If ever there was a time for the labor movement to act independently in the interest of its members and the working class majority, it is now. The Labor Fightback Network urges that a united labor movement demand that the government be funded to end the shutdown while demanding at the same time that the deeply flawed Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — be replaced by a Medicare for All single-payer health care system.
Our main concern at the moment is the plight of federal employees, 825,000 of whom will be furloughed immediately with no guarantee that their lost wages will be paid. The shutdown will also curtail essential public services. This is the result of Congress’ failure to pass appropriations bills which means that all non-essential workers must be laid off.
Moreover, what is taking place now is a dress rehearsal for October 17 when politicians of both major parties will be back at it debating the same issues involved in raising the debt limit.
There is an obvious disconnect between leaders of the two parties and the public as a whole, which by overwhelming majorities opposes the government shutdown.
We saw such a disconnect over the issue of bombing Syria. The president, together with the Democratic and Republican Party leaders, advocated such a strike — meaning embroiling our country in yet another Middle Eastern war. Yet 80–90% of the people opposed such a move and war was averted, at least for now.
In this case, the issue is Obamacare. We believe it is unraveling and none of the reforms being advocated can save it. Its fundamental problem is that it was written by the insurance and pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit by the hundreds of billions of dollars if everyone required by law buys its products under penalty of steep fines for failure to do so.
But that does not mean Obamacare should be defunded with nothing legislated to take its place. Since we already have a universal health care system in the U.S. for Americans at age 65 and over — Medicare — the replacement is immediately at hand. Instead of qualifying at 65, make it available to every resident from date of birth under an improved and expanded Medicare system.
At its recently held convention in Los Angeles, the AFL-CIO unanimously reaffirmed its support for such a single-payer system. But it is not enough to pass a single-payer resolution. The urgent need now is to intervene in the current health care debate and mobilize nationally to win the Medicare for All alternative to Obamacare.
Funding for such a system can come by utilizing the astronomical profits that would have gone to the insurance companies, which will no longer be part of America‘s health care system. If more money is needed, increase taxes on the rich and/or slash the bloated military budget to ensure that every resident enjoys quality and comprehensive health care as a matter of right.