Bernie Just Laid Out a Humane Approach to Dealing with the Coronavirus. Biden Did Not.

In Sunday’s debate, Sanders made a clear-eyed case for taking the profit motive out of healthcare, while Biden railed against “revolution.”

Bernie Sanders at the presidential debate in Washington, D.C. on March 15. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Sunday’s Democratic debate featured urgent questions about how presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden would address the coronavirus pandemic. As the outbreak spreads across the United States at a breakneck pace, officials are faced with two paths of how to respond: hand off public services and assets to further enrich the corporate elite, or expand social programs to protect the working class.

In her influential book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein warned of how free market fundamentalists exploit crises like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina—but at the same time, Klein highlighted the opportunities for positive social change inherent in “communal recovery” to crisis. As disasters make apparent the deep inequities at the heart of our capitalist society, they allow us to rethink and, in Klein’s words, “remake” the world in order to benefit working people.

Sanders has laid out an expansive vision of government intervention to deal with coronavirus, including implementing a Medicare for All system to provide universal testing and treatment for those who contract the virus, as well as free healthcare going forward for all Americans, regardless of income. Sanders also called for guaranteed paid sick leave and a national moratorium on evictions, home foreclosures and utility shutoffs as immediate steps to deal with the crisis.

“What we’ve got to do is move aggressively so that every person in this country understands that they don’t have to worry about money for treatment. I believe in Medicare for All, I will fight for that as president. Do not worry about the cost right now because we are in the midst of a national emergency,” Sanders said during Sunday’s debate, continuing later, “This coronavirus pandemic exposes the incredible weakness and dysfunctionality of our current healthcare system.”

Biden, meanwhile, has endorsed free testing and treatment for coronavirus patients and emergency paid leave, but refused to back Medicare for All, citing concerns about the cost, pragmatism and wisdom of such a universal system.

“You have a single payer system in Italy, it doesn’t work there. It wouldn’t solve the problem at all,” Biden claimed Sunday.

Biden’s critique misses the fact that coronavirus patients in Italy are receiving all of their care free of cost, whereas in the United States, the cost of simply getting tested can reach above $3,000, and the House coronavirus response package recently passed with bipartisan support, which would make testing free, has yet to be signed into law.

The safety threat of the crisis can’t be overstated. The New York Times has reported that up to 214 million Americans could become infected with the virus—over 60% of the population—and 1.7 million could die. What’s more, up to 21 million may require hospitalization, while the country’s healthcare system currently has less than 1 million staffed hospital beds. This could lead to a catastrophic result, where the system becomes overwhelmed and doctors are forced to make impossible decisions about which patients get to live and which don’t, as has already been the case in Italy.

But the potential fallout from the crisis goes much deeper, threatening to bankrupt businesses and individuals alike as a result of the halting of economic activity. Over half of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck, relying on a regular influx of cash to pay for bills, rent, childcare and healthcare costs. If their income is stunted by their work shutting down or by getting sick and being forced to stay home, these millions of people face financial disaster—especially with social safety programs having been undermined and restricted in recent years.

“What we have got to address is not just the current economic crisis, but also address the fragility of the economy, in which so few have so much and so many have so little,” Sanders said during the debate.

Biden has used the pandemic as an opportunity to illustrate the flaws of the Trump administration—which are indeed glaring—while Sanders has taken a wider lens, using it as an opportunity to illustrate the flaws in a society that prioritizes profit above all else.  The divide between the two was highlighted in the headlines of dueling CNN op-eds from the candidates, published Sunday. Biden’s read, “The virus lays bare the shortcomings of the Trump administration,” while Sanders’ declared, “Coronavirus highlights the flaws in our healthcare and economic systems.”

The outbreak has put those flaws on full display. On March 12, the Federal Reserve pumped $1.5 trillion in short-term loans into financial markets to help stabilize them. Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is asking Congress to upend the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms—put in place to protect from another collapse—as a way to deal with the economic impacts of coronavirus. And Trump himself has floated bailing out the fossil fuel, airline and cruise industries as part of his administration’s response.

Meanwhile, the Democratic-controlled House’s response package excludes a full 80% of the workforce from the bill’s paid sick leave protections. At a time when the richest 10% of America’s families claim 70% of all wealth in the country, Whole Foods—owned by Jess Bezos, the richest man in the world—has encouraged employees to “donate” their own paid leave to fellow workers who get sick.

These responses from the political and corporate establishment don’t come close to dealing with the crisis that’s spreading like wildfire across the country. Doing so will require transforming national priorities, from protecting corporate interests to protecting human life.

Throughout the debate, Biden brushed away Sanders’ calls for a transformative approach, saying “People are looking for results, not a revolution.”

The crisis shows not just the callousness of the current system but the potential for radical change. Pushed by necessity, governments have been responding with measures socialists have long called for: Cities such as Miami and New York are halting evictions. Others like Detroit are reversing their water shutoff policies. Even Trump has announced that those with student loans administered by the government will see their interest fees waived during the crisis.

These policy changes reveal that government has always had the power, and the ability, to protect the most vulnerable residents—it’s just previously chosen not to pursue them. But with the virus becoming a clear and present danger, Americans are realizing more and more that the function of our government must be to provide safety and care for its people. According to a new Morning Consult poll, 41% of adults now say that the outbreak has made them more likely to “support universal healthcare proposals, where all Americans would get their health insurance from the government.”

At the debate, Sanders stated, “This is not the time for profiteering.” If the coronavirus outbreak can show us anything, it’s that when it comes to basic human needs, profiteering never has a place in society. Only solidarity does.



Over 55 Climate Scientists Call BS on Joe Biden’s Claim No Scientists Support Bernie Sanders’ Climate Plan

Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, right, at a January 2020 presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

Over 55 scientists have signed an open letter rebuking Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden’s claim that the climate plan rival contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders supports, the Green New Deal, isn’t supported by anyone in the scientific field.

Sanders has proposed spending $16.3 trillion through 2030 to radically reshape the U.S. economy, including $2.37 trillion to renewable energy and storage, over $2 trillion in grants for low- and middle-income families as well as small businesses to buy electric vehicles, and $964 billion in grants for those groups to electrify gas and propane heating systems. His plan also calls for $526 billion on a smart electric grid and hundreds of billions on replacing diesel trucks and buses and new mass transit and high-speed rail lines.

Biden’s plan, while still more sweeping than any prior federal effort to address climate change, calls for $1.7 trillion in new spending and only arrived after immense pressure from environmentalists to detail a concrete approach. Biden has also called for ending fossil fuel subsidies across the G20, a stark departure from his tenure in the Obama administration, when domestic crude oil production skyrocketed by 77 percent. It’s far from nothing, but that hasn’t blunted criticism that it’s not as ambitious as it claims to be on the tin.

But the vice president is insisting that doing more isn’t realistic. Last week, Biden attacked Sanders’ plantelling reporters in New Hampshire that “there’s not a single solitary scientist that thinks it can work,” adding that he doesn’t think zero emissions by 2030 wasn’t possible (note that Sanders’ plan actually calls for 71 percent cut in domestic emissions by that date). 57 scientists from universities and research institutes responded to Biden’s comments in an open letter in support of Sanders released Tuesday.

…“The top scientific body on climate change, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), tells us we must act immediately to bring the world together to stop the catastrophic impacts of climate change,” the scientists wrote. “The Green New Deal you are proposing is not only possible, but it must be done if we want to save the planet for ourselves, our children, grandchildren, and future generations.”

“Not only does your Green New Deal follow the IPCC’s timeline for action, but the solutions you are proposing to solve our climate crisis are realistic, necessary, and backed by science,” they added. “We must protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we call home.”

Several of the signatories told Earther that Sanders’ plan recognizes that the U.S. is running out of time to cut emissions and adapt to a changing climate, which will require a massive amount of resources. They also emphasized that continuing to operate in a business-as-usual fashion (which could put the Earth on path to a 3 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures or more by the year 2100, far more than the Paris Agreement targets) would have dire consequences. MORE


Bernie Sanders Unveils $16 Trillion ‘Green New Deal’ Plan

Senator Bernie Sanders’s “Green New Deal” climate policy plan calls for the United States to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050.

Credit: Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday will release a $16.3 trillion blueprint to fight climate change, the latest and most expensive proposal from the field of Democratic presidential candidates aimed at reining in planet-warming greenhouse gases.

Mr. Sanders’s proposal comes one day after Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who made climate change the central focus of his campaign, announced he was dropping out of the 2020 race. Mr. Inslee’s absence could create an opening for another presidential aspirant to seize the mantle of “climate candidate.”

Mr. Sanders was an early supporter of the Green New Deal, an ambitious but nonbinding congressional plan for tackling global warming and economic inequality. He is bestowing that same name upon his new plan, which calls for the United States to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050.

It declares climate change a national emergency; envisions building new solar, wind and geothermal power sources across the country; and commits $200 billion to help poor nations cope with climate change.

Mr. Sanders said in an interview Wednesday night that his proposal would “pay for itself” over 15 years and create 20 million jobs in the process.

There is no broadly agreed-upon figure of how much needs to be spent to decarbonize the United States economy, but one study estimated that as much as $4.5 trillion could be needed just to modernize the nation’s power grid.

Still, the Sanders plan’s eye-popping price tag is several times bigger than those of his leading opponents. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has called for spending $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has a $2 trillion green manufacturing plan. Other candidates, including former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, have also put forth ambitious proposals. MORE


Democrats’ newest climate platform: Hammering fossil fuel companies

The rhetoric from candidates like Sanders, Warren and even Biden echoes the fervor of the climate change activists backing the Green New Deal.

Jay Inslee
Democratic presidential candidates like Washington Gov. Jay Inslee have been increasingly assertive in their rhetoric over climate change. | Paul Sancya/AP Photo

Democratic White House hopefuls are getting increasingly aggressive on climate change — and calling for oil, gas and coal producers to pay for their role in climbing temperatures, rising seas and catastrophic weather.

The sharpened tone includes former Vice President Joe Biden’s promise to “take action against fossil fuel companies,” as well as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ charge that the businesses committed “criminal activity” by knowingly producing the greenhouse gases that worsen climate change. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposes legislation that could pave the way for lawsuits against the companies, while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has accused fossil fuel producers of “killing people” and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to create a fossil fuel “excise tax.”

The rhetoric echoes the fervor of climate change activists who have pushed Democrats to embrace an ambitious “Green New Deal” that would wean the U.S. off fossil fuels in a decade or more, and comes amid lawsuits from states, cities and citizens accusing the companies of hiding evidence that their products are harming the planet.

But Republicans say they welcome the trend, too, accusing Democrats of pushing a radical attack on an industry that has provided one of the brightest spots in the economy and has reduced U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

“The deeper and the longer the Democrats talk about this, the happier the Trump campaign is,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who speaks regularly with the White House and President Donald Trump’s reelection effort. “They see fodder not so much in the issue but in the solutions being proposed by the Democrats.” MORE


Climate change’s partial 2020 breakthrough

AOC! AOC! Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Lays It On The Line For Green New Deal

The two videos below, one American, one Canadian, show why activism is so important now and  why so many environmental organizations are  organizing for a Green New Deal for Canada.  

Image result for alexandria ocasio-cortez sunrise movementAt a Sunrise Movement rally, on Monday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized “both sides” of the aisle for sidelining climate action. Photograph by Alex Wong / Getty

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave a fiery speech at an event sponsored by the Sunrise Movement on May 13. The symposium at Howard University marked the end of a 30-day campaign by the Sunrise Movement designed to educate voters across the nation about the Green New Deal proposed by AOC and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts.

Now folks, politicians give speeches all the time. Most of them are nothing more than hot air, filled with empty promises and blue sky blathering. The speakers know their promises will never be fulfilled. The audience knows the promises they are hearing are just sloganeering. We all wink and nod and pretend we are witnessing some historic peroration, knowing in our heart of hearts that it is all window dressing designed to obscure the real political wheeling and dealing that goes on in the background.

She pushes back hard against the namby pamby, go slow, middle of the road policies put forth by Joe Biden and clears the air about charges by Republicans that she seeks to make America a socialist country by reminding her audience that a strong nation, a proud nation, a great nation is one that tends to the needs of the poor and the powerless.

Some speeches leave a permanent mark on society. This speech by AOC may well stand the test of time. Please watch the entire video below. It is just over 11 minutes long and it may be the best speech of the 21st century so far.


And if you need more convincing that Canadians face an urgent climate crisis, watch this video by Elizabeth May:

Sanders Says Biden’s “Middle Ground” Approach to Climate Crisis Would “Doom Future Generations

The message is clear: there is no ‘middle ground’ when dealing with the  climate emergency. Fossil fuel interests will have to stop expansion projects and leave it in the ground.

The Vermont senator and 2020 presidential candidate said the U.S. must commit to “fully transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels” 

“There is no ‘middle ground’ when it comes to climate policy,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 presidential candidate. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Without mentioning Joe Biden by name, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday slammed the centrist climate policy reportedly being craftedby the former vice president’s 2020 campaign as a dangerously inadequate approach that would “doom future generations.”

“There is no ‘middle ground’ when it comes to climate policy,” the Vermont senator tweeted, quoting from a Reuters report on Biden’s efforts to develop a climate plan that would leave the door open to so-called “fossil fuel options.”

“If we don’t commit to fully transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels, we will doom future generations,” wrote Sanders, who is also a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. “Fighting climate change must be our priority, whether fossil fuel billionaires like it or not.”

As Common Dreams reported in April, Sanders won praise from environmental groups after he unveiled a sweeping climate agenda calling for a Green New Deal, an end to oil exports, a complete ban on fracking, and a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

“There is no such thing as a middle ground on climate change.” – Greenpeace USA climate campaigner Charlie Jiang

Environmentalists were not pleased with reports of Biden’s middle-of-the-road approach to confronting the climate crisis, which has pushed a million species to the brink of extinction and threatens the future of human civilization.



Ocasio-Cortez assails Biden’s ‘middle ground’ climate change plan, says it’s ‘dealbreaker’