public buildings with solar. Even Schwarzenegger supported the regulation of greenhouse gasses back in 2003 on because the bill authored by Assemblymember Fran Pavely- a Democrat – was that good.

Every single thing that we brag about in California, and that we want in California, has been provided by…Dems.  The sponsor of Prop. 39 on the solar retrofit jobs was paid for by a progressive Dem billionaire – Tom Steyer, also a great champion of labor.

So who, exactly, are these horrible, regressive, out of touch with the people, corporate whore Dems anyway?  I’m looking. Can’t find them. One who did vote way too often for corporation was turned out last fall. Sure there are a few who are more cautious because their districts are edgy. But in my 20 years in California, they have never stopped significant bills or propositions.

As long as the Bernie crowd dominates the headlines, there is a solid chance that we will lose seats.  They threaten to primary every candidate who does not support single payer. This could be disastrous since California has “top two run off” meaning the top two vote getters, never mind party, will be the general election candidates. This includes Congress.  In districts such as Nunes’ and Issa’s, the GOP primary winners could potentially outgun Dems where there is a primary fight over political purity. This is true “divide and fail” strategy.

And the idiocy is that they already have what they want. They are so out of touch, they don’t even know it. Political purity coupled with not understanding the legislative system (no one seemed to understand that moving a bill to a 2-year one is great for its survival!) will kill not just the party’s mobility but all the issues we could create.

So I have a new Dem party purity test as a citizen demanding excellence in leaders: prove you actually know the California electoral system, prove you know the legislative system, prove you haven’t already gotten what you demand you want. Until you, a progressive candidate for anything, can show us you are actually qualified, then hush. We have enough guff coming from GOP Washington. We do NOT need yours to make it worse.



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