Imagine if you will: A significant segment of the 85 percent of Americans who have good health care coverage go on strike for a day. Apart from emergencies and essential treatments, no one goes to the doctor, and no one gets a prescription filled. Instead, the health care-privileged and the health care-insecure alike flood the streets to assert the same principle: If some deserve it, all deserve it.
Making universal health care a reality for all is not pie-in-the-sky, it’s completely feasible. France spends far less per capita and has the best health care in the world — even for non-citizens. (Break your leg in France and find out for yourself.) Anyone who says the United States can’t afford it is woefully misinformed or just plain lying.
The historical parallel of such a strike would be when the citizens of Denmark and Bulgaria wore yellow stars en masse to show solidarity with their fellow Jewish citizens. This non-violent mass action saved thousands of lives, if only because far more people were willing to hide or smuggle Jews when they’d seen their neighbors willing to risk arrest posing as Jews themselves.
One of the reasons we have been unable to achieve to create a national health insurance system — alone among all developed countries — has been the success of vested interests in keeping us almost superstitiously afraid that if we gain more benefits for those lower on the economic ladder, they will somehow come out of those we receive ourselves. This psychology of scarcity has worked like a charm in keeping us balkanized and divided. In fact, this propaganda is so entrenched that to listen to a Republican Congressman on cable news, you wouldn’t have the slightest idea that the top 1 percent has been the beneficiary of 95 percent of the income gains in the past decade. A large chunk of that wealth resides in the sixth of the economy related to health care. A nationwide strike would deliver a much needed reminder to the members of Congress owned by insurance and pharmaceutical oligarchs that there are different ways to exercise popular will than the ballot box; we can vote with our pocketbooks.
I admit that I’m not optimistic the same GOP base that terrifies Congress could be convinced to join in any national action. Sadly, I think the rise of Trump has gone hand in hand with the death of empathy among those who have voted for him. Many appear to be so invested in notions of validating their own deservedness that they are even willing to risk losing their own health care if it means that those they perceive as undeserving don’t get theirs. That said, this is a highly unpredictable issue. Many a working-class Trump voter recently covered under Obamacare is panicking at the prospect of losing his or her Medicaid. This could be one issue that begins to pierce the Trump-worshipping psychosis that still blankets half the country in a dense, incomprehensible fog.
The Republican rank-and-file would probably not participate mostly because they have become obsessed with sticking it to the coastal liberal elites they are convinced look down on them. Let me address them directly on this issue. Speaking for myself, you are correct. You have foisted this nightmare buffoon of a president on us, and I do look down on you for it. That doesn’t mean I don’t think you should get the same Cadillac care I have been lucky enough to get. I personally believe in this principle so much that I actually flushed my life-saving AIDS meds down the toilet and filmed it. This may seem like an odd and counter-intuitive act to you — just think of it as a show of good faith. I may never forgive you for bringing us Trump, but I really mean it when I say I will fight like hell to make sure you never have to worry that you have to choose between your financial survival and the physical well-being of you and your loved ones. That’s your right as an American. That’s your right as a human being.