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Trump's attacks on Medicare for All hint at its popularity. Here's why he needn't be worried.

While right-wing leaders are united against the policy, we shouldn’t expect corporate Democrats to fight for it either.
Image: Sanders speaks during a health care rally
Bernie Sanders at a health care rally at a nurses' convention in San Francisco on Sept. 22, 2017.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

The White House is suddenly interested in Medicare for All.

In the weeks leading up to the midterms, Trump’s administration has launched a series of attacks against the policy, including a rare presidential op-ed in USA Today filled with easily debunked lies. On Oct. 23, in perhaps the surest sign yet that right-wing leaders are concerned with Medicare for All’s growing popularity, the White House released a 70-page report denouncing socialist policies — with particular focus given to single-payer healthcare.

What’s provoking the flurry of attacks on Medicare for All? Perhaps it’s multiple recent polls showing 52 percent of Republicans support the policy — as do 70 percent of people overall. The crisis of market-driven healthcare is felt by the vast working majority, whether a district is red or blue. Everyone but the rich is getting squeezed by claim denials and rising premiums, copays and deductibles — all while wages remain mostly stagnant.

It’s clear that the demand to improve and expand Medicare is going to be a major battle leading into 2020.

It’s clear that the demand to improve and expand Medicare is going to be a major battle leading into 2020. But while right-wing leaders are united against the policy, we shouldn’t expect corporate Democrats to fight for it either.

Right now, private insurers — who donate to both parties — profit off our sickness by cutting corners and passing the costs along to us at every opportunity. The top four health insurance companies made $60 billion in profits between 2009-15, while their executives took home between $20-$66 million each year. Medicare for All would redirect that money toward its intended purpose: the provision of healthcare.

But despite saving trillions, funding Medicare for All will still require taxing the rich to guarantee care for workers, who typically spend 10 to 15 percent of theirs. It will also put an end to the $260 billion in tax giveaways we currently hand to corporations so they can “afford” to insure their workers.

This is why the ruling class in America, including businesses and the medical establishment, has long held a special distaste for the idea of universal healthcare. And it’s why they’re now setting their sights on Medicare for All.

But while they’d never admit it, Trump has an ally in centrist politicians of both parties who depend on the private insurance industry’s support. To these politicians, liberal and conservative, the demand for Medicare for All represents an existential threat. Trump’s attack has forced Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer into the uncomfortable position of cagily defending a policy that they and their donors refuse to endorse or outright oppose, but their voters demand.

This is significant. After all, it’s these same Democrats who kept single-payer off the table when passing the Affordable Care Act. And with the healthcare crisis worsening, the party establishment has focused its efforts on reforming the ACA or pushing watered-down legislation. But band-aid solutions do nothing to erase the profit motive that drives our healthcare woes, and it’s evident that Republicans aren’t looking to compromise anyway.

For centrist Democrats, expanding a popular social program that is cheaper than the private sector has always been something that will “never, ever” — in the words of Hillary Clinton — happen. The reason for this is simple: they don’t want to upset the donor class that keeps them in office.

The truth is that the fight for Medicare for All isn’t between Democrats and Republicans. By framing it as such, Trump and his administration are distracting us from the real fight between the corporate class — whose interests are tied to those of insurance companies and the pharmaceutical lobby — and the rest of us, who are desperate for healthcare security.

Medicare for All represents a new kind of politics — and the best alternative to the Trump administration’s self-serving austerity. As the first truly universal program in U.S. history, it would set a new precedent for what working people ought to expect from the government. Winning Medicare for All would be a major step in transforming how we organize society — on the principle of solidarity, not profit.

This November, Trump wants to use fear — fear of immigrants, taxes, losing your plans — to drive turnout against democratic socialist candidates across the country who are running on single-payer. In place of fear, it’s time to reject the corporate class and stand up for our common interest. It’s time for Medicare for All.